Cyberbullying: The Facts and How to Prevent It
With the current amount of social media sites, it’s no surprise that young adults have taken to the Internet and smartphones as a primary form of communication. While generations prior to the emergence of social media and smartphones only knew bullying on the playground, some recent bullying has gone digital.
Cyberbullying has been defined by the National Crime Prevention Council as “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” StopBullying.gov, a site run by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, simply defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology.”
The emergence of concern surrounding the issue of cyberbullying is relatively recent, just like the technologies used by cyberbullies. The Cyberbullying Research Center has been studying the issue since 2002.
The unique digital atmosphere has caused today’s younger generations to be thrust into the world of cyberbullying, with the prominence of social media outlets as well as the increased usage of cell phones. Fighting cyberbullying in younger generations also has its own unique set of challenges. The Cyberbullying Research Center claims that not only do people not see the harm that can come from it, but it also has been unclear who should take responsibility to stop the cyberbullying.
The formal definition in recent years has been hazy, making it difficult for most research on cyberbullying to be conclusive. But in the most recent research done by the Cyberbullying Research Center, 20 percent of 11-to-18-year-old students have been a victim of repeated cyberbullying. However, the same number admitted to cyberbullying others during their lifetime.
Unfortunately, while most states have some form of law against bullying, only 15 states have included cyberbullying harassment in these anti-bullying laws, and only 11 of the remaining 35 states have proposed including cyberbullying in bullying laws. This has caused many organizations to surface to raise awareness and prevent cyberbullying.
While legislation has not yet effectively been passed to combat cyberbullying, anyone can take responsibility by identifying cyberbullying victims and helping to put a stop to it. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, red flags can be any combination of the following: the victim suddenly stops using their computer or cell phone; looks anxious when any kind of electronic message appears; or becomes withdrawn in normal social settings.
But above all, use common sense when it comes to who you interact with online and don’t be afraid to tell someone when an online interaction involving you, a friend or a family member gets out of hand. Cyberbullying can be stopped when combated correctly, by either getting the authorities involved, reporting the user to a site administrator or walking away from the situation entirely.
Story by Krista Firkins, contributing writer.