Submitted by Danny Grubb, Seattle, WA
How Pervasive Is Cyberbullying?
According to data from the Cyberbullying Research Center it is difficult to pin down a rate of change year after year because so few studies have been done. Right now the data fluctuates wildly depending on populations. The lowest incidence of kids that have been the victims of cyberbullying of all of their studies is 18.8%. The kids that were surveyed ranged in age from 10 to 18.
So the best case scenario according to the available research is that 1 in 5 students has been a victim of cyberbullying in their life. Some of these victims (as you can read here and here) have made the transition from cyberbullying victim to suicide victim.
Cyberbullying vs. Traditional Bullying
The big difference between cyberbullying and traditional bullying is that even with the level of current technology, traditional bullies get real time feedback and cyberbullies do not. Think about it like this: When a bully says something hurtful to a victim, the victim reacts right in front of the bully by crying, fighting back, or doing nothing. That bully knows right away what effect the insult has had and can have a reaction in return, whether that be continuing the attack or stopping, or maybe even apologizing.
In contrast, cyberbullies use technology to spread their message. This approach yields delayed feedback from the victim. Also, the bully cannot see the victim’s initial emotional response. If something hurtful gets said on Facebook it may be a few hours before the victim sees it, and the bully will not see the victim cry, or seethe with anger, or reach for their parents prescription pills. They do not have the chance to apologize before the cyberbullying victim becomes a suicide victim. Furthermore, the traditional attack likely happened in front of a few other students, but the cyberbullying attack has the potential to reach everyone in the school and beyond, sometimes having severe consequences for a student’s reputation and friendships.
We All Have Cyberbullying Weapons At Our Fingertips
Social media is after all “Social” with everything good and bad that the word implies. Thieves, murderers, and bullies all use social networks for getting information about people they would have a hard time getting otherwise. Where they live, when they go on vacation, who they have a crush on… nothing is off limits if the victim speaks about it. Even the most mundane statement can give a criminal a huge advantage.
Mobile phones are also playing a role in cyberbullying. Over 80% of teenagers have access to cell phones, and they use them! This means that if something embarrassing happens at school, it can be texted to everyone within minutes and hit twitter and facebook as well. The reach could be well beyond what even the bully intended. Once again, the use of a device to bully someone instead of bullying them to their face takes away an important layer of personal interaction. The bully and the victim are separated by technology.
A Defining Problem For Our Childrens’ Generation
The reason you should care about all this is because as technology becomes more social and privacy less important, this issue will only continue to grow. Your children will likely know victims of cyberbullying, be victims themselves, or be the bullies.
In researching this post I came across some good resources for how to interact with your children about this issue. As these resources may update without my knowledge I have decided to link to them instead of summarizing them. Please let me know if you see a broken link, I would like to keep this list in working order.