Running Head: CYBERBULLYING AND THE EFFECTS YOUNG TEENAGERS 1
Running Head: CYBERBULLYING AND THE EFFECTS YOUNG TEENAGERS 3
CYBERBULLYING AND THE EFFECTS YOUNG TEENAGERS
JOHNEAN M. WHEATLEY
CHESTNUT HILL COLLEGE
The word bully can go as far back as far as the 1530s. (Harper 2008). In which would be described as one physically or verbally attacking another person in order to gain a sense of power or superiority. One of the many blessings of the 20th century, the internet, has changed the name of bullying forever. Welcome, cyberbullying, as defined as a category of bullying that occurs in the digital realm/medium of electronic text (Wong-Lo & Bullock, 2011). This act of bullying can occur in many ways: cyberstalking, gossip groups, impersonation, cyber harassment, sexting, and much more (Notor 2013). Cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying due to the fact the attacker may remain anonymous through the world wide web. However, the effects still are the same. A few effects of cyberbullying include delinquency, depression, and death.
One might think why would a victim of bullying become a bully themselves? In his “ General Strain Theory,” sociologist Robert Agnew hypothesized that the strain and stress exerted on an individual as a result of bullying can manifest itself into problematic emotions that lead to deviant behavior,” possibly leading to delinquency ( Agnew, 2006, pp. 659-660). Some of this strain and stress can stem the lack of speaking out about past cyberbullying experiences, most common in boys. On the other hand, girls are more likely to report cyberbullying because they do not care about showing weakness from an emotional standpoint, unlike males. According to Ericsson (2001), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that 60 percent of males of were bullies or bullied in middle school were convicted of at least one or more crimes as an adult. The insecurities that manifest from being a bully or getting bullied in middle school will have a lasting effecting on males and females which cause emotional distress and more than likely will result in deviant behaviors.
Another substantial effect of cyber bullying is depression. Loneliness, humiliation, and insecurity are all tied together with depression and are the most common initial emotional responses to the bullying process. An example of what depression looks like stemming from being bullied can be the fear of going to school for some students. The anxiety of knowing that at school you are not safe from being ridiculed makes is very difficult socially and emotionally for students to focus on their studies and develop in a healthy fashion (Ericson, 2001, pp. 1-2). Various types of cyberbullying cause depression. The most popular type of sexting. A young girl in middle school, hormones raging out of control, sends a photo of herself half-naked or naked to a boy she thinks like her but he instead of keeping the photo private he sends it to the whole school and makes it go viral is an example of sexting. The effects of the entire school can send a girl into deep, deep depression. The fact that she can no longer show her face in school without getting laughed at is slowly killing her inside. In addition, to take it a step further in some cases other students take to social media to continue bullying her with threats and gossip. A problem that she only thought was going to bother her at school has now followed her to the privacy of her home. Depending on her response can lead to more serious clinical implication and can continue to develop into even worse problems like suicide (Ericson 2001).
The most extreme consequence of cyberbullying is suicide. According to a National Vital Statistics Report, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among youth ranging in age from 15 to 24 (Donegan 2012). It is not uncommon to hear about a young adult who has taken their life because they were unable to cope with the pressure of cyber bullying. Youth victimized by their peers were 2.4 times more likely to report suicidal ideation and 3.3 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who reported not being bullied (Espelage & Holt, 2013). Just recently, due to the spike in connecting with suicide and cyberbullying, the word bullycide was born. Bullycide is the act of committing suicide due to the effects of bullying (Donegan 2012). In 2012, Amanda Todd was introduced to an anonymous person on Facebook who flattered her so much to the point of convincing her to flash her topless body to him. A year later, the same person or another anonymous person sent her the picture and it went viral, creating a mass of bullying and teasing to the point that she had to change schools several times. Her reputation was ruined, she had no friends, she was beaten up by some classmates, she tried drinking bleach but was saved at the last minute. Months later, Amanda Todd took her own life (Video: The Unforgettable Amanda Todd Story 2016). This real life example, in my opinion, shows how harsh cyber bullying can be and how far the effects of it can go.
One may ask how can cyberbullying be reduced or prevented. There was an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” even though that saying is no longer relevant in today’s society that is just the approach that needs to be taken when trying to prevent cyber bullying. Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community bullying prevention plan. There are laws about cyberbullying and teens who bully can face justice system issues if the problem grows beyond the computer or cell phone. However it is not illegal to use text messages to mistreat harass, or tease others because of the First Amendment protections, but for cases that can be specifically defined as cyberstalking or a serious and substantial threat to one’s safety then law enforcement will get involved (Notar 2013). Aside from community prevention plans, there are many global anti-bullying campaigns that try to tackle the huge cyberbullying problem. The Cybersmile Foundation is a multi-award winning anti-cyberbullying non-profit organization. Committed to tackling all forms of digital abuse and bullying online, they work to promote diversity and inclusion by building a safer, more positive digital community. Cybersmile provides expert support, resources, and consultancy to individuals, governments, corporations and educational institutions around the world (Cybersmile 2016). This is one a many, many national non-profit campaigns that try to prevent and reduce the effects of cyberbullying.
Social media is deeply ingrained in American culture in which results in cyberbullying. The effects of cyberbullying on today’s teens is a very troubling issue that leads to delinquency, depression, and unfortunately suicide. The permanent mental effects are what both law and prevention programs are striving to eliminate. In the future, lawmakers are trying to develop the appropriate laws that correspond with the effects of cyberbullying in which will help define the problem itself and establish appropriate judicial repercussions (Donegan 2012). In conclusion cyberbullying is an issue for everyone and can happen to any child, therefore, laws, prevention, and speaking out about it can help cyberbullying stop for once and all.
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