By: Natalie Newman
Cyberbullying: the act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously.
But what does cyberbullying really mean? Cyberbullying is all around us, and it can shapeshift into many different forms. From social media to private emails, cyberbullying is scary, not only because it’s hard to recognize, but because people fail to realize the weight of words holds true, even through a screen. It’s easy to let cyberbullying slip under the radar because it’s not necessarily something you can watch occur, but it can be just as harmful, if not more, as the classic bullying that goes on in a school building or workplace.
The classic bullying situation can be illustrated just as it looks in the movies; it can be as simple as name-calling and teasing, or as violent as physical fights and harmful pranks. If you see someone getting bullied at school or in a workplace, you’re typically told to report the issue to a trusted adult. However, often the victim is too scared and bystanders are too careless to take action, resulting in a whole fleet of negative effects for victims.
While in-person bullying is often obvious to impartial viewers, cyberbullying tends to go unnoticed, simply because of how discrete it can be. Forms of cyberbullying can include harsh text messages, rude comments made on social media, and even anonymous emails or chats. Cyberbullying is often taken advantage of as a way for people to express their feelings anonymously, giving bullies an unwarranted sense of power and authority. The internet is an amazing thing, but it also gives insecure bullies the ability to hide their identities behind a screen and treat others as they aren’t real people with real feelings.
Even when cyberbullying goes unnoticed, it has devastating, long-lasting effects on your mental, physical, and emotional health. The American SPCC found that, due to cyberbullying, rates of depression and anxiety have increased, feelings of self-worth have been greatly reduced, difficulty sleeping and instances of bedwetting have increased. These depressing effects make it clear: even though the words that are said or the events that take place may seem temporary, the effects are permanent. Victims of cyberbullying often wonder why they are being targeted and believe it to be their own fault and deserved, making the victim feel worthless, and leading to depression, and in severe cases, suicide. According to Joseph Magliano, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University, “cyberbullies have difficulty feeling empathy for others, use cyberbullying to feel more powerful than they think they are, or even Bully online in an attempt to gain popularity.” It is essential for victims of all types of bullying to realize that bullying is less about you, your flaws, or anything you did to deserve this harm, and more about the increased power people feel when hiding behind a screen.
It is crucial that cyberbullying be stopped. To do so, we need to keep our children informed on what cyberbullying is and the ways it can occur. If children are informed, they are far more likely to recognize when they are a victim or even the bully. Children all need to have at least one adult that they can come to when they feel threatened, which can only happen when there is trust and a solid foundation in an adult-child relationship. For more information about cyberbullying visit Peer Pressure and Cyberbullying Explained for Kids https://savvycyberkids.org/2021/02/16/peer-pressure-and-cyberbullying-explained-for-kids/.
- Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied? If so, did you do anything to prevent or stop it? Why or why not?
- What are ways cyberbullying can occur?
- Do you feel differently interacting with others through a screen than in person? Are you more or less comfortable expressing how you feel?
- What do you believe should be classified as bullying? (ie, teasing, name-calling, threats…)
- Think about the adults in your life. Who would you go to if you felt you were a victim of cyberbullying?
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