Cyber Bullying – Dark Side of the Internet

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It was Bill Belsey, the Canadian anti-cyberbullying activist who coined the term “cyberbullying” as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others.” The definition was given a more modern twist by J.W. Patchin and S. Hindujaas – ” when the Internet, cell phones, or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”

Modes of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can occur in many ways. It can be something simple and seemingly harmless as repeatedly sending e-mail messages to persons who have already informed the sender that they are no longer interested in communicating with him/her. It can also involve hate speech, threats, harassment, embarrassment inducing statements, sexual remarks, and willful targeting of another individual. Then there are less obvious acts such as impersonating a person online, or posting photos, videos, and/or personal information in order to embarrass or hurt him/her. Sometimes a fake web page or e-mail account is created with the intention of causing embarrassment to another person.

Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization, conducted a poll in 2006 and found that around one third of all teens and one sixth of preteens were subjected to the practice. Nowadays, most young people have access to cell phones as well as computers, and as such, the occurrence of cyberbullying is expected to increase.

Cyberstalking

Cyberbullying is something that happens mostly among the young generation. However, when adults are involved it is termed cyberstalking or cyberharassment, an offense that might give rise to legal consequences and lead to jail terms. The process of cyberstalking/cyberharassment is committed by adults toward other adults, directed mostly on the basis of sex. Tactics made use of by cyberstalkers are vandalizing an encyclopedia or search engine, threaten the reputation, earnings, employment or the safety of a victim, etc. When actions such as these are repeated in a pattern over a period of time by an adult individual, it constitutes a clear case cyberstalking.

Cyberbullying – The Effects

Unlike the old-fashioned bullying that was limited to street corners or school yards, the modern-day cyberbullying can occur at home and school, at all times of the day or night. All kids are at risk as most of them have access to computers, cell phones, and other such devices. Severe cyberbullying can lead the victims to increased risk of depression and suicidal ideation, lower self-esteem, fear, anger, as well as similar stress-related disorders; some are even driven to commit suicide. Another consequence is the socially damaging effects that can lead a victim to avoid friends and social activities, which often is the purpose of the cyber-bully.

A Helping Hand

If parents find that any of their children are being cyberbullied, it is better to tell them that it is not their fault, thus making the child feel that they are not alone. Consulting teachers can help, but only after permission from the child, since he/she might be afraid of “tattling” or involving a teacher or anyone else. Instead, they may prefer to see the problem dealt with privately.