In part one of our two-part cyberbullying series, we define what cyberbullying is and why we should be concerned. Next week, we’ll highlight ways in which we can work together to prevent cyberbullying and protect those affected by it.
What is cyberbullying?
When someone (particularly a child, preteen, or teen) is bullied using the internet, mobile phones, interactive or digital technologies, this is known as ‘cyberbullying’. The bullying can take the form of embarrassment, humiliation, threats, harassment or any other malicious targeting of the individual. Examples of cyberbullying include mean-spirited text messages or emails, rumours sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Importantly, cyber bullying is perpetrated by another child; if an adult is involved, this is known as cyberstalking or cyberharassment.
What makes cyberbullying so dangerous?
It’s often the case that kids who are being cyberbullied are bullied in person too. However, a key difference with cyberbullying is that it’s harder to get away from it.
- Cyberbullies can reach their target at all times of the day, anytime they wish
- The bully’s reach is only limited by their access to technology
- A cyberbully’s messages and images are easily spread to a wide audience
- Posts can be anonymous, with the source often difficult or impossible to trace
- After a message or image has been sent out by a cyberbully, it’s difficult to remove or delete
Clinical psychologist Catherine Radloff says: “Cyber bullying is one of the most serious consequences of children’s often unlimited and unmonitored access to electronic communication technology. It has also drastically changed the way in which children communicate as it makes it easier for them to lose their self-restraint and to act in ways they would not in face-to- face interactions.
The psychological impact of cyberbullying is profound due the extreme public nature thereof, and the fact that it can be perpetrated 24/7. Cyberbullying may result in victims suffering from anxiety and depression and, in extreme cases, may lead to suicide or suicide attempts.”
The effects of cyberbullying
Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Skip school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Get lower school marks
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
A real-life example from a Matric student
“I was cyber bullied by my classmates in a WhatsApp group chat that was created to share information about homework, class work and assignments.
In the group chat I was called names like a ‘diva’ and I was referred to as ‘GC’, who is an actor that plays a homosexual role on Uzalo (TV programme on SABC 1). They were just piling on whatever she would say and they would send pictures for illustrations.
I was really hurt and didn’t know how I could go back to school and face them. When I got an opportunity of being alone after the incident I tried to kill myself. I am still hurting and I haven’t gotten over it. I wish there was a way to reprimand bullies. I am forever emotionally scarred.”
With increasing access to technology, learners have more opportunities to be a cyberbully and to be cyberbullied. Next week’s article will provide some suggestions how we can prevent this dangerous practice.