What is cyberbullying? Wikipedia defines cyberbullying as, “The use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.”
Traditionally, when looking back on school age fighting and “traditional bullying” we associate this with playground fighting. The bullying event was usually held at a specific time and place with designated roles played by autonomous participants; victim, bully and bystanders. While “playground” fighting still exists, today’s adolescents face a potentially more dangerous threat; cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has extended the reach of bullying from the playgrounds, hallways and lunchrooms into cellphones, laptop and tablets. A study published by the University of British Columbia in 2012 reports that 25-30% of young people surveyed admitted experiencing or taking part in cyberbullying; but only 12% said the same about traditional bullying. The same study showed that 95% of youth felt that what took place online was meant to be a joke while the other 5% intended to do actual harm. The social change website “Do Something” reports that as high as 43% of adolescents have been bullied online with 1 in 4 being bullied more than once. This same site reports that 90% of teens who have seen social media bullying have ignored it; 84% report having seen others telling the bully to stop. Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse with girls being twice as likely to be the bully or target of cyberbullying.
In Cyberbullying, the roles of participants are no longer as clear cut as victim, bully, or bystander with participants now playing multiple roles within the event. The identified victim of cyberbullying is now often called the target and bystanders are now witnesses. With up to 70% of students reporting seeing frequent bullying online the reach of the cyberbullying crisis is staggering.
Cyberbullying and Suicide
Peer victimization in children and adolescents is associated with higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts with cyberbullying being strongly related to suicidal ideation in comparison with traditional bullying. The average statistic nationwide reports that youth victimized by their peers were 24 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who reported not being bullied. Students who are both bullied and engage in bullying behaviors are the highest risk group for adverse outcomes. Targets of cyberbullying can experience significant psychological and emotional problems including depression, anxiety and panic, anger and suicidal behavior. Moms Team, an online source for sports-parents, reports that over 150,000 kids nationwide are staying home from school because of bullying; daily.
Types of Cyberbullying:
Flaming: Using inappropriate or vulgar language to attack or fight with someone
Harassing: Repeatedly sending inappropriate, hurtful or hateful messages
Outing: Sharing a victims secrets or personal information in a public forum
Exclusion: Intentionally and publicly excluding someone from a group, and tormenting them after exclusion
Impersonation: Posing as someone for the purposes of damaging their reputation, inviting an attack, or sharing real or fabricated information about them
Stalking: electronically “following” someone and sending them targeted messages with the intention of scaring, harming or intimidating them
Trolling: the practice of trying to lure other Internet users into sending responses to carefully-designed incorrect statements or similar “bait.”
3 Worst Social Media Sites for Bullying:
Facebook: Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. The site is available in 37 languages. Despite declining popularity amongst teens, millions are still using it. The most common form of bullying on Facebook is posting negative comments on a user’s selfie; typically posted for positive affirmations with the target receiving just the opposite.
*Eighteen year old Jessica Logan suicided after coming home from the funeral of a boy who had suicided. Jessica was a target of cyberbullying on Facebook after her boyfriend shared nude pictures of her with classmates who would call her a slut and a whore incessantly on the site.
Instagram: Instagram is a free, online photo sharing and social network platform that was acquired by Facebook in 2012. An unfortunate byproduct of the rise of Instagram is the popularity of “rate me” posts or impromptu beauty contests. Teens, most frequently girls (but boys get into the act too), post pictures of themselves with a hashtag (#rateme, #hotornot) or referencing a contest (#custestteen) looking for likes or positive comments.
Ask.fm: Ask.fm is a global social networking site where users create profiles and can send each other questions, with the option of doing so anonymously. The site was founded in Latvia and launched on June 16, 2010 as a rival to Formspring. Bullies are free to sign up for a fully anonymous account, and therefore can bully without fear of their real identity being uncovered. Ask.fm has been linked to 9 teen suicides in the past year.
Runners up for cyberbullying include the following sites:
Formspring.me: Formspring is a global social network where members ask each other questions and learn more about one other through interesting, funny and personal responses. People use Formspring to get to know friends (and friends of friends), have conversations with favorite celebrities, and connect with others around common interests.Until a rebranding in 2013, it was known as Formspring, a question-and-answer-based social network launched in 2009. Users of the site can follow others privately. While logged in as a registered user, people can also ask questions to his or her followers from the homepage. Spring.me also asks one question per day named “Formspring Question of the Day” which is flashed in user’s inbox.
Chatroulette: An online chat website that pairs random people from around the world together for webcam-based conversations. Visitors to the website begin an online chat (text, audio and video) with another visitor.
* In May, 2010 thousand’s of people watched powerless while a man was hanging by a rope from the ceiling, slowly swinging, for hours and hours on the popular website Chatroulette. The hanging man was in fact Brooklyn based artist Franco Mattes, and the whole scene a set up. The artist recorded the performance and then posted it online. In the video, titled “No Fun”, one can see all possible reactions, from the most predictable to the most unthinkable: some laugh, believing it’s a joke, some seem to not care at all while others take pictures with their phones. Apparently, out of several thousand people, only one called the police.
* No fun video: The following video may disturb and trigger some readers. If you are in a crisis, please contact the Suicide Life Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) http://0100101110101101.org/no-fun/
Snapchat: A mobile app that allows users to capture videos and pictures that self-destruct after a few seconds. When a user sends a message they get to decide whether it will live for between 1 and 10 seconds.
* Teen girl turned suicidal after boy gave out Snapchat nude: http://nypost.com/2014/06/29/teen-sues-boy-over-nude-snapchat-spread-on-social-media/
Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.
* The suicide of Rutgers’s Freshman Tyler Clemnti is linked to cyberbullying. Clementi’s college roommate set up a hidden webcam and streamed footage of him kissing another man. Tyler became a target of the then new social media site Twitter and became a topic of constant ridicule. www.tylerclementi.org/tylers-story
JuicyCampus: website focusing on gossip, rumors, and rants related to colleges and universities in the United States.
Txtspoof.com: TxtSpoof lets you send a text message that appears to come from someone else’s cell phone.
For resources on Cyberbullying, please contact the Cyberbullying Resource Center at http://cyberbullying.us
Additional Cyberbullying Resources: