With easy access to the net and technology continuously advancing, cyberbullying is not a new issue flooding today’s society. Bullying behind a screen is easier for the offender however the effects of the victim are just a severe as being tormented in person, if not worse. Being harassed, threatened and humiliated on a social media forum, via text messages or email is known as cyberbullying. School boards across the nation are legally responsible for educating their staff and students on the signs, effects, and ways of prevention for cyberbullying. Although there are no federal laws specifically against this crime, state legislatures often times use existing laws to aid in punishing offenders of this crime. Cyberbullying can be punishable by fines, misdemeanors and serious jail time in extreme cases. Surveys have led to studies that show an increase in number for school aged kids that are both victims and offenders of this crime. Research shows that social networking websites, social media tracking, and monitoring of text messages early on can help avoid cyberbullying.
Over 80% of teens have and use their phones regularly making cyberbullying very common amongst society today. Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied via the internet. 81% of youth admit that bullying behind a computer screen is easier to get away with rather than doing so in person (Digital Humans, 2014). Bullying that takes place over digital devices such as cellular phones, computers, and tablets is known at cyberbullying. In today’s society, cyberbullying is very common. There are many phone applications, social media websites and gaming websites that make bullying behind a screen very easy to do. Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter, Short Message Service apps, Instant Messenger apps, and E-mail are all online forums where cyberbullying can occur. Cyberbullying is not limited to mean text messages and threatening posts. There are many types of cyberbullying that even extend to spreading humiliating images. Victims of cyberbullying deal with embarrassment, loss of confidence, and depression. Being a constant target of cyberbullying can lead to aftereffects as severe as suicide. Because victims are often times ashamed and afraid to admit they are being harassed online, it can be challenging detecting the signs of cyberbullying. Legislatures specific to every state have composed laws that discipline offenders. Simply being educated on the signs of cyberbullying can help break the cycle of anxiety and self-harm that comes along with being harassed. For parents, observing changes in your child and overseeing their social media pages can be an advantage of identifying early signs.
The internet is a fast-growing world in of itself. Today, we are so consumed by our lives in the virtual world that it is very easy to experience bullying through our devices. There are many examples of encounters that can be the catalyst to cyberbullying. A simple expression of frustration between two friends about another mutual friend through text messages can make room for screenshots and forwarding of messages to the person who caused initial anger. This interaction could in turn cause arguments via text and mean posts on social media. Another common example of cyberbullying teenagers specifically go through after break ups is the leaking of personal photographs once shared between only two parties.
Flaming, harassment, cyberstalking, denigration, impersonation, outing-trickery, and exclusion are all types of cyberbullying (Willard). In Nancy Willard’s break down of cyberbullying and cyberthreats she explains the aim behind each of the different types.
Sending texts that are rude with angry tones and vulgar messages is known as flaming. Harassment is the action of sending those same vulgar messages repeatedly. When a user advances to sending threats to harm another person over the internet constantly, this is known as cyberstalking. Denigration can happen in the office on the job or through the halls of schools. Making posts about another individual with messages that are untrue is known as “put downs” or denigration. Acting as another person to get an individual to share personal information is known as impersonation. Impersonation can lead to dangerous encounters; meeting up with individuals in real life realizing they weren’t who they said they were behind the computer screen is very common. Posting and forwarding personal information someone shared with you is known as outing and trickery. Lastly, deliberately excluding a person from group chats and other online forums is known as exclusion. Being a target of any variety of these bullying tactics can lead to serious mental and physical life changes.
Many times, the results of being a victim of cyberbullying are severe. Many teenagers do not want to attend school anymore to avoid seeing their peers, targets fall into depression because they cannot escape negativity in reality or the virtual world, and victims even result to taking their own lives. Suffering from feeling isolated and not accepted from peers is certainly a catalyst to the increasing suicide numbers. Researchers have looked into the correlation of social media usage and the number of suicides. A survey given to two thousand middle school students revealed that victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt taking their own lives than students who were not (Luxton, et. al). In extreme cases, being a victim of cyberbullying can also lead to mass school shootings. In most cases in this country, mass shootings is the result of feeling unwanted, harassed and humiliated. Shootings are an extreme example of a growing trend that troubles educators, parents and juvenile-justice officials — cyberbullying. Many of the teen feuds that start with online taunts turn into physical confrontations (Sims).
Although there are not any federal laws against cyberbullying, many actions are taken on local levels in every state. In extreme cases resulting in a victim taking their own life, existing laws are used in prosecuting cyberbullying cases. In the state of Virginia every school board must implement policies that educate their employees about cyberbullying, the signs, and ways for prevention. Appropriate disciplinary actions must also be displayed and put into effect as well. In the state of California using an electronic device to cause someone fear can result in a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to one thousand dollars. In the state of Missouri cyberbullying is defined as bullying through the transactions of text messaging, images or any other online forum used to intimidate another person; individuals can be charged with harassment. Preventing cyberbullying can be a difficult task. Due to society being wrapped into devices and social media, bullies have yet another outlet to harass their targets in a seemingly easier way.
Living in a society where our phones are practically our world, can make it hard to escape the likelihood of being a victim of cyberbullying. Being educated on the signs of what cyberbullying is and understanding the motive behind this crime can help combat the battle. Knowing that you are not alone can be an advantage in the beginning stages of coping with being bullied in any way. It has been shown that individuals that are able to communicate with other victims of bullying is helpful in the healing process. “Social networking sites for suicide prevention can facilitate social connections among peers with similar experiences and increase awareness of prevention programs, crisis help lines, and other support and educational resources” (Luxton, et.al).
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides support twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for anyone in distress. This network of local crisis centers provide confidential emotional support. Research shows that communicating experiences with individuals who have went through the same issues helps in the journey towards healing.
The world of the internet allows bullies to follow their victims after school, in their own homes, at social events, and in the work place. Social media is a growing platform that has given bullies another avenue to harass, embarrass and threaten their victims. Individuals who are victims of cyberbullying fall into depression and often times remove themselves from the outside world. Detecting the signs of cyberbullying can be a difficult task because victims feel embarrassed, ashamed and threatened. Changes in moods, and lifestyle can minor signs to pay attention to in individuals who may be victims of cyberbullying. Texts mentions monitoring social media accounts and text messages to parents with school aged kids to help in early detection.