Nerd. Loser. Ugly. Too pretty. Fat. Skinny…
We are all aware that this is what bullying entails. We grew up with it whether we were being bullied or being the bully’s ourselves. But what the generations now are being faced with has gone beyond simple name calling and it’s had devastating effects.
With mobile devices, laptops, and handhelds, the internet is at our fingertips at all times and cyberbullying, or internet bullying, is taking a full-time position in the lives of our youth and young adults. According to Bullying Statistics “Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet” and yet despite all of the campaigning and support, we still have such an uphill battle towards the end of bullying.
So are humans the real issue here or is it the presence of the internet?
How It Begins
Bullying almost always begins on the playground and, for this reason, I’ve always believed that bullying will be around forever. It is a part of our childhood that we have all endured or witnessed and for many, it helps to provide a thicker skin for what life will throw at us next. At the time, bullying seems very harmless, the bully simply trying to impress friends and the bullied hoping and praying it will pass. Unfortunately, for this situation, kids tend to live in the moment, they know bullying is wrong from a moral stand point from mom and dad’s lectures on being a nice person but they don’t have long-term views. They simply can’t comprehend how this may affect a person for many years to come and this may be why it’s been a hard battle to fight this growing problem. Personally, bullying was not a major issue that I was faced with, but, like almost every person I know, there was the odd name calling fight or argument over MSN Chat. However, these always seemed to turn into popularity contests that simply left one group of girls hating another or one boy dumping a girl for another girl until we all were friends again.
So why are some cases so devastating, leading to some individuals committing suicide?
How The Internet Is Playing a Role
Before the popularity of the internet and cell phones, bullying was generally isolated to school hours and kids were able to find a safe place at home where they felt loved. Presently, the internet has given bullies the opportunity to now continue the harassing outside of school hours and to remove the safety net that kids find when they get home. Bullying Statistics also found that approximately 80% of teens use their cell phones on a regular basis and with the popularity of technology, will only continue to rise.
Aside from the common name calling, these are some of the common ways cyberbullying occurs:
- Using cell phones, e-mail, or social websites (Facebook, Twitter) to spread rumours
- Pretending to be someone else online to hurt or embarrass another person
- Taking photos of someone for the purpose of spreading them around social channels
Often times, kids can’t escape these offenses and they may have to take drastic measures to remove the false information or photos of themselves from these channels. Furthermore, with the presence of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, damaging information will spread faster than word of mouth would have previously travelled. The escape is no longer simply staying home from school for a couple of days. To put the effect internet has had on bullying into perspective, we must all remember the horrific story of Amanda Todd’s suicide as a result of online bullying. Just a few days before she made the decision to end her life, she posted a YouTube video announcing exactly how she had been bullied and the results.
Instances such as these obviously spark the demand for support, love, and caring towards all individuals who are the victims of bullying, however, the talk must continue. We all have a voice; it’s just whether or not we choose to use it.
Bullying Has No Age or Gender
We are all aware that the majority of bullying happens during the younger stages of our lives. It is the young adults that are becoming depressed, anxious, and in some cases, have committed suicide, or bullycide. However, Covenant Eyes has shown that it ranges from boys to girls to different age groups, stating that 38% of girls, 26% of boys and 41% of older girls aged 15-17 have reported being bullied online.
Ignoring the usual image of bullying we all have that takes place in the school yard with the bigger kid fighting for the smaller kids lunch money, we are all also aware that bullying is present in the workplace, on online dating sites, and in senior homes. I have personally proven myself wrong with the myth that bullying will be absent from my life as I grow older. Although it has significantly diminished, there is still gossip, name calling, and rumours that I have been faced with during my University career and it doesn’t surprise me to see a story on the news illustrating workplace harassment or elder abuse situations. Our aggressive and vindictive characteristics that were apparent at young ages cannot simply disappear with age. We simply must learn to better control these behaviours and, in most instances, adults can do so however, many cannot as well.
A real life example that fuels this myth that bullying has no age or gender is the recent scandal involving Manti Te’o, the American Notre Dame NFL football player. Although speculation exists, Manti is stating that he was a victim of a ruthless crime and online harassment that involved someone pretending to be a girl online and lure Te’o into a long-term relationship. He was unaware of this hoax until the death of his said girlfriend was investigated, only to reveal that she did not, in fact, exist. Putting my personal feelings aside as to what a “relationship” consists of, this man was allegedly led to believe that he and this woman were in love and that she was real. He was embarrassed in front of the world and has to begin to rebuild not only himself but his career that is, no doubt, damaged; not quite the tough football player persona that everyone assumed he had.
To summarize, we must not pigeon hole this important issue. Even the people who you think could never be bullied or be a bully could be the exact opposite of who you think they are. We must continue to support all aspects of cyber bullying.
Parents or friends must always be aware of warning signs, whether or not you believe your child or friend could be a victim of bullying. As we have seen, in cases like Amanda Todd’s, victims are often fighting an internal struggle and are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help. Some warnings signs that were laid out by Convenant Eyes include:
“•appearing sad, moody, or anxious
•withdrawing from social activities
•experiencing a drop in grades
•appearing upset after using the computer
•appearing upset after viewing a text message”
Speaking personally, always having a close relationship with my parents has helped my combat many obstacles in life. Many times, when I did not necessarily want to speak to my parents about an issue at school or with my friends, my parents would see these warning signs and ask me to share information with them. They always reassured me that they would be there to help and they always were. Do I think that they made my childhood, growing up, and going to University easier? Definitely. Having a support system will always add to one’s happiness.
To summarize, despite the devastating effects the internet has had on the number of bullying instances, it has also provided immense channels of support and self-expression. Victims of bullying can rely on the internet as a source of help through websites dedicated to bullying support such as Bullying Canada, hotlines such as Kids Help Phone, or even uplifting websites such as Imgur or YouTube that allow for individuals going through the same situations to find each other. TV stations are also playing commercials to promote awareness of bullying and how to get help.
Yes, the internet has played a large role in the increase of bullying, and in turn, cyber bullying. But it has also provided so many personal outlets that individuals can use as coping mechanisms. In fact, Cybersmile is the first charity that is dedicated to the victims of cyberbullying. They believe that the internet has now grown into a public space and that individuals involved in any online bullying crimes should be punished by law. Clearly, this issue will grow as technology increases and individuals are more reliant on the technology they possess, however, the more technology grows, the more awareness and support we are provided with at our fingertips.