Cracking The Cyberbullying Code

With technology vastly expanding and improving day by day, many people of all ages have access to the Internet and almost every social media platform.  With its mass commercial use, some people might not have foreseen the issue of cyberbullying and how harmful it can really be. A cyberbully usually posts offensive photos and videos, misleading information, or expose secrets about someone on different media platforms. Cyberbullying activities are not only harmful, but it sometimes pressures the victim to commit dreadful actions such as suicide. Throughout the past decade, there have been a number of cases involving teenagers committing suicide because of mistreatment or humiliation by others on the internet. When living in a world where everybody has a cell phone and technology is in constant use, conflicts are bound to occur. Cyberbullying is taking over all social media platforms and diminishing the value of life for the Millennial generation and more needs to be done to prevent future tragedies from occurring.

Cyberbullying hit its stride when smartphones became the newest must-have technological advance. With many teens starting to buy them, it became quite popular where everyone should have a cell phone to fit into society. Internet use tied with the formation of various platforms, allows many young people to connect and share their thoughts, opinions, and moments of their lives with others. Teens are able to send and share text messages, like or respond to photos, develop their social media platforms, and become their best figure online. Cyberbullying, however, thrived due to a combination of these factors.

Many kids today get judged on the way they look, what type of phone they own, their social media pages, their popularity, or even their lifestyle and income. Our world today tends to bring down users of social media rather than provide support, which forces others to feel inferior and look or act in a more socially desirable way. However, these actions are more commonly expressed behind a screen. According to the article, What is Cyberbullying, a cyberbully’s “most common social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, SMS is also known as Text Message, Instant Message, and Email.” These tools are popular platforms where many people of all ages connect. They utilize these platforms as tools to exercise their eager need to torment and humiliate others. There are cases explaining the reasoning behind cyberbullies and their actions. Cyberbullies might be experiencing problems or going through difficult times in their own lives. It could be parental/teen abuse, psychological disorders, hard living conditions, or loss of a loved one. While technology allows young people to connect in meaningful ways, such as the opportunity to share ideas, photos, videos, and more, the unsupervised nature of the cyber world demands the need for guidance, guidelines, and social responsibility.

In modern day society, violent video games and social media platforms are in the hands of many young people. Although video games can have positive benefits, such as making new friends, socializing, and learning how to strategize and increase problem-solving skills, it could be another safe haven where cyberbullying takes place. The strong language and sexual content displayed in video games expose this side of the world to many young boys and girls affecting their mindset and decision-making processes. For example, if someone is not performing as well as their peers, the better-performing children may curse, make negative remarks, harras, or exclude the person from a group environment. This could potentially turn into a hostile cyberbullying environment. This shows how young people are easily influenced and encouraged to act a certain way or portray their idols or favorite gamer despite this person being a bad influence. According to the article Cyber-bullying and video games, “63% of female gamers have been sexually harassed, such as being asked to perform “virtual sex behaviors” in return for in-game currencies.” Due to many players being anonymous, they cannot necessarily be held accountable for their behavior and their harassment to other, especially girls in this case. Some anonymous users can use the game as a means to harass strangers or even get their personal information, such as usernames and passwords, which later causes trouble for the victim.

