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Why Cyberbullying Is Destroying the Internet

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What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through technology. Like other types of bullying, it seems to harass, threaten, or humiliate its target. Cyberbullying can involve text messages, emails, social media, photos, videos, websites, fake profiles, or any other electronic platforms.

Cyberbullying is still a relatively recent phenomena and therefore, hasn’t been extensively studied over the long-term.  A 2013 study of 6-12th graders revealed that 7% of students reported they had been cyberbullied. While a second survey, also conducted in 2013, found 15% of high school students reported being cyberbullied.

While many instances of cyberbullying involve minors under the age of 18, adults who participate in online harassment or cyberstalking may face prosecution under the law.

Cyberbullying can be difficult to track and assess.

Some instances of cyberbullying are unavoidable because the offender posts directly to your page, sends abusive messages to your inbox, or tags you directly–ensuring you will see it.

Not all online aggression is as easy to notice, however. For example, a bully may be silently impersonating a victim for a while, by opening a second page or profile in their name, without the victim knowing their identity has been stolen.

Sometimes cyberbullying is unintentional as users, especially children, may lack the awareness to understand how the tone of their post comes across over the internet (without the benefit of their voice, facial expressions, or body language to help the receiver understand them). But more often, likely, cyberbullying involves intentional acts where the offender acts aggressively because they believe they’re actions are anonymous. Or, offenders may do and say things they normally wouldn’t because they are removed from seeing the face-to-face consequences of their actions and, therefore, don’t feel guilty like they might if they bullied someone in real life.

Because many kids are reluctant to report being bullied, even to their parents, it’s impossible to know just how many are affected. But recent studies about cyberbullying rates have found that about 1 in 4 teens have been the victims of cyberbullying, and about 1 in 6 admit to having cyberbullied someone. In some studies, more than half of the teens surveyed said that they’ve experienced abuse through social and digital media.

Why Cyberbullying is Especially Harmful

While some people may dismiss cyberbullying as being “less real” than in person bullying, it is often more harmful. The reason is that cyberbullying is usually a second type of bullying that happens in addition to in-person bullying. While face-to-face bullying is usually restricted to certain locations or times of day (say, the school bus), the victim can usually have some down time from the bully the rest of the day. Cyberbullying, however, invades the target’s entire life–potentially popping up any time of day or night. It can often publicize harassment such as rumors or inappropriate pictures about a person to far more people than in-person platforms provide.

[Learn how to report cyberbullying on websites or social media here.]

What to do if someone is bullying you online

  • Remind yourself or others that you are not to blame for being targeted. While the bully would likely want you to feel that something is wrong with you, and you somehow deserve their aggressive behavior, the problem actually lies with the bully who harbors anger and acts out inappropriately.
  • Although bullying causes legitimate harm, and should be stopped, try to remember that most people have lived through bullying experiences and gone on to find more peaceful life circumstances. It is hard, but there are likely many people who can help you work through what has been said or done.
  • Seek support for yourself or the victim. If you are a minor under 18, seek out a parent, teacher, school counselor, youth group leader, or other trusted adult to help advocate for you. If the first person you seek help from does not take the abuse seriously or act to help you, continue to approach additional adults until you find someone who can fully understand what is happening.
  • Responding to bullies online often makes them more angry and prompts them to harass you more. Instead, temporarily ignore their posts, but document and report them. For instructions on how to report online abuse and cyberbullying, go here.

Did you know that bullying is a legal issue? Read up on bullying statistics here and learn how bullying is against the law here.

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