Bullying in the classical sense refers to the sustained or recurrent physical or verbal attacks on a child or teenager by one or more peers. Usually, the suspects are individuals who are unwilling or unable to de-escalate the bullying. Typically, bullying involved physical assault, verbal harassment, taunting, humiliation, intimidation, and coercion. However, children and teenagers spend more time on their electronic devices. They interact more on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp than any previous generation. However, this interaction has led to the development of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a term that refers to sustained and recurrent social, verbal, and emotional abuse of a child by their peers using information technology. Cyberbullying takes the form of harassing texts, unapproved posts of humiliating pictures, disparaging social media comments, and direct threats using online platforms. Statistics show that that seven in ten people under 18 years have experienced some form of cyberbullying. The statistics also seem to show that one in every three victims of cyberbullying tries to self-harm (UN Chronicle, 2016). Clearly, cyberbullying has an effect on the emotional and physical well-being of the individual. This paper seeks to investigate the causes and consequences of cyberbullying as well as developing some solutions to prevent cases of cyberbullying.
The prevalence of cyberbullying is quite alarming, but there is a need to understand the causes of cyberbullying to understand why it is so prevalent. A study by Hoff and Michell (2009) sought to investigate this by conducting an open-ended survey. Their study seemed to reveal that there are found predominant reasons students engaged in cyberbullying. Hoff and Michell (2009) found that breakups were the predominant cause of cyberbullying accounting for 41 percent of cases. Among children and teenagers, breakups were the predominant reason for cyberbullying. Normally, one of the jilted exes posted information about the information on social media. In most cases, this information is not positive. They also found that envy was the reason for 20 percent of cyberbullying. Envy was normally a result of students who were romantically attracted to others, but they were ignored. This envy led to cyberbullying as a way of getting back to the other individual or their romantic interest. Intolerance accounted for 16 percent while ganging up accounted for 14 percent. In the study, intolerance referred to the cases where cyberbullies were trying to feel better about themselves or because they wanted the other person to feel the same misery they felt. Hoff and Michell (2009) believe intolerance is the same reason for classical bullying, but it has taken a digital appearance. Finally, students would gang up against students who they did not want to be part of their group.
A similar study was conducted by Mishna et al. (2010) who found that 33.7 percent of the students in middle and high schools admitted to having cyberbullied one or more of their peers. In 22 percent of the cases, the method of cyberbullying was calling other people bad names. An additional 14 percent was by pretending to be someone else, 11 percent was spreading bad rumors, five percent was threatening others and finally, three percent sent unwelcoming pictures or texts to others. The information showed that 52 percent of the bullying was aimed at a friend, 21 percent was aimed at other students in school, and 11 percent was aimed at students in other schools while six percent was aimed at complete strangers. Mishna et al. (2010) also revealed the reasons why students bullied others. Their findings showed that 25 percent of them believed that cyberbullying others made them funny. Other reasons for making fun of others included the target’s appearance, race, school performance, sexuality, disability, gender, and family of the person they were bullying. Mishna et al. (2010) were able to show that cyberbullies got some form of aesthetic pleasure from cyberbullying others. Most of them believed that cyberbullying made them more popular, funny, and powerful. However, these feelings were normally followed by guilt or regret for their actions.
A study by Cowie (2013) reviewed the causes of cyberbullying among children and adolescents and found that the primary cause was the reaction to the break-up of both romantic and platonic relationships. Additionally, the individuals who bullied others normally did so when they were envious of the other person or when they had some form of prejudiced intolerance towards them. However, there seemed to be a lot of bullying occurring due to gender differences between individuals. Sometimes the individuals were intolerant of the other students’ sexual orientation, disability, or ethnicity. Cowie (2013) also found that there was an overlap between the traditional form of bullying and cyberbullying. The research seems to indicate that people who bully others physically were willing to extend the bullying to cyberspace and vice versa.
Another study by Low and Espelage (2013) reviewed the causes of cyberbullying from a psychological perspective. The study showed that parental supervision and cyberbullying were interrelated. Children and teens who have the least adult supervision engaged the most in cyberbullying. In Caucasian female children, alcohol and drug use were increased the bullying behavior between participants. Low and Espelage (2013) also found that family conflict seemed to increase the possibility of engaging in cyberbullying. There were high levels of hostility and depression when it comes to white teen males and African-American males respectively. Additionally, African-American teens were more likely to engage in cyberbullying because there are less parental supervision and family cohesion as compared to other races. The research by Low and Espelage (2013) found that behavior is related to emotional processing by teenagers and children. These students seemed to bully others as a way of dealing with their emotions or managing bullying from their families. The specific risk factors highlight the reasons why some adolescent youth are willing to engage in cyberbullying.
