Cyberbullying epidemic need solutions
Harassment, humiliation, teasing, aggression. Cyberbullying, at a glance, seems identical to the traditional school-yard fights and classroom antics that have always existed. In the years since the advent of social media, however, cyberbullying has posed challenges that can be more difficult, in a way, than physical belittling.
Though cyberbullying and its dangers have stepped from behind screens into the light long ago, it needs more attention and action from communities, schools and parents. Above all, it needs addressing by teens and young adults themselves â bullies and victims alike.
Though extremes, such as banning cyberbullying altogether â as a recent case in Maryland is seeking to do â are a stretch, stepping seriousness up a notch will do a world of good.
Cyberbullying â the use of instant messaging, email or social media to harass, threaten or intimidate â undoubtedly treads uncharted waters in todayâs increasingly wired society. It poses unique challenges, from anonymous perpetrators to the ability to harass someone around-the-clock. A recent special report by CNN found that up to 25 percent of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying at some point. And, in the last 30 days, 10 percent of teens have been cyberbullied, according to a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire survey of 15,000 middle and high school students.
Whatâs more is that it has arguably more impact on a childâs development and mental health than physical bullying. Another recent study by the International Criminal Justice Review reported that 28 percent of those cyberbullied â compared to 22 percent of those physically bullied and 26 percent who receive only bullying texts â were most likely to have considered suicide.
From the statistics alone, cyberbullying should definitely be considered a threat. The issue takes on a human face through stories such as those of the late Amanda Todd, whose high-profile suicide epitomizes the danger of cyberbullying when kids, emboldened by anonymity, go to vicious lengths to torment others. Cyberbullying can follow both victims and bullies from youth to adulthood, with onsets of depression, panic disorder, agoraphobia and thoughts of suicide. Bullies themselves are at risk of antisocial personality, according to CNN.
Thereâs a harder way to regulate bullying online because Internet activity does not have regulation or an organization that steps in when things get out of control.
There are some things that can help. Historically, there have been schools that refused to discipline students if the bullying didnât strictly happen on school grounds. In the coming years, school authorities should intervene to prevent the escalation of cases.
Speaking out against cyberbullying, for oneself and for those around, is another way to help. WeStopHate.org, a nonprofit organization, does just that. Founded by Emily-Anne Rigal, a victim of bullying in elementary school, WeStopHate.org is just one group dedicated to helping people who have been bullied and providing a safe space to share stories.
Using the Internet for the better, scientists at MIT have been working on another solution: A system that will give bullying victims coping strategies, encourage bullies to think twice before typing and allow onlookers to defend victims. Just these solutions alone open the door for many more alternatives that could yield a better solution in the future.
There are still many out there that dismiss cyberbullying as an issue that can be easily âfixedâ by just telling victims to quit Facebook or other social media sites. Shutting down the computer doesnât make the problems go away, though. For victims who have had fake Facebook pages made by perpetrators, the issue creates not just rumors, but self-esteem-destroying lies told by faceless bullies. The cyber world extends into the real world, with real-world consequences. To seriously fix the issue, people have to change the mindset of victim-blaming and address cyberbullying for the monster it truly is. Getting both the bystanders and the bullies of the world, online and offline, to understand this will lead to change.
Valerie Yu is a freshman majoring in biological sciences and English. Her column âHeart of the Matterâ runs Fridays.