19 Jul Behind the Screens: Cyberbullying
While we may often perceive bullying to be associated with school-aged children, the dynamics and effects of bullying are far-reaching and can be perpetuated by any individual attempting to establish a relationship of power and control over another person.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying is an intentional behavior that is repeated and may grow increasingly more aggressive over time. There are several types of bullying, including verbal, such as teasing and name-calling; social bullying, including embarrassing someone in public or spreading rumors about someone; and physical, which includes hurting someone’s body or possessions.
One such type of pervasive bullying is cyberbullying. This type of bullying takes place over digital mediums, such as through text messages, online websites, and social media platforms. In recent years, the prevalence of this type of technology has created new outlets for bullies to harm and has made it harder for those experiencing cyberbullying to get help. Cyberbullies have the opportunity to persistently and continuously post negative and hurtful comments, pictures, and share other private content online. These types of public posts can significantly damage someone’s reputation if they are left unreported. As parents, it is also sometimes difficult to recognize when cyberbullying is taking place, as youth are often struggling with these issues privately. It can be difficult for schools to get involved in disciplining students for cyberbullying since it oftentimes occurs off campus. Thankfully, there is an increased awareness of the damaging effects of cyberbullying, including low self-esteem, depression, increased stress, and even suicide, which has made accessibility to resources more readily available.
Beyond the classroom, cyberbullying can extend to those experiencing domestic violence. The dynamic of power and control can transfer to the online world, as abusers may use social media platforms and technology to stalk, harass, and intentionally harm their victims through the posting of private and personal content and through other forms of digital contact. Abusers can also use this type of online harassment as a way to control and monitor their partners, such as through sending excessive text messages, checking social media history for usage and location of their partner, and using the threat of posting embarrassing photos or sexual videos of their partner online.
Resources that encourage tech-safety and educating the community on the impacts of cyberbullying and abuse have empowered survivors to reach out for help and take measures in asserting their own online safety. It is important to understand the role each individual plays in stopping bullying and supporting survivors. One way of intervening in bullying includes making your presence known and heard, whether online or off. Whether this includes reporting an inappropriate post that is intended to hurt someone else or confronting a bully’s behavior in a workplace or school setting, it is our responsibility to create communities that do not tolerate bullying. For more information on bullying and online safety visit https://www.stopbullying.gov/ and https://www.techsafety.org/.
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