Cyber-bullying

Isabel Segre, Staff Writer

Since the advent of the internet in the early 1990s, the world has changed for the better. Communication and research have become easier, and people are more globally connected now than ever before. In a matter of a few seconds, a user can find a recipe for carrot cake, a cute cat videos, or contact a family member abroad. It seems like the internet has positively impacted society, but with anything seemingly good there are unintended consequences. One of these drawbacks to living in an internet age is cyberbullying, which is a very threatening issue that does not seem to disappear despite great measures.

According to StopBullying.gov, “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices” and occurs “where people can view, participate in, or share content.” This can be over social media platforms, like Instagram or Twitter, or even over text messages. What makes cyberbullying especially difficult to tackle is that a bully can hide through a screen. People are less afraid to be rude when they are masked by an online username, which can make cyberbullying worse than physical bullying. Another facet of cyberbullying that is especially disturbing is that it primarily targets at-risk communities. DoSomething.org says that around half of  LGBTQ+ students experience cyberbullying, which is a much higher rate than average. The stigma and difficulties that a young person questioning their sexuality faces are already immense and adding online harassment into the mix can be dangerous. The most vulnerable teens are often the ones being cyberbullied.

Cyberbullying may seem like a pretty mild topic considering some of the other problems facing the world today, however, it has become such a common occurrence that teenagers are desensitized to it, and don’t realize the long-lasting effects it can have. Most teens were probably first exposed to the issue when the movie Cyberbully with Emily Osment came out in 2011. To be fair it was a dramatic movie following the attempted suicide of a victim of cyberbullying, however, there is some truth to that plotline. According to the Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network, about half of adolescent psychiatric patients are victims of cyberbullying. In addition, “Adolescents who experience cyberbullying are at increased risk for several mental health conditions.” The long lasting effects of cyberbullying on an adolescent’s mental health have not been well researched because it is such a fairly new concept, but it can lower self-esteem, cause anxiety and depression, and cause a victim to isolate themself. ScienceDaily also says that adolescents that are victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts. This is a staggering statistic; it is already hard enough to be a teen or preteen, but when online harassment is added there are disastrous consequences.

 So what can be done about cyberbullying? It seems cliche to say, but our society needs to be more empathetic. 60% of teens have witnessed cyberbullying, and most do not intervene (DoSomething.org). Intervening doesn’t have to be confronting a bully online, it can be confiding in a trusted adult like a parent or teacher. Just because something may not be directed to a bystander doesn’t mean they have no social responsibility. It is important to stick up for people that don’t have a voice and support victims, especially in cases of cyberbullying.