Abusing social media at a young age shows teenagers’ lack of experience and judgment. Their decisions of posting offensive posts and humiliating others might be considered “ not a big deal” or “a joke.” However, this is not an issue to be taken lightly. An example of how cyberbullying can spiral out of hand is the case of  Amanda Todd. She was a 15-year-old girl, who underwent self-harm and painful cyberbullying experiences, which led to her tragic death. Before Amanda took her life away, she posted a video on YouTube, explaining her experiences of cyberbullying from beginning to end and her thoughts about it. In the video, Amanda explained two horrific experiences, which caused many people to assault her on various platforms. Amanda and her friends were in the 7th grade when they utilized a website called Webcam, which allows users to meet and connect with new people. Amanda did not make a wise decision and decided to expose her breasts to one of the users. He took advantage of the photo and posted it online for her friends and family to see. This circumstance led to many girls calling her names online and the loss of many friends. She even sat and ate lunch by herself in the library. Another conflict Amanda faced was a physical fight with her friend’s girlfriend. Amanda claimed in the video that “I made…. a huge mistake… he hooked up with me.”  The girlfriend decided to fight Amanda. Amanda then went home and drank bleach as a method of killing herself.  She stated she felt like “a joke in this world.” Instead of finding support and guidance from people, Amanda received major backlash. One comment said “She deserved it, did you wash the mud out of your hair? – I hope she dies” Amanda came to a point where she was “constantly cutting, depressed, on antidepressants, and was in counseling.” She tried many times to take her life away by cutting herself and overdosing on drugs and alcohol. Amanda was saved many times but she was not saved the last time, which led to her death. Amanda Todd was a fairly young girl with so much ahead of her and a life full of adventure. However, due to cyberbullying, lack of support, and a poor decision led to Amanda Todd’s unfortunate death.

Parents may not be aware of the apps their children use regularly or may not be aware of the risks involved in using them. There are many ways that cyberbullying can be hidden in apps, sites, and video game conversations, such as texts, videos, and web calls that disappear on the device’s call history. However, most of the time, comments, posts, and videos stay on the Internet and are in the hands of many people, accessible at any time. According to the article, Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying, the advice is given to parents with children, who have access to the internet and could be at risk for cyberbullying. “Get to know your children’s online friends, you must help your children learn the difference between a real friend and a friendly stranger.”  This excerpt serves as a great lesson for parents and children alike. An online friend is not the equivalent of a face-to-face interaction. It is not wise to blindly trust the interactions that occur online. Another warning this site shared with parents is “Set reasonable limits to help your children learn to make responsible decisions about using technology.” Setting limits is a crucial tip when it comes to technology as a whole. At an age when a child is still developing, obsession occurs quickly and could easily result in horrible technological decisions. Both of these pieces of advice help parents get involved with their children’s cyber lives and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid complications of offensive posts and mean comments.

There is a multitude of ways in which we can stop such vicious and cruel actions taking place across these social media platforms. Although I am not a parent, I acted like a parent to my younger sister who was a bully online. My sister was exposed to social media and her cell phone at the age of ten. She and her friends teamed up on a girl and called her hurtful names because she was mean to one of their friends. Although my sister did this to defend her friend, it was hurtful to the girl and the situation should’ve been handled differently. It should have been handled in a way where both parties are satisfied with no harm. According to the article, ‘I h8 u’: findings from a five-year study of text and email bullying, “25% of girls and 11% of boys had been electronically bullied at least once in the previous two months.” This shows how boys and girls tend to post opinions and thoughts without asking themselves, “is what I said hurtful to somebody.” Teenagers should be cautious with what they post or share on social media. Having a great support system such as parents, family, friends, and mentors helps recover from appalling actions. Prevention methods should be taught in order to promote wise decision-making.

Parents should not be the only people helping their kids find peace online and preventing cyberbullying. Schools should have a great impact on the matter. Many schools tend to disregard cyberbullying and fail to assist students in technological endeavors. According to the article, School Counselors and the Cyberbully: Interventions and Implications, “School counselors could suggest the use of a policy stating that all forms of cyberspace harassment either during school hours or after school hours should not be tolerated.” This statement shows how strongly cyberbullying should be stopped and prevented in schools and among students. Leaving responsibility for cyberbullying up to the parents is not enough. Schools are trusted to educate students on all of the lessons they need. Cyberbullying is no different. These issues must be addressed in classrooms.

With technology vastly expanding and changing every day, many adolescents have access to the Internet and every social media platform. The issue involves kids living in a world where everyone needs a cell phone to stay connected is utilized without supervision. While technology is in constant use, conflicts are bound to occur among children interacting with one another online. Cyberbullying has resulted in the loss of too many young innocent lives. Schools and parents should take actions to help reduce cyberbullying and take preventive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of children. It is time to make a change and all stakeholders need to become more involved in all aspects of children’s lives to prevent the tragedies that occur due to the cyberbullying epidemic.

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