Deadly silence of cyberbullying


cyberbullying_main

photo illustration by Edward Kinsella

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt. We have all been hearing that phrase since we were kids, so how is it that names can drive youngsters to commit grave acts such as suicide. What has become of Generation X and Y?

With the increase use of technology from touch screen mobiles, smart phones and tablets the nation especially youngsters are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber bullying. The internet is very much about abuse, but they do say do not blame the tool. The truth in fact is cyber bullying is becoming a social danger and according to me it isn’t taken seriously by the authorities. It is less physically abusive as regular bullying, and more verbal / emotional that can drive people behind the screen to do horrendous acts mainly because of the easy access of anonymity. The main thing with the computer is that behind a screen of anonymity, anybody can become a cyber bully and more often then not it is the smaller, physically weaker person who becomes the abusive cyber bully and in all this they never have to show themselves.

Examples of cyber bullying would be trash talking other individuals online, picking anything about them and just scolding them. YouTube is a perfect example of this as with almost any popular video, you will have people come out and spurt their negativity towards the poster.
Then there are the threatening cyber bullies. These ones are the ones that will come out and say “I’ll kick you’re a** or “In real life I’d smash you” etc, which their threats are hollow at best and why wouldn’t they say stuff like this, because behind a screen every single person becomes a 10 foot tall fighter.
Another type of cyber bullying which is not so common is trolling. Trolling is going to a place on the internet, with the purpose of trying to illicit a response from people and most times the trolls will act like they’re asking a legitimate question, though the question will be ridiculous and will clearly create a controversy.

In all its a wilful and repeated harm inflicted through electronic media such as e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, mobile phones, pagers and defamatory Web sites with the use of electronic means to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass or otherwise target another. Remember It can be anything from general verbal bullying, insults, abuse to downloading inappropriate pictures of one another, someone making them stupid hate band pages or group sites about someone, hoax people (like a phaedo in his 40s, 50s chatting to a young girl making a fake name and pretending he’s bout same age as her etc). Its not just verbal, here in the UK people have sent private pictures taken in relationships around the web to humiliate them. Its just a way of cowardly insecure people who are not happy with themselves so they try to make others life a misery. But children are children right, or are they, because the issue arises when you cross a fine line it has to be put right no matter what their age and using their age to define their actions will be just an excuse. In fact its proven that cyber bullies feel no guilt about what they done, they think it’s a norm and they certainly don’t send apology letters.

Some estimates suggest that depending on the country of origin between 5% and 20% of children are victims of physical, verbal or exclusion-based bullying. That’s no small figure especially when evidence suggests cyber bullying is as equal a risk factor for suicidal ideation – thoughts about suicide – as traditional bullying. We’re talking about a life here. A recent survey has shown that

  • 42% of teenagers with tech access report being cyber bullied over the past year
  • 69% of teens own their own computer or smart phone
  • 80% are active on social media
  • 7.5 million Face book users are under 13 years old
  • 81% of teens say bullying online is easier to get away
  • 20% of kids cyber bullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 attempt it.
  • 4500 kids commit suicide each year

In this world technology has become a huge factor and kids are way smarter than we are when it comes to technology. But with free use of technology it widens the audiences resulting in victims reliving denigrating experiences more often and there is no saying of its just a simple fix and say get off the web and simply presuming that if children didn’t use electronic devices to speak to each other cyber bullying would stop and you cant tell parents to take those electronic devices away from them and throw game consoles in the bin, the achievement would be nothing.

Shea should just have one of her fucking seizures and die because people at west don’t want her. That’s the reason she has seizures, because that’s karma for giving birth to a freaky slut.” Read this message and think for a while, a girl with special needs in Texas was being bullied mercilessly by her classmates via text messages. Shea Shawhan, 18, a junior at Plano West Senior High School, suffers from seizures due to a brain injury she suffered birth. Despite her seizures, she participates in sports and is a member of the school’s cheerleading squad. Instead of being inspired by and celebrating the achievements, school mates are bullying her instead.

It runs shivers down spines just reading that. Children can be mean but to them ‘they are just joking around’. How long will the joke last till a person takes the next step. April 7, 2013 – Joshua Unsworth, 15 years old was found in the garden of his family’s farmhouse in the Lancashire area of England last winter. He allegedly was bullied for months leading up to his suicide, with anonymous commenter’s mocking his father’s job by calling Joshua “a farmer” and harassing him about his dating habits on his Ask.fm page, receiving messages like: “no one likes you

So whose to blame for all of this?

