Is loneliness the key reason for both cyber bullying and their victims?
In defining cyber bullying, Fegenbush and Olivier suggest the definition “illustrate the forms it takes, the tools that are used to engage in it, and ways in which it is understood to differ from traditional bullying” (8). According to Willard, “cyber bullying is a language that is defamatory, constitutes bullying, harassment, or discrimination, discloses personal information, or contains offensive, vulgar or derogatory comments” (qtd. in Fegenbush and Olivier 8). Kraft and Wang have defined cyber bullying as the harassment of persons by others persons through the use of technology (513).
Currently, cyber bullying is said to be gaining more prevalence as a result of the dynamic technological advancements (Kraft and Wang 513). Children use mediums such as social networking sites, phone calls, text messages among others to bully other children (Williams and Godfrey 1). This type of bullying may take the form of spreading malicious rumors about a peer, revealing others secrets on air or even abusing the victim. Experts assert that cyber bullying has more drastic impacts on the victims as compared to traditional forms of bullying. This, they have attributed to the fact that cyber bullying, unlike the traditional forms of bullying which took place at school or in the neighborhood, has managed to penetrate into victims’ homes, a place previously considered safe and free of such nuisance (Shelton 1). In addition, the victims cannot confront the perpetrator because their identity remains unknown based on the medium used thus heightening the impact of the bullying (Shelton 1). Research indicates that besides loneliness, there are several other reasons for cyber bullying and victimization.
Prevalence of cyber bullying
Cyber bullying is a cross-cutting youth crisis across the world (Williams and Godfrey 1). Kowalsky states that the victimization rates of cyber bullying range between a low of 4% to a high of 53% while that of perpetrators ranges between 3-23% (1). In a study done among 3767 middle school children in America, it was reported that 18% of the children had been targets of cyber bullying within two months that had passed while 11% admitted to having bullied someone at least once during the same period of time (Kowalsky 1). In another study conducted by Patchin and Hinduja among 1500 adolescents, it was revealed that 33% of the participants admitted to be victims of cyber bullying (Kraft and Wang 514).
In 2007, The National Crime Prevention Council carried out a survey among 832 teenagers in the U.S. whose results indicated that 43% of the participants aged between 13- 17 were victims of cyber bullying. Girls of aged between 15 and 16 reported the highest rate of victimization. The results of a 2002 study among children in Britain indicated that every one out of four children experienced cyber bullying either through their mobile phones or via internet use (Campfield 9). This situation is no different in Australia or Canada where 11% and 3% of the adolescents have admitted to cyber bullying respectively. On the other hand, 14% and 23% of adolescents in the two countries have stated that they have been victims of this kind of bullying (Campfield 9). Even more alarming is that statistics indicate that these rates are on the rise (Kowalsky 1).
Impacts of cyber bullying
Just like traditional forms of bullying, cyber bullying has adverse effects on the victims. The present-day youth are known for their apt use of technology and with the advent of social networking, it is no wonder that this population is highly vulnerable to cyber bullying. Some of the resultant effects of cyber bullying include psychological maladjustments such as anxiety and even suicide in the worst case scenario (Williams and Godfrey 1).
Reasons for cyber bullying and victimization
Mental Health Related Issues
Scientific research has demonstrated that the prefrontal cortex in the adolescents’ brains is not fully developed. This part is the one responsible for controlling the evaluation of risky behaviors and the repercussions of indulgence in such behavior. For this reason, adolescents are at a risk of failing to recognize which information can be public and which should remain private and even end up sharing personal information in the internet that could make them susceptible to cyber bullies. In the event that cyber bullying takes place, the adolescent may suffer from depression. According to a clinician psychologist by the name of Walsh, this is the beginning of turmoil for the adolescent as more often than not, people ignore depression alerts which are sounded by adolescents (Williams and Godfrey 1). In a desperate attempt to air their grievances, the adolescents post even more personal information with regards to their depression, their parents unaware and making themselves more vulnerable to the bullying.
