Bullying is the way in which a person hurts or threatens someone who is physically weaker or less powerful and/or forces them to do something they don’t want to. This problem is one that has existed for as long as we can remember-human nature is such that it is practically commonplace. While several measures have been taken against it, the issue continues to evolve and evade punishment. In its latest installment, bullying has used technology to progress. Let’s understand cyberbullying..
The technology that has come in recent decades has made several things possible that would have been unthinkable. They have allowed normal routines in life to move to the virtual sphere. Unfortunately, with the good also comes the bad. The developments meant to make life easier for humans are being used instead to intimidate those who cannot stand up to these bullies. Cyberbullying is tougher to deal with than traditional bullying, and thus is extremely prevalent among today’s youth. Despite laws against it, social media only propagates this form of torment. And it is also difficult to avoid, since people use the internet and social media for a variety of purposes.
What is it?
Cyberbullying is defined as the use of electronic communication to bully a person. It involves the use of digital devices such as mobile phones and laptops. Bullying takes place over texting apps, social media or even gaming platforms. Cyberbullying takes many forms, including texting threatening or humiliating messages, posting and/or sharing negative, false or mean pictures or comments about the person and even sharing private information about them that results in embarrassment and humiliation.
A study found that about 35% of teens have experienced it at least. While any bullying is damaging for the victim, cyberbullying is particularly so. It causes psychological issues such as anxiety and low self-esteem. Due to its anonymity, it is also difficult to uncover the perpetrators.
Strategies that a cyberbully uses include creating fake profiles and pretending to be someone else. This lulls the victim into a false sense of security. They share private information with the person they think is a friend, only to be betrayed and humiliated. A cyberbully can bully someone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status etc. It may even be out of jealousy. They could incessantly text someone hurtful things. The most severe method is encouraging self-harm and even suicide. If they start light and gradually up the ante, it results in the victim’s spirit being broken. They may even resort to suicide.
Cyberbullying vs Bullying
It is true that cyberbullying is certainly worse than regular bullying, even if in the former there are no physical injuries caused. This is because all the injuries are psychological. There are several ways in which cyberbullying is more dangerous. The first is that cyberbullying takes place on a virtual platform that parents and teachers do not frequent. This, combined with the lack of outwardly visible injuries, results in it going unseen. By the time it is realized, it may be too late for the child.
Another way it is worse is that while online, it is easy to create a fake profile or post anonymously. This makes it hard for the recipient of the bullying to identify their tormentor. With no name or face to put to the subjugation, the victim is overtaken by fear. They are suspicious of everyone and constantly anxious. The bully, on the other hand, is emboldened by the reduction in the chance of being caught. Also, they cannot see the effects of what they are doing to the victim. They thus graduate to more serious bullying.
One must remember that social media and the internet keep permanent records of their data. So, if any private information is exposed, it remains there for people to see. Any images or comments are never completely erased. This negative reputation can follow someone forever. Also, bullying online is different from bullying in real life because it can spread very quickly. Other people may even join in and gang up on the victim, turning that site into torture for them.
And finally, cyberbullying is more distressing because it can happen at all hours of the day. In this day, we are constantly connected to our phones. This just makes it easier for the bully to reach the recipient of the bullying. It is very difficult to escape such persistent bullies who can reach their victim at any place, any time-even somewhere that the latter feels safe, even in the middle of the night.
Cyberbullying causes mental and psychological issues, such as humiliation and anger. They are isolated from their peers and ostracized because kids don’t want to be associated with someone undergoing such treatment (for fear of being the next target). The recipient feels powerless to stop the bullying, unsafe even with friends and family and also extremely anger. They may even seek revenge. Psychological effects include anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. As a result, academic performance may go down. Self-harm and even suicide have been results of cyberbullying.
Other issue that cyberbullying causes include drinking, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and other behavioural problems. There may even be physical effects such as sleep problems. This goes to show that that cyberbullying pervades every aspect of its target and crushes their soul. It cannot be avoided, because that would need getting rid of the child’s phone. This is obviously not possible, considering present dependency on technology. They are thus left feeling that “cyberbullying is everywhere”.
A study reported that cyberbullying is more prevalent among girls than boys, both in terms of being the victim and the perpetrator. 15% of girls have reported to have experienced it, in contrast to 6% of boys. The study also found that at least 50% of people from the LGBT+ community have reported to be victims of it, which is an extremely high figure.
Laws Against It
Cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon. For the first few years after it began to spread, there were no laws preventing it. For one, it was difficult to track down and identify. For another, it goes mostly unreported due to fear and anonymity. However, several countries soon recognized and introduced laws to prevent it. India’s Information Technology Act, 2000 as well as several provisions in the Indian Penal Code deals with cyberbullying. Prosecution has been made easy by the fact that evidence can never be wiped-it always exists online. Helplines have also been created for anyone suffering. It has been suggested that schools be held responsible, teachers punished for letting it happen. Or that schools should handle punishments in case it happens. There are harsh punishments for it, but it still continues to exist. There are still suicides that have been a direct result of this torment. Technology has made bullying much easier.
Advancement in electronics has both advantages and disadvantages, but this is one drawback that needs to be addressed and eliminated urgently. To let it go on is to risk the mental health and even lives of many children and adolescents, even adults, everywhere. Laws to counter cyberbullying have reduced it but have not put an end to it. We need to do more.
Despite efforts, cyberbullying permeates and inflicts itself on a lot of people. Harassment has caused many to end their lives. In this instance, technology has indeed proven itself to be a double-edged sword.