Parents, Is it parents’ responsibility, after all we must be ever vigilant in protecting our children. We can easy ask why parents are giving young children smart phones with 24/7 access to social networks? More importantly, why are they not diligently monitoring their kids’ online activity? Pre-teens typically don’t have the funds or the ability to purchase Internet-enabled devices or authorize Internet and mobile contracts for access to social networks. So if parents are going to provide such access to their children, they must be held accountable for their online activities, including cyber-bullying, should they not. Some parents have gone to the lengths of installing a spy software in the smart phone of their kids to watch for any messages about sex or harassment. But its not all about parenting, are we pointing fingers in one direction. Is it just bad parenting, We as a society allow bad parenting simply by doing little to better it and by that It means teaching parenting skills from a young age in nursery and on up, not to mention critical thinking and politics – skills vital for a decent society. Bad parenting leads to general ignorance, smacking, parental humiliation, teasing, belittling – basically bullying. How do you expect many children then to behave with role models like these.

In most cases of cyber-bullying, parents reject the accusations that their children could perpetrate such heinous acts. Is this defending or simply making them worse. How about the children that are getting bullied, these children are so badly bullied they take their own lives but not so badly bullied that it stops them giving out a new mobile number or starting up a new social media account? These youngsters are being neglected (not abusively so but neglected nonetheless) and a mixture of an introverted/neurotic/sensitive personality, poor quality communications with their parent’s and the bullying leaves them with such low self-esteem and confusion, they feel there is no alternative. The parents of bullied children also need to step up and take responsibility. If you haven’t taught your child how to deal with these issues then you are at fault. However without blaming the victim it is ought to considered that there are issues on both sides.

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Social networks are a breeding ground for cyber bullies. Image credit: Jason Howie (CC-BY)

Social Networks, are a breeding ground for cyber bullies but unfortunately they are exacerbating the issue. One of the main reasons is anonymity and anonymity breeds contempt, anonymity also allows people to cowardly hide behind this veil of non-accountability and perpetuate obfuscation and hatred and many social networks allow this to happen. Social media websites are the platform for these unthinkable phrases because they allow a forum for many to chime in from the safety of their own homes and so it gives them a safe outlet to express things they might not otherwise say face-to-face. Looking at twitter alone, twitter’s rules say twitter takes no responsibility for offensive or menacing tweeting. It directs users to “contact your local authorities so they can accurately assess the content or behaviour for possible violations of local law.“ Facebook’s rules are no different from twitter. It seems the rights of the violators seem to take precedent over the rights of the victims.

Its not about boycotting sites but needing to find a balance between legislation and conversation with the people who run these sites, but its not all about legislation, legislation is the end piece – there’s all the education and prevention before that. This despite the abundance of celebrity public service announcements, documentaries on the subject, and the so-called “zero-tolerance” policies adopted by many school boards. Its still happening. Remember a block button doesn’t do anything, it makes the situation worse.

Or how about the government, you think government intervention will stop cyber bullies. Maybe looking to criminalize cyber bullying and enforce steeper penalties for teens who bully others would be a step forward. Repeal laws that allow teens to “erase their mistakes.” The law needs to be a lot more tougher on these cyber bullies, they are accountable for multiple suicides every year, and to see them walk free is disgusting or are we simply playing a blame game, social networks, parents, governments…to free speech if you may call it, at the end of the day working as a community to beat this epidemic is essential. A human life is costly, but humans aren’t rational. Its much different having a debate face to face because the context is different but in the comfort of your own home and the protection of your four walls reality may seem different and people will more likely speak their mind and be less fearful of circumstances. Its about education and being vigilant at all times.

Published article by Maria’m AS (editor Truth Revoloution)

 

 

 

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About Maria'm AS (30 Articles)
Imagination is the key to writing. Editor, publisher and researcher.

1 Comment on Deadly silence of cyberbullying

  1. This is definitely an issue that most people don’t take seriously. I think that the fault lies in part with parents and in part with the kids themselves. It is the parents job to teach a kid proper manners, life lessons, etc. They should also teach them that those lessons apply to people in person as well as online. The kids fault lies in not trying to changing how they deal with others online for the better. I subscribe to the philosophy that each person is an individual and they can change for the better if they want to. However, you also have to consider that the internet isolates people. In making communications faster, the social gap involved in face-to-face communication has grown wider. By not having enough experience talking face-to-face, kids do not understood the impact that words can have, spoken or written. There are a few key causes that make cyberbullying a problem, and it will take a group effort from the internet to make it stop. However, sadly, I think there will always be the people that derive entertainment from messing with people, trolling for example is the expression of this. I dream of the day when this is not the case though.

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