Cyberbullying denotes to the act of repetitively using technological applications and tools, especially the internet, to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person. Cyberbullying mostly occurs online where the bully posts negative comments about their target. It is common among children, adolescents and even adults (Hinduja & Patchin 2).
Most of the activities that constitute cyberbullying take place online in the absence of a responsible adult that may intervene (Hinduja & Patchin 2). Its primary objective is geared towards intimidating and threatening the targeted child. The act must occur repetitively to qualify to be termed as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs across several mediums that include social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace and Youtube among others. It can also be executed through instant messaging, emails, chat rooms or blogs, and online games. Young people execute their bullying activities using these mediums in the cyberspace when they congregate, especially in chat rooms (Hinduja & Patchin 2).
Statistics indicate that more young people are getting harassed online and experiencing cyberbullying than before. According to an article by Sammer Hinduja and Justin Patchin, the estimated number of youth that has experienced cyberbullying varies widely between ten to forty percent. The variation depends on the age of groups studied and their formal definition of cyberbullying (Hinduja & Patchin 2). In the study by the two researchers, about twenty-five percent of teenagers between 11 and 18 years stated that they had experienced cyberbullying at one point in their life. Additionally, the study reports that seventeen percent admitted to bullying others in the cyberspace during their teenage years. The study by the two researchers also suggests that cyberbullying decreases as one moves to middle-school. For example, the research discloses that twelve percent of those in middle-school admitted that they had been cyberbullied while about four percent stated that they had bullied others on the cyberspace (Hinduja & Patchin 3).
Another fact is that cyberbullying is more devastating than the traditional bullying because the targeted person does not know the identity of the cyberbully and the actions of the bully are viral such that they affect many people in a community or school (Hinduja & Patchin 4). Cyberbullying is a serious problem today due to the increased access to technological devices by kids. For instance, over ninety-five percent of teens in the United States are online while close to three-quarters (74%) can access the internet using their mobile devices. They access and use these interactive platforms because of school work, to play games and stay in touch with their friends, and share digital content and creations among other reasons (Hinduja & Patchin 3).
While acts of cyberbullying may happen accidentally, their effects are detrimental to the targeted or victimized. These effects, both short and long-term, affect the victim in many ways. A cyberbullying victim may skip school to avoid expressing the emotional trauma caused by bullying encounter. Therefore, because of the emotional, psychological and physical trauma, they opt to stay at home where they feel safer than going to school where they feel exposed (Hinduja & Patchin 2).
Secondly, bullied children may get sick and may suffer from headaches, sore throat, a cough or a stuffy nose as indications of the physical manifestation of the bullying. Cyberbullying victims may be aggressive, defensive and unwilling to cooperate with others in activities. Because of the loneliness, they may resort to alcohol, self-harm and mutilation, binge eating and drinking and other destructive behaviors to establish their self-worth. Additionally, cyber bullied teenagers have committed suicide because of developing suicidal thoughts after their experiences (Hinduja & Patchin 2). While girls are twice more likely to be victims of cyberbullying, the detrimental effects of cyberbullying can manifest later in life as these people are more likely to be bullied at their workplace and may develop psychological problems in the future.
It is important for parents and kids to understand that they can prevent cyberbullying in many ways. For kids, they should keep their internet interactions open and use their devices in a common area, especially at home.
Secondly, they should not respond to the bullies and retaliate. Kids and parents must ensure that they stay safe with technology. Parents should advise their children to be careful about what they post on social media. They need to block communication with the bullies and delete the message without reading them (Hinduja & Patchin 8). The kids should also not post any personal information and internet passwords. More importantly, parents must monitor their child’s use of technology (Hinduja & Patchin 7).
When one is cyberbullied on a social network, they should not respond or retaliate. Secondly, they should save the evidence and talk to a trusted adult, mainly a parent or teacher. Thirdly, they should block the bully and remain civil so that they do not degenerate to bullies. Lastly, they should take time off from these social sites and engage in activities that can engage their minds and make them busy (Hinduja & Patchin 8).