By Daniella Rueda
Considering that we have been living in the Information Age since the 1970’s, it comes as no surprise that 95% of teens in the United States are currently active users of the internet and social media (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018).
Although some may rightfully argue that the internet and social media provide people with a range of beneficial opportunities by giving them a platform to voice their beliefs and opinions, we must not forget that with all advancements come disadvantages. Perhaps the most significant harm that stems from the nation’s exponential growth of social media use is, “cyberbullying.”
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can be defined as willful and repeated harm that takes place over digital devices and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. It includes sharing someone’s private information to hurt or humiliate them publicly. Unlike traditional face-to-face bullying, victims of cyberbullying experience a greater feeling of uncontrollability because they have less control over where the bullying takes place and to whom or where their information is being shared. Additionally, cyberbullying is easier to perpetrate because the bully cannot see the immediate harm they are causing, making it seem as if there will be no consequences.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 14.9% of high school students experienced cyberbullying in the 12 months prior to their study. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 2017
Consequences of Cyberbullying
Needless to say, cyberbullying is one of the most dangerous forms of persecution. First and foremost, anything shared online becomes a permanent part of the web meaning that content can later be viewed by schools and employers. As a result, victims of cyberbullying are prone to suffer lifelong consequences, such as:
Serious emotional problems like anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal ideation, as described in several studies that found a link between cyberbullying and emotional problems (Hinduja and Patchin, 2018).
Social isolation of cyberbullying victims occurs when embarrassing videos, photos, and other personal information is shared widely amongst peers.
Future employers encountering false or harmful information which was previously shared as a result of cyberbullying.
Putting an End to Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is remarkably harmful to victims and school communities in countless ways. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is not all that easy to eradicate—primarily, because many individuals do not understand the harm cyberbullying causes. Moreover, some of those who do agree that cyberbullying is dangerous and harmful, have not yet figured out how to put an end to it. For example, educators may struggle with knowing when and how to intervene in online behaviors due to the fact that they generally take place outside of the school environment. Parents, too, may struggle with knowing how to approach their child while still respecting their privacy and maintaining an open, trusting relationship.
A key to eradicating cyberbullying is understanding that it is associated with low self-esteem for victims and bullies (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018). If a target experiences constant online persecution, their chances of feeling damaged and worthless inevitably increase. In addition, those who perpetrate cyberbullying may feel the need to oppress others in hopes of regaining their sense of control and power due to low self-esteem. Because of this, fighting cyberbullying starts with teaching youth different ways to improve their self-esteem and building trusting lines of open communication between adults and teens. Schools and parents can work together and separately in the following ways:
Consciously create a school community of respect and inclusiveness.
Implement intervention programs that teach children and adolescents constructive ways of improving their emotional regulation skills and increasing self-esteem.
Implement creative responses and consequences for any form of harassment that takes place.
Cultivate an open relationship with children where the child is inclined to ask for help and disclose any unpleasant experiences they are undergoing.
Demonstrate to teens that they are heard and that their perspective is valid.
Reassure cyberbullying victims that parents too are willing to work towards stopping the bullying. If the cyberbully attends school with their child, it may be a good idea for parents to schedule a meeting with school administrators.
Both At Schools and At Home
Start conversations about how to use technology responsibly.
Inform teens about the harm and pain cyberbullying causes.
Teach all children and youth resilience and self-love by being strong models of these concepts.
If schools and parents work together, children can grow up knowing that they should accept nothing but respect from their peers, who can in return, expect respect from them.
Hetzel-Riggin. (2015). The relationship between cyber-bullying and self-esteem. MySocialSitter.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2018). Cyberbullying identification, prevention, and response. Cyberbullying Research Center.
Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2010). Cyberbullying and self-esteem. Journal of School Health, 80(12), 614-621. (2018). What Is cyberbullying. stopbullying.gov