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Cyberbullying: What can you do about it?

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Bullying has plagued schools for as long as organized academia has been established. And now in the internet age where people can freely express themselves to the public with very little fear of the repercussions, bullying is seen at a different level. Thus, the need for cyberbullying education to help the victims in the coping up with cyberbullies and at the same time, teaching the bullies about the consequences of such actions.

By definition, cyberbullying is bullying by means of digital communications through electronic devices which almost every kid has nowadays. It can take place using any of the digital channels like the social media platforms, sms, apps, forums, image boards and many more. The bullying may include sending hurtful comments, posting of unwanted images whether they are real or not, sending threatening messages, and scaring or humiliating people through pranks among others. In general, cyberbullying takes advantage of the fact that the bully knows the person representing a digital identity be it a social media account or a phone number. He/she can then decide to take advantage of this by publicizing an attack that directly relates to the person. It often results to social anxiety, depression, emotional breakdowns, and in worst cases some teens are even driven into suicide. As such, cyberbullying could be a pretext to a committed crime.

This article will try to unravel cyberbullying, how we can help, and how to teach young people through cyberbullying education.

Where it happens

In order for us to fully understand how cyberbullying works, we must first see where it usually originates. The internet, and technology in general has afforded us many ways to connect with each other. This has been, a huge step in human interactions and is key in the continued development of the modern world. It has however also brought with it a chance for people to manifest their unfortunate misdemeanors to a wider audience. It can even be debated that cyberbullies would not have become bullies at all if not for the courage that the veil of online anonymity that the internet has given them. The most common virtual places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  1. Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, are the most common breeding ground for these attacks. Because social media encourages people to share their personal information to the public, it is often easier for the cyberbullies to find attacks that would easily generate responses from the victims. For instance, writing affiliations such as being a member of the LGBTQ community could allow bullies to work on that information to hurt the victim. And because, there is no proper screening in these kinds of sites and apps, there is no way to filter people. The consequence is that cyberbullies using these medium often use anonymous accounts thus further encouraging them because of having no fear of being caught.

    Another aspect of social media that allows cyberbullying to run rampant is because of the publicized connections of the victim. This allows the bully to spread rumors, false or not, to the victim’s closest friends or relatives. This mode of openness keeps allows the bully multiple avenues to perpetuate his/her motives.

  2. SMS – Not as new as social media but is still a breeding ground for hate mostly among teens. Similar to social media, any person can also hide in a veil of anonymity because people normally cannot trace the number to the person owning the number. But luckily, this also means that the victim can be saved from cyberbullies if he/she does not share his contact with everyone. It is also fairly simple to change numbers once he/she starts to feel harassed by some person.
  3. Email – Not as conventional as social media or sms but is still a common place for cyberbullying to fester. Often times, this bullying are directed towards people who are older.
  4. Other sites where bullying can take place are forums on websites, image boards, and instant messaging.

Why Cyberbullying is a Big Deal

There are many aspects to cyberbullying that differentiates it with the traditional form of bullying. Most of which makes it so much more difficult to combat. Here are some of the reasons why:

Persistency – It is known, at least for most people especially the younger ones, that everything you put in the internet will stay at some place at some time but will never be truly erased. The ability of the internet to be able to quickly replicate digital information and pass it across multiple hosts makes it almost impossible to truly clear out any remnants of something that has been said or posted online. For instance, if someone posts an embarrassing picture of you on a website without your consent, you may ask that website to take down the picture armed with the legal right of your own image. This normally results in having that site put the picture down but it can as easily pop up somewhere else because someone else has already downloaded it. In fact there could be multiple people that could have secured a copy before the website chose to take it down. So as soon as one copy of it disappears, one can as easily sprout from someplace else. This has become more of a problem now where connectivity has become as fast as it is. People can now make live videos which makes the person lose the chance to check the content before it is uploaded.

Subtle – Because of the bombardment of information that we receive almost every day through our digital persona, it can be difficult to notice a creeping attack that would only reveal itself once the attack has already been set in place. It could start as a friendly conversation where the bully asks for seemingly benign information then later on use that against you.

Conclusion

Bullying then and now are different but still has the same core concepts. Bullies lack the proper guidance and the only way to stop it is through cyberbullying education.