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Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place over the internet or a cell phone message that maliciously threatens, humiliates, tricks, or excludes someone. (National Crime Prevention Council, 2010) Cyberbullying is a widespread problem and its effects can be deadly. It can cause emotional distress to its victims, including depression, which has been attributed to several youth suicides. Cyberbullying is difficult to prevent, but if society takes the necessary action, the frequency of it occurring can be greatly reduced.
The effects of cyberbullying go beyond the victim. Friends and family of victims are also impacted when cyber bullying occurs. They may find themselves in difficult situations where they are peer pressured into participating in the bullying, afraid that if they don’t play along, they too could become a target. They may also feel powerless to stop it or guilty for not having spoken out against the bullying. School districts and state legislature often become involved when cyberbullying occurs.
Because cyberbullying is so widespread, it has become a highly publicized topic. When a case occurs, the victims school district is thoroughly scrutinized to determine if the district did everything it could to prevent the situation from occurring. In some cases, such as in New Jersey during the 214th legislative session, the state legislature introduces bills to protect against acts of cyber bullying (Angelini & Vainieri Huttle, 2010). Cyberbullying is difficult to prevent because it is relatively easy for an offender to remain anonymous while they are doing it.
It’s not difficult to create a fake email, social networking, or online texting account. While the cyber bully hides behind an anonymous presence, using their computer or mobile phone to commit hurtful acts, they are able to say things they wouldn’t normally be brave enough to say in person without fear of consequences (Hinduja, Ph. D. & Patchin, Ph. D. , 2008). Action can be taken to lower the frequency of cyberbullying occurrences. School districts and parents must take the steps necessary to educate their students on how to avoid cyberbullying.
School districts should promote cyberbullying awareness among the teachers, parents, community, and the student body. Parents must come to understand how and where cyberbullying occurs, and what they can do to better protect their children. Parents also need to take an active role in their children’s online and texting activities. They must discuss how to handle cyberbullying if it does occur with their children, and report any incidents to school officials immediately.
Additionally watch dog organizations such as Bully Police USA exist to advocate for bullied youth and to report on state anti-bullying laws (BPUSA, 2010). These types of organizations gain strength and influence over legislation with numbers, and will go a long way towards improving cyberbullying awareness across the nation. The most compelling reason to advocate for the prevention of cyberbullying is by examining the impact that it has on its victims. Many victims incur lasting effects from being bullied. These effects include poor performance in school, low self-esteem, and social isolation.
In the worst cases, the victims enter into a state of severe depression which has been attributed to suicide. In the last decade, several adolescent cyberbullying victims have taken their own life. In October 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide after allegedly being victimized by the mother of a former friend on a social networking site (ABC News, 2007). Ryan Halligan, a 13-year-old Vermont student took his own life on October 7, 2003 after being bullied in school, then cyberbullied over the course of a summer (Halligan, 2010).
These types of stories must be told in order to promote public awareness to the social problem of cyberbullying. In conclusion, cyberbullying is a serious social problem that must be addressed across the nation. It is a difficult to prevent because cyber bullies are anonymous and hard to stop, however solutions are available, and the frequency in which it occurs can be reduced if society takes action by raising awareness and introducing legislation to defend against it.