The aftermath of this type of bullying includes elevated rates of depression, social anxiety, loneliness and low self-esteem. Also, the victims of cyber bullying experience loss of interest in activities they indulged in prior to the bullying, decreased energy and indulgence in alcohol and substance abuse. In fact, studies show that victims of cyber bullying are more likely to indulge in alcohol and substance abuse than non-victims (Williams and Godfrey 1). The perpetrators of this kind of bullying could also experiment with drugs and alcohol into their adult years and even engage in criminal activities (Williams and Godfrey 1).
The dominance theory has been used extensively in an attempt to explain the behavior of bullies. This theory asserts that there is a correlation between the need for dominance and control and the behavior of bullying (Campfield 30). In terms of cyber bullying, such dominance may be displayed via use of threats and verbal abuse all in an effort to gain power and control. Due to the anonymity that accompanies cyber bullying, aggressive individuals who have no other channel for their physical aggression, seek dominance and control by preying on helpless victims in the cyber space (Campfield 30). On the other hand, victims of face-to-face bullying could turn to cyber bullying as a means of gaining power or to get revenge on those who bullied them in order to gain both power and control (Campfield 31).
According to Campfield, even though the relationship between cyber bullying and self esteem has not been explored, it is safe to conclude that it is similar to that drawn from the traditional form of bullying (31). Research showed that victims of face-to-face bullying had low to no self esteem while the perpetrators had high and above average measures of self esteem. Traditional bullying research showed that there was a connection between aggressive behavior and certain aspects of self esteem (Campfield 32). Some of these aspects included the high defensive egotism that entailed having a self-enhancing attitude towards one self and a defensive reaction during criticism. This relationship could be applied to the case of cyber bullying whereby the cyber bully could use aggressive behavior in the cyber space to enhance their self-esteem (Campfield 32).
On the other hand, victims of both face-to-face bullying and cyber bullying may themselves even out scores with the perpetrators by becoming cyber bullies themselves so as to repair and enhance their self esteem (Campfield 33).
Methods of curbing cyber bullying
There are various strategies that have been put in place to in an attempt to put an end to cyber bullying as a result of its adverse impacts. Most learning institutions do not have the means to stop cyber bullying due to the fear of being charged with violation of children’s freedom of speech (Kraft and Wang 516). As a result, parents could be the key element in spearheading the fight against cyber bullying because a high percentage of it takes place when the children are at home. In a 2007 study on cyber bullying, it was revealed that students would rather tell their parents of their cyber bullying encounters as opposed to telling their teachers or other school authority because they fear not being taken seriously (Kraft and Wang 516). Parental supervision of their children’s activities could help prevent their children engage in high risk activities such as posting of personal information or pictures that could make them vulnerable to bullies online (Kraft and Wang 517).
In 2008, there was the adoption of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act which stipulated that students in schools be taught on the suitable behavior to have when engaging in online interactions such as on social networking sites and chat rooms (Kraft and Wang 517). This strategy aims at equipping children with the necessary knowledge as pertaining to cyber space activities giving special attention to those activities which could jeopardize the student’s safety. However, according to a survey conducted by the National Computer Security Alliance in 2010, it was reported that the education offered is inadequate in equipping the students with the necessary knowledge and skills on how to interact in a safe manner while online (Kraft and Wang 517).
In addition to the above approaches, there are many states in America that have implemented cyber bullying prevention laws which demand that all education institutions implement anti-cyber bullying policies (Kraft and Wang 518).
In conclusion, cyber bullying, just like face-to-face bullying has intense negative implications on the bullied victims. Some of the impacts are devastatingly fatal as in the case of suicide bringing to light how crucial measures to mitigate such effects are. Being a newer component of bullying when compared to the traditional face-to-face bullying, little research has been done on the topic of cyber bullying leaving most of its conclusions to be based upon prior face-to-face research findings. In light of this disparity, more research should be done with regards to this topic so as to avail more knowledge. Educating young people on how to safeguard them while browsing the internet should be emphasized at both parent and tutor levels. The perpetrators of this type of bullying could also gain by learning appropriate means of expressing themselves as opposed to engaging in cyber bullying.
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