Cyber Bullying in America

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When considering Cyber Bullying in America, one must look at the rapid pace at which technology evolves, with the average age for starting to own a cell phone and use the Internet in America being as early as 11.6 years, and over 36% of parents taking absolutely no action to limit or monitor digital communication use at homes (according to a Microsoft research poll), it’s about time we paid attention to the very possible consequences of the rather wide technological gap that is accompanying the generation gap, which brings us to cyber bullying in America.

While the online world can be an amazing source of entertainment, with a lot of educative materials, games and opportunities for connectivity, too much of anything backfires. Since the Internet allows the ease of creating a parallel reality, this virtual space gives more solid grounds for predators, some of which really intend to harm, and others who might merely be the peers of your child. Instead of taking the fight to the playground, some children and adolescents take it to the Internet, and while some are bold about whom they are, many are masked in anonymity and fake personas that interact – perhaps on regular bases and for rather long terms – with your child.

Unlike schoolyard teasing or fights, the anonymity provided by electronic media can encourage bullies, and their ubiquity allows a vicious comment, nasty remark, unflattering photo or video to be sent to countless numbers of people instantaneously. Now imagine the impact of this activity, multiplied every time a single person shares the same picture, video, or whatever “material” the bully used, and we have an inevitably endless loop of nastiness, insults, or mere laughs, targeted at ONE person. The schoolyard physical assault has been replaced by a twenty-four hour per day, seven-day a week online bashing. No longer can a torn shirt or a bloody lip be signs of a bullied child; the damage done by this form of attack is indeed “invisible”, but it’s definitely no less real, and it might even be more painful.

That’s Cyber Bullying in America
Percent of teens who have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras

11%

In comparison to a percentage of 37% of students who reported being physically bullied at school, 52% have reported being cyber bullied, knowing that a lot of adolescents prefer not to report being harassed online, for several reasons. Some of them are scared of making the situation worse, for themselves or for other people, because they’d been threatened about what would happen if they did tell anyone, or felt ashamed about their own behavior. If it was something rude, they often didn’t want to tell their parents; they felt too embarrassed to have conversations about things like that, or were worried it might be their fault and that they would also get punished. More often than not, adolescents are worried that grown-ups “don’t understand” and that they’re not able to explain it properly to their parents, and they end up feeling closed-up inside, depressed, or worried that nobody would believe them. More commonly, they are so attached to their access to technology that they fear having that “right” denied if they report being cyber bullied.

In a research conducted by Pew Internet Research Center in 2011, in collaboration with Cable in the Classroom and Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), it is stated that 66% of teens who have witnessed online cruelty have also witnessed others joining; a staggering 20% say they have also joined in the harassment, while 80% say they have defended the victim.

On the parent and caregiver end, 85% of parents of youth aged 13-17 report their child has a social networking account, according to the American Osteopathic Association, and one in every six parents know their child has been bullied via a social networking site.

Moreover, 39% of all parents of teens have connected to their child on a social network site, but that does not necessarily prevent online trouble for the teen. Parents who have “friended” their child on social network sites are more likely to report using parental controls, and teens who are social media friends with their parents are also more likely to report that they had a problem with their parents because of an experience on social media.

Cyber Bullying in America : Detrimental Outcomes
“It made me feel hurt. It scared me and took away all my confidence. It made me feel sick and worthless”.

That’s not a teenager being overly emotional; that’s a Cyber bullying victim. There are many negative consequences associated with Cyber bullying that reach into the real world. Many targets of Cyber bullying report feeling depressed, sad, angry and frustrated. Victims who experience Cyber bullying also exhibit less desire to show up at school. In addition, research has revealed a link between Cyber bullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic problems, school violence and delinquent or antisocial behavior.

Even scarier, cyber bullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts, and there have been a number of examples in the United States where youth who were victimized ended up tragically taking their own lives.

When it comes to suicides related to Cyber bullying, some names have made national headlines in the recent years. Ryan Halligan’s death in 2003 may be the earliest known case of suicide provoked by Internet taunts, but unfortunately, many others have followed.

Some of the victims were cyber bullied alive, like Ryan Halligan (2003), Tyler Clementi (2010), Michael Joseph Berry (2008) and Megan Meier (2006), others were continuously bullied after their deaths through their Facebook memorial pages, like Amanda Cummings (2011) and Phoebe Prince (2010).

Ryan Patrick Halligan was “a sweet, gentle and lanky thirteen year old fumbling his way through early adolescence and trying to establish his way in the often confusing and difficult social world of middle school”, says his mum on his memorial website. Ryan’s family, from New York, had early concerns with his speech, language and motor skills development as he neared kindergarten, which was why they sent him to receive special education services from pre-school through fourth grade. By the time he was at fifth grade, he was assessed to be no longer in need of special education; however, he was always aware that he was not as academically strong as his peers, which continued to bother him, despite his emotional intelligence. A few kids started to pick on his poor academic and physical performance, but since he was not physically bullied by them, his parents advised him to ignore them and walk away.

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