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The Dark Side Of The Web: Cyberbullying

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell for Pexels

Cyberbullying is one of the most damaging acts of online aggression, as it takes advantage of victims’ insecurities and vulnerabilities to humiliate and harm them on a psychological level, with perpetrators hiding behind virtual avatars.

Cyber Bullying First Appeared in the 1990s with Advances in IT, and aggressors use information technology to harm or harass others deliberately.

Typically, cyberbullying includes sending messages threatening the victim or posting photos or videos humiliating them on social media, and even setting up a fake website about the victim.

As often documented in news stories, the effects of cyberbullying can be devastating and even deadly.

In comparison to bullying, cyberbullying is a new and perhaps more hidden form, since it is less obvious (especially compared to the physical one).

As in real life, people criticise and humiliate others in cyberspace if they perceive them to be weak or threatening, as a way to exercise power or increase their social status. 

The cyberbully may post anonymously, hide behind an online alias or even use their real names, knowing they will not be confronted by the victim physically and often publish or say things online that they would never have the courage to speak in person.

According to statistics, half of all children have been cyberbullied, and only one in ten teens report it to their parents. In fact, only 1 in 6 parents are aware of their children being cyberbullied.

Cyberbullying statistics are abundant, but perhaps the most shocking is that most of the time it occurs via mobile phones, which over 80% of teens now regularly use. There are many ways to engage in cyberbullying using a mobile phone, such as hostile texting, threatening calls, improper images or video, and even identity theft.

Several studies have confirmed that teenagers who spend more than three hours online every day on social networks are 110% more likely to become victims of cyberbullying. As such, these statistics should serve as a warning to all parents whose children spend most of their free time online.

The video gaming world is often plagued by cyberbullying, most commonly in the form of sexual harassment targeted at women. In addition to a slew of other historical and cultural factors, stereotypical sexual representations of female characters in video games are also to blame. Additionally, a study conducted in China found that children who play violent video games are more likely to be involved in cyberbullying – either as bullies or victims.  

There are far more serious consequences associated with cyberbullying than simply feeling bad about yourself, and cyberbullying can have devastating effects on a victim’s mental health and well-being. These messages go deeper and touch more sensitive areas of a person’s psyche.

Cyberbullying can have both short- and long-term effects, and these effects help show us why it is so important to address this issue.

Below are some of the more worrisome statistics about the effects of cyberbullying.

  • A total of 64 % of people who have been cyberbullied say it negatively impacts their abilities to learn and feel safe at school.
  • Social, mental health, and behaviour problems are more common among students who experience cyberbullying.
  • The chances of bullied students suffering headaches and stomachaches are twice as high as those of other students.
  • Bullied students report negative feelings about themselves 19 %of the time. 

If you feel that you are being cyberbullied, here are a few things you can do:

  • Get some help from someone you trust by telling them what’s going on.
  • Be sure to keep any emails, texts, comments, etc., that may serve as evidence of cyberbullying.
  • Do not retaliate. It takes two to tango.
  • Report the issue to the website immediately. Both Facebook and YouTube have forms for reporting cyberbullying in a safe environment.

Cyberbullies who like to use the anonymity of the internet to harass others don’t realize that online sexual harassment can result in someone being registered as a sex offender – just like in-person harassment can. 

As well as preventing hacking and other cybercrimes, cybercrime units also deal with cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Penalties vary greatly by country but often include prison sentences.

If you are a victim of cyberbullying or you know someone who is, please report it to the nearest Gardai (Police) station or fill in an online crime report.

Your life is precious and cyberbullying can be stopped. You are not alone in this.

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