One of the most authoritative figures on the effects of cyberbullying is Michael Wright who has reviewed the psychological effects. According to Wright (2016), has highlighted that cyberbullying victims suffer from a lot of psychological issues. Most of the time, cyberbullying caused a lot of depression in children and teens. Wright (2016) highlighted cases of increased loneliness and sadness, disruption of eating and sleeping patterns, loss of interest in social activities leading to hermit-like behavior, and the health problems associated with depression. In many cases, the individuals had chronic anxiety when it came to going to school. Wright (2016) highlighted that this resulted in cases of missing, dropping out, and skipping school to avoid coming face-to-face with the perpetrators of cyberbullying. As a result, many of the children and teenagers who are victims of cyberbullying tend to have poor grades due to inconsistent attendance in school. They have low self-esteem leading to a higher risk of falling into exploitative relationships later in life. Wright (2016) also highlighted that victims tend to have a high likelihood of engaging in drugs and alcohol. In extreme cases, bullying can lead to suicidal thoughts. The suicidal tendencies also create problems in adult life as individuals who were victims of cyberbullying as children are more likely to attempt suicide as adults.
In another study, Wright (2016) investigated the emotional responses and attributions in dealing with coping strategies. In his study, he found that adolescents who were cyberbullied seemed to experience emotions of embarrassment, worry, stress, anxiety, sadness, and fear. Wright (2016) also found that in other cases, the victims of cyberbullying seemed to feel offended, defenseless, scared, and rejected. Clearly, cyberbullying victims develop emotional issues that normally lead to depression when they are compounded. In other cases, the victims develop coping mechanisms to deal with the emotional strain that arises from the cyberbullying. The first type of coping mechanism for most is retaliation where they target the cyberbullies for revenge. This coping mechanism normally leads to a perpetuation of the cyberbullying culture. The second coping mechanism is avoidant behavior that seeks to ignore the aggressor. This may be effective in reducing cyberbullying of other individuals, but the damage to the victim’s emotion has already been done. Wright (2016) also found that the best coping mechanism was seeking emotional support. The strategy allows the victims to deal with the attribution of emotions that arises from cyberbullying.
Additional research by Aoyama et al. (2011) found that the effects of cyberbullying are somewhat the same as those in classical cases of bullying. However, the effects seem to be amplified. Aoyama et al. (2011) believe that the reason for this is the frequency and the fluidity of cyberbullying. In some cases, Cyberbullying can involve an entire class or grade making it more brutal for the victims. They found that students who are harassed online are twice as likely to show depression symptoms as those who are bullied physically. Their research also showed that victims of cyberbullying had lower self-esteem and self-consent. Clearly, the emotional impact of cyberbullying seems to be exponentially greater than the effect of physical bullying. Aoyama et al. (2011) also found that cyberbullying led to greater social anxiety because the victims developed a distrust for their peers and other people in the public. This distrust makes it harder for these individuals to seek help from their peers. Moreover, victims seemed more reluctant to inform teachers and parents of cyberbullying for fear that they would lose online privileges or that their internet access would be restricted. These factors compounded make cyberbullying a lot worse than classical bullying.
According to Akturk (2015), found that victims of cyberbullying tend to develop sensitivity. The sensitivity is used with instances when the individual has been encountered by unfamiliar stimuli. This results in a cognitive realignment that assumes that everyone and everything has nefarious intentions to harm him or her. As per Akturk (2016), the reason for this is the perception that the individual is under threat due to the distrust developed after experiencing cyberbullying. In many cases, cyberbullying is perpetrated by people the victim considers peers and the profound distrust that develops leads to a lot of sensitivity. In some cases, Akturk (2016) suggests that the individual develops coping mechanisms that appear tyrannical in nature. The victims may start threatening other individuals as a precaution to avoid being cyberbullied in the future. At this point, the victims also tend to become perpetrators of cyberbullying. This cyclic effect leads to an increase in cyberbullying. Akturk (2015) also identifies cases where cyberbullying individuals got lower grades and developed anti-social behavior to avoid cases of cyberbullying. This increases the chances of adolescent delinquency as the victims seek drugs and alcohol as a way of relieving the stress and anxiety that they experience.
One of the researchers who reviewed the relationship between cyberbullying and suicide is Nixon (2014). As per his research, there is a great association between suicidal behavior and cyberbullying. The research showed that cyberbullying led to an increase in the likelihood of self-harm in individuals. Nixon (2014) found that cyberbullying had a more profound impact on the tendency of self-harm as compared to classical self-healing. The reason is the increase in depression and negative emotions. Additionally, there is a lot of emotional harm for the victims. The same effect leads to an increase in suicidal behavior. Nixon (2014) also found that face-to-face bullying victims could always seek respite from their peers but the scale of cyber bullying causes so much distrust in victims that they are unwilling to engage in cyberbullying. Nixon (2014) expanded cases of suicidal behavior to encompass the self-inflicted harm that involved cases of substance abuse and involvement in physical violence. The studies seemed to indicate that the cyberbullying and the broad suicidal behavior is exponential. Additionally, there are physical effects like poor physical health, headaches, insomnia, and stomach aches. Clearly, cyberbullying has a greater negative effect on the health of children and teenagers.
