“[the] anonymity of the Internet has a way of bringing out the harsh, judgmental streak in strangers who would never belittle another… in person” (Dr. Liza Belkin 2010).
Bullying and harassment have been around for years and a significant number of people have been a victim at some point in their life. I am sure all of you can recall at least one time in your life when you were a victim of bullying, or even the enabler.
Bullying refers to aggressive behavior that is repetitive and occurs between two or more individuals. It can take on different forms such as verbal (e.g. name calling), physical (e.g. punching) or relational (e.g. leaving someone out).
Recently, there has been a newer form of bullying called online bullying or as it is more commonly known, cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a newer form of bullying that involves the use of cell-phones or computers. This allows for the bully to be anonymous because individuals are not face-to-face.
Cyberbullying, in and of itself, comes in different forms as well, such as:
- Sending a mean text, email, or instant message
- Posting mean pictures or messages about others on blogs or social media apps
- Using a person’s username to spread rumors or lies about someone
Oftentimes, cyberbullies are motivated by anger, revenge, frustration, or even just entertainment and power. Research has found that young people who engage in cyberbullying have less empathy (sharing another person’s emotional state) than students not involved in cyberbullying; 40% of students involved in a large study reported not feeling guilty at all after bullying online, whereas only 16% felt guilty. Additionally, it made them feel more “funny, popular, and powerful.”
A recent study by Amanda Lenhart, found that 32% of all teenagers who use the internet have been victims of online harassment, with the greatest number of teens having a private communication forwarded or posted publicly without their permission. Further, girls are more likely than boys to partake in online bullying with 38% of girls compared to 28% of boys.
But more importantly, how does cyberbullying affect the victims?
Sociologist Robert Agnew has proposed that strain or stress can often result in problematic emotions leading to deviant behavior. He suggested three types of strain, all of which lead to anger, frustration or aggression:
- Strain as the actual or anticipated failure to achieve positively valued goals.
- Strain as the actual or anticipated removal of positively valued stimuli.
- Strain as the actual or anticipated presentation of negatively valued stimuli.
When victims of cyberbullying fear for their safety offline due to harassment online, they try to think of ways to avoid that person face-to-face. They are constantly on the look out for their bully- either at school, in their neighborhood, the bus stop, or the mall. Whichever place they feel unsafe, their ability to focus on academics, family matters, responsibilities, and social choices can be compromised. Additionally, if they fail to reach their valued goal of personal safety, strain can occur.
Another aspect Agnew discusses within The General Strain Theory is a positive goal of acceptance. So, when individuals feel that they are being rejected or socially excluded, a number of emotional, psychological, and behavior effects can occur; the failure to achieve the sense of social acceptance, can lead to strainful feelings.
Finally, cyberbullying can lead to negatively valued stimuli. The extensive and repetitiveness of cyberbullying can lead to frustration and negative emotions from the victim. They often are pressured into delinquency; they break down and either attempt to resolve the strain through some type of antisocial behavior or seek revenge on their bully.
Ultimately, he found through his research that victims feel depressed, sad, and frustrated between elementary, middle, and high school students.
Cyberbullying can happen for the same reasons as any other bullying. Bullies rely on anonymity, ignorance of the consequences, and social pressure. Anonymity gives the bully reassurance that they won’t be caught and don’t have to face their victims. Through ignorance of the consequence, The National Council on Crime Prevention suggest that in a survey with teenagers, 81% said they think cyberbullies do it because its funny, they don’t see their victims, and they don’t realize how much damage they are doing to the victim. Social pressure refers to the the pressure bullies have by their friends. Their friends might egg them on in order to be accepted. Lastly, bullies can have a hard time controlling their emotions and lash out because of their own problems they are facing.
Cyberbullying can occur on any form of social media, and studies have found that between 89% and 97.5% of teens use Facebook, which puts it as the most used form of social media for teens.
- Physical and Emotional Health
I am sure it comes to no surprise that victims of cyberbullying often form depression.
Raskauskas and Stoltz asked 84 adolescents open-ended questions about the negative effects of cyberbullying. They found that 93% of the adolescents reported negative effects such as feeling sad, powerless, and hopeless.
As cyberbullying leads to depression, the depression can lead to attempts or success of suicide, and that is exactly what happened with Amanda Todd. Born in 1996 in British Columbia, Canada, she grew up to be an outgoing person. It was until then when she met an anonymous person through Facebook that soon convinced her through flattery to show him a picture of her body topless. A year later the same person, or another anonymous person, sent her the photo back and the picture went viral, which began to create a mass of bullying that forced her to change schools several times. She felt like her life was ruined; she developed anxiety, major depression, and panic disorder. She had no friends, and often got beaten up at school. She tried to take her own life using bleach, but was saved at the last minute. It was months later, that Amanda took her own life.
Before her suicide she made a Youtube video of her story in details, trying to look for someone to help her. It was only after her suicide, that the video went viral. I encourage you to watch the eight minute video to understand all the horrible things she had gone through.
Two years later, police finally found the man that started it all.
In some cases of cyberbullying, frequent headaches, stomachaches, and difficulty sleeping occur. Out of 2,215 teens ages 13 through 16, One in four said they they felt unsafe at school. Some victem’s self-esteem can be significantly impacted as well—in Campfield’s research (2006), more victims in his study showed signs of stress, with internalized symptoms such as loneliness, and lower self-esteem.
When there is a problem, there can always be ways to help prevent it such as:
- Educating yourself– Educate yourself on what cyberbullying is and talk to your friends about what their experiencing. Find out what type of laws your state has in the school system for all types on bullying.
- Be aware– always be aware of the photos or texts you are sending. Don’t post anything that could possibly compromise your reputation. There is always a chance it will go viral.
- Don’t respond or retaliate– Responding is often times what bullies strive for. They realize that they have power over you. Also, retaliating is not the answer either; getting back at them makes you a bully yourself.
- Reach out for help– If you are a victim. Build up that courage to reach out to your friends, family, or teachers. Block them from your account.
- Get a retraining order– If blocking them on your account doesn’t work, then get a restraining order against them.
“I got made fun of constantly in High School. That’s what built my character. That’s what makes you who you are. When you get made fun of, when people point out your weaknesses. that’s just another opportunity for you to rise above.”-Zac Efron
A couple years ago, I came across the movie Cyberbully. Along with the video posted above of Amanda Todd, I also encourage you to watch this movie to be aware of how it could effect people. I remember my mom was cooking dinner ,while I was crying my eyes out watching the movie in the living room.
So I will end with this…“Cyberbullying…ain’t nobody got time fo dat.”
If you or anyone you know is thinking about suicide, go to this website for free 24/7 confidential help or call
1 (800) 273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Other websites that can educate kids on what their post:
Feel free to like or comment below if you have any stories you would like to share with us.