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Cyberbullying: Welcome to the Internet, the Newest Playground
Bullying is an unfortunate part of adolescence, regardless of how hard we strive to eliminate it. Often times, bullying takes place on the playground, or other locations with little adult supervision. With the invention of the internet, a new form of bullying has risen to the playfield: cyberbullying. The internet has become the newest playground for bullies. According to STOP Cyberbullying, cyberbullying is defined as “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” It is also important to note that cyberbullying only occurs between minors. When the bullying comes from an adult, it becomes harassment rather than bullying. With social media sites such as Facebook, young adults are becoming more exposed to bullying than ever, which can greatly affect both their social lives and mental health.
So how do these new internet bullies spread their wrath? Usually physical violence is not put into play in this new realm. Yet, as the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and in this case, that saying is incredibly correct. “It can happen in different ways: through physical violence, verbal abuse (in person or online), or the management of relationships (spreading rumors, humiliation, and exclusion)” (Konnikova 2015). Social media opens the doors to a consistent stream of bullying. When one is bullied at school, going home at least provides some sense of space from the bullies. But when it comes to the internet, it is much harder to escape. Apps like Facebook provide constant notifications. If a person is being bullied on their public wall, the scene is displayed for everyone to see. “as long as you have access to the network, a ceaseless stream of notifications leaves you vulnerable to victimhood” (Konnikova 2015). What makes it worse, is that young adults are not likely to alert any adults if they are being bullied. “Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse” (11 Facts About Cyberbullying).
“Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse” (11 Facts About Cyberbullying).
So what, besides the obvious, is so bad about cyberbullying? The mental health effects of cyberbullying, as well as the suicide rate. “Recent cross-sectional studies have shown an association between cyberbullying victimization and mental health problems, and even between cyberbullying victimization and suicide” (Bannik 1). It is impossible to deny that this is a problem, and a problem caused by the ease of access to the internet and social sites. “Cyberbullying victimization has been found to be associated with symptoms of social anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, somatic symptoms, low self confidence, and low self-esteem” (Dredge 1).
When it comes to those being most affected by cyberbullying, studies have found young women are the ones with the most detrimental effects to their lives. Bannik explains it by stating, “The gender differences in the impact of bullying on mental health found in our study may be partly explained by differences in the types of bullying” (4). By this, they mean that boys are more likely to entertain physical acts of bullying, when it comes to boy vs. boy, while girls are more likely to use cyberbullying to harass other girls. And when it comes to the internet, the harassment of men on women is incredibly increased. On the internet, there is no need to quiet one’s words, because they can hide behind a screen, or at least that’s how the internet is treated. One example where the harassment and bullying of women based on their bodies comes from internet streaming.
Streaming is when users broadcast live videos of themselves completing various activities, the most popular being live streaming video games. One of the most popular streaming sites is Twitch.tv, where thousands of users stream their activities daily, but also where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of viewers can leave anonymous comments on various streams. And with anonymity comes bullying. “The Internet and the Web enable complex forms of many-to-many social interaction and make one’s identity less conspicuous” (Nakandala 2). A study performed by Nakandala and several others at Indiana University looked at the language used on chat between male streamers and female streamers. The study revealed, unsurprisingly, that the language used in streams is strongly gendered, meaning that the language used on streams of male gamers was more focused on their skills and game play, while verbiage used on the chat of female streamers is more focused on their sexuality and bodies. In this case study, there was less women harassing women and men harassing men, but more male on female bullying. ““No shit” studies like this can help bolster conversations about why Twitch’s culture can be so divisive across gender lines. Necessary are suggestions on how female streamers can get big without opening themselves up to harassment or showing more skin than they’re comfortable with” (D’Anastasio 2016).
When it comes to the internet, sometimes the negative side effects outweigh the benefits. Cyberbullying can cause many mental health issues, such as lack of self esteem, depression, and even suicide. While society is becoming gradually more aware of the problems of bullying, especially cyberbullying, there is still much work to do. The only thing we may now do is ask ourselves what can be done to stop this problem completely.
© 2017 Audrey Maday