Cyberbullying! How did we get here?
Bullying has always formed a part of societal vices, especially among children, teenagers and young adults. However, just as the world is evolving and actively adopting the use of technology and the internet, so also has the act of bullying evolved.
The prevalence and mass adoption of the internet has unfortunately led to the rise of ‘online bullying’ or popularly cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a millennial problem that tends to be overlooked and underestimated by traditional society and the older generation. While some do not understand the act of cyberbullying, a few others are simply ignorant about its existence and resultant effect.
A research study by the University of British Columbia has asserted that more teenagers have experienced and engaged in cyberbullying more than the traditional form of bullying in recent years.
What is Cyberbullying?
In the Journal of the American Medical Association Cyberbullying was defined as an “aggressive, intentional act or behaviour that is carried out by a group or an individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and overtime against a victim who cannot easily defend himself or herself.”
Some people have defined cyberbullying to be an aggressive and mischievous act perpetrated and suffered by kids and Teenagers online; this limited classification is a misconception and only half of the truth regarding cyberbullying. Expert opinion and research studies have revealed that adults can also be culprits and victims of cyberbullying and online harassment.
A recent report by bullying statistics has shown that cyberbullying is in an upward trajectory with much more cases experienced and recorded over the years. The implication of this is an increase in mental and emotional instability among children.
We define cyberbullying to mean any online abusive act against a person or a group of people. This leaves us with the question of what constitutes the abusive act of cyberbullying.
10 types of Cyberbullying
Harassment is one of the most popular and most threatening forms of cyberbullying. It is majorly manifested through sending of abusive and threatening messages to the victim. The Pew Research Study on cyberbullying declares that 4 out of every ten people are victims of online harassment.
Cyberstalking is the act of using the internet to stalk or follow another person or a group of people in an annoying and harassing manner. Cyberstalking is an offshoot of online harassment; some people classify it under online harassment. In Canada, cyberstalking is considered to be a form of criminal harassment.
3. Fraping/ Impersonation
Fraping is the criminal act of hijacking another’s social networking account and posting inappropriate contents with the intent of misleading the online community into believing that the real owner made the post. It could also be used as an avenue to defraud the victim’s family and friends.
This can also be classified as a form of online harassment. Flaming involves the exchange of provoking, vulgar or aggressive messages and images online. It is also referred to as ‘online fight’ or drama.
Exclusion is the hurtful and deliberate act of excluding or leaving out a person from online events or groups of which he or she has a full right or an equitable right to participate in. Exclusion is sometimes disregarded as ‘nothing too serious’ however, it’s potential for psychological and emotional harm can be overwhelming.
Dissing involves the posting or publication of cruel and spiteful information about a person online to tarnish such a person’s reputation. The posted information may be true or false; however, if it is done maliciously, then it is cyberbullying.
The outing is when a cyberbully obtains private information about a person and posts it online without the person’s consent, in a bid to embarrass or hurt the victim. It could involve a public sharing of private pictures, videos, documents, among other information. Outing is also referred to as Doxxing.
Trolling is the act of passing sarcastic comments or using sharp language to address another person or group of people online. Trolling is a popular form of cyberbullying, everyone who comes online and social media often, has either been a victim of it, engaged in it or have witnessed it. Trolling is like an everyday occurrence on social media websites.
9. Fake profiles
Cyberbullies and criminals often create fake profiles of non-existing people to mislead and deceive others. They use such profiles to perpetrate varying degrees of cyber crimes ranging from theft to fraud, sending abusive messages anonymously or just to troll others. Their victims include specifically targeted persons to a larger group of people.
10. Computer and Phone Attacks
This is an act done by more technical cyberbullies and criminal. It is the intentional attempt to infect other people’s devices (smartphones or PC) with viruses, malware or spyware and sometimes a phishing attack.
These are the major forms of cyberbullying; however, there are other forms which are downplayed or disregarded. Any act no matter how inconsequential but done online, which embarrasses, disregards, demean or hurt another person, can pass as cyberbullying. acts such as gossip, spreading false rumours and even certain pranks can be classified as cyberbullying or harassment.
Some cyberbullies are ignorant of the fact that their actions constitute bullying, and that emphasizes the need for education, caution and responsibility while interacting with other people online.
Facts and Statistics on Cyberbullying
Here are a few facts that establish the existence of cyberbullying.
- Over 50 per cent of adolescents and teenagers have been bullied online with about the same percentage engaging in cyberbullying as well.
- Over 25 per cent have been bullied repeatedly.
- About 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats.
- Girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying.
- Young people who have experienced cyberbullying are more susceptible to self-harm and suicidal thought.
- Statista research provides that internet trolls are more active on social media.
- Instagram is recorded to be the most cyberbullying prevalent social media website at 42%, followed by Facebook 37% and Snapchat 31%.
- About 24% of people have contemplated suicide after repeated cyberbullying.
- Over 80 per cent of teens use a smartphone regularly; increasing the risk and exposure to cyberbullying.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Although cyberbullying affects children and young adults more, the older generation is still not let out of this menace; however, the adverse effects seem to affect kids and teenagers more.
Below are a few confirmed effects of cyberbullying.
- Low self-esteem: 83% of young people admitted that bullying harms their self-esteem.
- Reclusion: wanting to stay alone and avoid spending time with family and friends. This is sometimes good, but when it is caused by cyberbullying, it becomes unhealthy.
- Reluctance to go to school or socialize: more than 16,000 people are absent from school because of bullying.
- Sudden change in personality: victims may become quick-tempered, always angry or become sad and emotional
- Feeling of fear and trepidation, which can lead to other psychological and emotional problems.
- The victim may experience weight loss, loss of appetite and anxiety
- Victims of cyberbullying may become vulnerable to other forms of crime and harassment.
- Feeling of humiliation and shame
- In worse cases, victims may develop suicidal thoughts and may even attempt to suicide.
A research survey showed that about 38% of victims believe that schools, colleges and universities do not take bullying seriously.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that deserves a more serious response from the relevant authorities and stakeholders; including governments, parents and teachers. Thus this is a clarion call for everyone to take responsibility in the fight against cyberbullying.
Check out our other resource materials and articles on cyberbullying and guide to educate your younger ones about netiquette rules and internet responsibility.