As modern technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, so do new opportunities for bullying. While traditional forms of bullying usually happen on the playground or inside of a classroom, cyberbullying happens online. This form of bullying, however, is no less hurtful. In fact, it is more dangerous because bullies are offered anonymity and round-the-clock access to victims. In light of this, we’ve created a short guide on cyberbullying, which lists out definitions, characteristics, and harmful effects. Keep reading to find out more!
What is it?
According to UNICEF, cyberbullying is simply the shift from traditional forms of face-to-face bullying onto online platforms. People are taking advantage of the internet and are using it with malicious intent. Social media has also made bullying easier, providing tormentors the anonymity to hide behind screens and fake accounts. Thus, with the use of digital technology, cyberbullying can take place anywhere from private messages, social media sites, to online forums. This is different from the more traditional forms of bullying, which usually occur during direct interactions. For example, a classmate pushing you on the playground or making fun of the way you dress were common phenomena in high school. Cyberbullying, on the other hand, usually takes the form of malicious comments, identity theft, leak of private information, and any other attacks which happen over the internet.
What are the characteristics?
There are several ways in which we can identify this type of bullying behaviour. The first is access. Cyberbullying can happen at any time of the day. The omnipotent character of the internet has provided bullies with 24/7 access to their victims, meaning there is no respite from the torment, besides not using any form of technology at all.
Another characteristic of cyberbullying is the intended target. One large difference between this and traditional bullying is that the latter occurs most often among the youth. Cyberbullying, on the other hand, can happen between anyone with an internet connection. It can involve people from different sides of the world, people from different age groups, and even people who have never physically met. Due to the anonymity factor, there are practically limitless possibilities for both victim and perpetrator.
Additionally, repetition is also a characteristic of cyberbullying. With the abundance of sharing and forwarding technology available on almost every social media platform, information can spread like wildfire. One can be repeatedly bullied countless number of times if the information has been distributed to the public cyber arena with the possibility of it being reposted at a later date. After all, once it’s on the internet it’s there forever.
What are the types?
Harassment. This form of bullying comes in the form of aggressive texts or comments on your posts. They are usually relentless and never-ending. Unfortunately, simply blocking the harasser often does not work because they will just send messages from another social media platform.
Impersonation. This is when someone pretends to be someone else online by making a fake social media account. They can impersonate another person’s identity using their real name and photo or create a fake identity altogether.
Doxing. Doxing is the release of someone’s private and personal information to cause harm. Bullies will often obtain someone’s home address, phone number, or photos and share them on the internet. Usually, their aim is to scare and intimate their targets.
Trolling. Lastly, this form of cyberbullying is most common on opinion-sharing platforms such as social media sites and discussion forums. People will usually post provocative, hateful, anonymous comments online to get a reaction out of others and start a fight. It is a vicious and hurtful form of cyberbullying most common to the youth.
What are the effects?
The impacts of cyberbullying can manifest in all aspect of an individual’s life, especially when it comes to mental health concerns. Depression and anxiety are some of the most commonly associated outcomes of cyberbullying. Many victims have reported increased feelings of sadness, discontent, and loneliness. Studies have even found signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental illness usually diagnosed to war veterans, in victims of bullying. Individuals who are constantly subjected to cyberbullying can also have low self-esteem, especially if the bully specifically targets their physical appearance and looks. One’s physical health can also be affected if the victim develops eating disorders, constant headaches, insomnia, and other common stress responses.
Bullying, whether online or in real life, can make a huge impact on people’s lives. Simply being aware of the different signs of cyberbullying and knowing enough to stand up for what’s right can help to stop this phenomenon in the long run.
Written by Siti Mahsadinar Zams.
Mahsa is a content writer for ASEAN Youth Organization. Although born and raised in Indonesia, Mahsa is currently studying International Relations at Tokyo International University. She loves to travel and learn new languages. You can usually find her sipping an unhealthy amount of iced green tea lattes, reading a book, or debating politics.