The birth of the Internet and social media means that we are now communicating with each other at a rate which has never been seen before. I firmly believe that the Internet and social media’s impact solely depends on individual intent. For me, I see both as a positive entity because it’s enabled me to connect with like-minded people and find a platform to advertise myself as a writer and a blogger.
However, not all is merry. Like most things, there’s good and bad sides, similarly the Internet and social media is often viewed as a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s great to connect with others, get your work out there and generally build an online profile. The flip side is that there are individuals who choose to use and abuse the Internet and social media.
Cyber bullying is the use of technology intended to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. It can range from receiving abusive messages, people threatening to post rumours or images of you to emotional blackmail. In my opinion, it’s no different to bullying in the workplace or playground. It’s just on a more complicated and sinister platform where you don’t always know who is targeting you. And cyber bullying isn’t just reserved for the young, anyone can be the victim of it.
According to dosomething.org over 80% of teenagers use a smartphone, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying to take place. Many of us have apps that make it easier to go onto social media websites to post pictures and updates on what we’re doing. It also means that whatever is sent to us or tags us can be seen almost immediately.
We enter a bubble of privacy and secrecy when we enter the cyber world – it’s our online life and many find it difficult to translate a cyber life to that of reality because a stark contrast between the two exists. You can pretty much be whoever you want to be in the cyber world, as the American film and popular reality TV program Catfish shows.
I believe that this is where the problem lies. Everything might seem fine in your normal everyday life, until you check your phone and see malicious rumours, threatening messages and posts from someone on social media. It’s confusing and doesn’t seem to add up. As a writer and a blogger, I’ve experienced my fair share of malicious individuals online – it ranged from receiving a death threat to one trying to sabotage my blog and my work. But why is it so difficult to report and stop cyber bullying for good?
Firstly it takes place on the Internet so it’s more difficult to handle – 81% of teenagers said that bullying online is easier to get away with because many victims do not challenge trolls and quietly bear it. They also said that many teachers and schools do not have the awareness or technology ready to combat cyber bullying. However, what cyber bullies don’t realise is that cyber bullying is traceable because there’s evidence. Most schools in London, UK have a Safer Schools Officer who is responsible for the welfare and well being of students both off and online. In addition, if the situation escalates the police can get involved and an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) can be given to the bully.
But this doesn’t stop the number of young people committing suicide as a result of cyber bullying. In the USA, suicide has been listed as the third killer of young people. In the UK, statistics show that victims of cyber bullying are 2-9 times more likely to commit suicide. So what can be done to try and combat this?
If you see any evidence of cyber bullying or malicious behaviour, you must report it and do not feel afraid to speak out.