Hoff and Mitchel (2009) suggested certain specific measures that can help reduce the cases of cyberbullying. The first prong is the education of students with the need for cyber accountability to ensure that they avoid cyberbullying. When the students are informed of the consequences of cyberbullying, they will be less willing to engage in cyberbullying. Another prong is the involvement of the parents in internet accountability. Involving parents will help monitor cases of cyberbullying. It will also provide victims with a platform to seek emotional support. Hoff and Mitchell (2009) also suggest that school administrators need to be trained in identifying cases of cyberbullying. Those who bully others need to be punished as a deterrent to others. Educators need to develop an environment where all the students can study without any fear. In order to improve parental supervision, the educators train the parents on how to identify and deal with students who are both perpetrators and victims of cyberbullying. A combination of parental and educator efforts will reduce cases of cyberbullying and ensure that victims are able to deal with the psychological trauma.
Another study by Nandhinia and Sheebab (2015) sought to reduced cases of online cyberbullying by using software that would investigate, classify, and flag cases of cyberbullying. Their solution is based on the integration of genetic and fuzzy logic. Their solution involved the classification of bullying and harassment, racism, taunting, and flaming. Nandhinia and Sheebab (2015)’s procedure would involve the use of fuzzy logic in the location and retrieval of data that would be used as input. Thereafter, the genetic algorithm is used in obtaining precise output by optimizing the parameters obtained using fuzzy logic. These systems can be used by administrators and parents in monitoring cases of cyberbullying.
Another study by Notar et al. (2013) looked at the role that schools have to play in the reduction of cases of cyberbullying. The first step was to seek legislation that will help school districts deal with cyberbullying. One of the main loopholes that students can use to avoid punishment is by stating that the bullying did not happen in the school compound. Notar et al. (2013) suggest that legislation can be made to allow punishment for off-school offenses including cyberbullying. There are certain schools that have already embraced this including New Jersey and South Dakota. Legislation can go a step further allowing the establishment of anti-bullying laws that will enforce cases of physical and cyberbullying. These two measures provide a legal mandate for schools to search and monitor nefarious online interactions in a bid to reduced cases of cyberbullying. Notar et al. (2013) suggest that schools should also sponsor programs that will help create awareness of the detrimental effects of cyberbullying. The programs can be district-sponsored allowing all students in a school district to be provided measures of dealing with cyberbullying. These sponsored events can allow educators to learn the ways of detecting and countering cyberbullying efforts. An extra measure can be the inclusion of curriculum-based programs that ensure that all students are aware of the consequences of cyberbullying. Parents can also be informed of the numerous filter programs that can be used in monitoring the texts and social media posts of their children. An increase in parental involvement is likely to reduce the cases of cyberbullying. Parents need to be informed of the best ways of preventing cyberbullying without contravening the children’s online privacy act. Some applications provide an adequate measure of protection without going against any children’s rights. The programs only highlight cases of aggression via text or social media posts.
Finally, Chaux et al. (2016) conducted research on the relationship between cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Their results revealed that there were a lot of similarities. As a result of the similarities, most of the solutions of classical bullying can be applied in cyberbullying. The only difference was the effect of bullying on the victim. Chaux et al. (2016) suggest that cyberbullying is more amplified and as a result, the measures used to deal with it should also be amplified. Punishments should be more severe, and the counseling given to victims needs to be more effective.
Cyberbullying in children and teenagers can be caused by numerous factors. Hoff and Mitchell (2009) highlighted breakups, envy, intolerance, and ganging up as the main causes of cyberbullying. The study by Mishna showed that cyberbullies believed that cyberbullying made them more popular, funny, and powerful. The research found an overlap between classical and cyberbullying. Low and Espelage (2013) provided the best information when they found that perpetrators of cyberbullying were normal individuals suffering from issues at home. Additionally, African-American teens were found the most likely to cyberbully others due to the lack of parenting as well as the lack of family cohesion. A review of the consequences revealed that children and teens who were cyberbullied tended to suffer from depression. Additionally, there were numerous cases of missing, dropping out, and skipping school by the cyberbully victim. Wright (2016) found that the coping mechanisms led them to either be reactive, avoidance, or one that sought some form of emotional support. Studies also seemed to show that the cyberbullying victims developed a lot of sensitivity due to the fear of additional victimization. The bleakest finding was that suicide cases are higher when it comes to cyberbullying than in the classical case of bullying. There were some solutions proposed to help deal with cases of cyberbullying. Studies showed that the education of the students and teachers helps reduce the cases of cyberbullying. Additionally, parents need to be taught to embrace internet accountability. Notar et al. (2013) suggested the development of legislation at the school district and state level to allow schools to punish cases of cyberbullying that happens outside the school. Additionally, parents should be given the right to monitor the devices for their children without litigation. Finally, researchers proposed the development of programs using genetic algorithms and fuzzy logic to deal with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a serious topic, but the term paper provides a holistic overview of information.
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