Most parents are proud of how extremely “digital” or internet savvy their children are. But these parents seldom take the initiative to find out the risks and opportunities these kids go through online. In simple terms, cyber bullying can be expressed as a type of bullying that happens online through text messages or emails. It includes posting rumors on social media sites like Facebook, sharing embarrassing pictures or videos whilst others go to the extent of making fake profiles or websites.
Bullying happens everywhere around the world. We have heard of cases where young people have committed suicide after suffering weeks or even months of ruthless cyber bullying from their peers. It is interesting to note that children and teenagers are the most targets because they are generally considered ill- prepared to make informed decisions due to the fact that they are still maturing- intellectually, physically and socially. Many teenagers and children have acquired personal cell phones which make it easier to use the devices. On the other hand, communication in cyberspace is more anonymous – and thus less responsibility on the part of the child.
To be specific 30% of US students in grades six through ten have been involved in acts of bullying, either as bullies, as victims or both. This is according to the national survey on bullying. As technology becomes further integrated into people’s lives particularly in the US, the users are increasingly been exposed to greater risks. Before advanced technology, children and teenagers were bullied and troubled by school bullies. Today they are targeted by bullies via internet. High school students in the US have experienced cyber bullying as well. The growing number of cyber bullying is accredited to violence among the young people which includes both homicide and suicide. School shootings in the United States alone have been very high. Such as the one that happened in Sandy hook and left more than two dozen children and teachers dead in the State of Connecticut. Most teens have resulted to these shootings because of the experiences they experience while online.
However, this begs the question, who exactly are the bullying targets? My crystal ball tells me that, the children and teens that are considered to be somehow ‘different’ from their colleagues are the most targets of this vice. Most include students who are said to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT). On the other hand, obese or overweight teens also lie on the same category.
Let’s be honest, if there will be no measures to curb cyber bullying- the figures will continue doubling in the coming years. You will be shocked by how mean and cruel some people get with their words, comments and actions- and their commitment towards insulting and harassing their fellow peers. But the most bone-chilling of all the things is that we might soon become indifferent to all the forms of bullying we see on the internet, and stop caring altogether. The internet has opened up the world to us and on the other hand empowered bullies and emboldened the closet ones- in equal measures. You will further bear me witness that most of these bullies are weakling and more often than not if you remain valid to a bully- they will quietly move smoothly over a surface with a twisting or oscillating motion.
The internet has taken the business of bullying to a whole new level, with some calling it the modern face of bullying. Therefore one wonders exactly who the real bully is, does their username on their profile reflect their real name? These hooligans can spam you, and text you as much as they deem fit. Other causes that may contribute to cyber bullying include; internet addiction where these teens spend a considerate amount of time sharing personal information online. For kids playing violent computer games and using internet for sexual activities can also lead to cyber bullying. I remember two years ago a friend of mine approached me and told me that her phone number was posted on a website that deals with escorts and call girls. She couldn’t understand why she was receiving irregular phone calls from unknown numbers- come to find later that they were people who wanted her ‘services’. Such an action can easily depress and later destroy someone’s life.
It is a fact that cyber bullying is the most under-reported of all crimes in a country like US- especially on school campuses. Indeed most other countries like in the continent of Africa are going through the same. This leads to more questions than answers. Isn’t it time that law agencies and various governments authorities around the world get to take action- perhaps by drafting bills on cyber-crime and computer related crimes? I observe such bills can help protect our children with heavier penalties for people convicted of stalking minors online. Posting people’s pictures, videos and private information online without their consent should be deemed a crime punishable in a court of law.
Many kids are reluctant to inform their parents if they are being bullied online. They fell ashamed and fear being thought weak or a tell-tale. However, parents should be aware of signs like unexplained falling out with friends, declining grades or not wanting to go to school or to socialite with their peers. In addition, there is need for parents to prevent their children from becoming a victim or even a bully. Parents have to invest their time and ensure they get to know who their children’s friends are, and knowing where your children are at all times. As these kids get older- they need encouragement and get to know how they get along with other friends.
Lastly but not least, social media sites are created to enable people connect and share their views with their friends and loved ones and not to prove to the world of their vocabulary levels which is full of hate and disheartening words. We ought to be all united in taking measures to curb cyber bullying. It’s a real threat to the young people. It starts with you and me. It is our ultimate responsibility.
Written by: Humphrey Musila
Photo via Cyberbullying