Cyberbullying: “Shaming,” Suffering, and Social ill
January 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
In a recent NPR podcast (listen), a rookie 16-year-old reporter (Temitayo Fagbenle) presented a brilliant and disturbing account of obscene current trends in cyberbulling against young women (i.e. “slut shaming”). It was a podcast that, for me, sparked hours of research and a number of humbling shocks.
In general, “cyberbullying” can be defined as the use of technology (e.g. the internet and cellphones) to harm or harass others. New as it is, cyberbullying is largely understudied and unfortunately growing faster than our understanding can compete with to construct viable and effective interventions, laws, and policies. Yet still, the social, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuses that comprise cyberbullying are unconscionable.
In many ways cyberbullying is similar to conventional bullying, but in important ways it is distinct. For example, the perpetrators of cyberbullying are often anonymous or perceive themselves to be anonymous; unlike localized conventional bullying, cyberbullying has the potentially to garner an infinite audience and to leave behind a unending record; and furthermore, the perpetrators of cyberbullying are regularly absent from witnessing their victim’s immediate reaction. Such modern and cowardly qualities can exacerbate the potential of cyberbullying to inflict severe harm. Victims can experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, poor grades, and negative physical health symptoms.1,2
Now, we’ve all been children/teens, we all know children/teens, and many of us have or will have children and teens in our home. It is within our interest to keep up with the threats against them. I, for one, can’t imagine what it would have been like if the kids (in my case, girls) at school had had more immediate, permanent, and public means by which to torment one another. And although parents may think that they have this issue under control, Mishna (2008) reports that while over 80% of parents believed their child would tell them if he/she were being cyberbullied, only 8% of victims did tell their parents.
Indeed, the probability of an immense heartache associated with the discovery that your child is either a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying can be diminished by taking action now: by learning about the issue, by talking to your children and teens often and honestly, by supporting research, by calling on government officials to devise evidence-based solutions, and by helping children, teens, and their adult supervisors better understand why cyberbullying is inappropriate and supremely risky. If you know of any teachers or bus drivers , perhaps print them a copy of these useful toolkits for preventing bullying.
But of course (and in closing), cyberbullying is not a problem extant only between the ages of 10 and 21. It takes place in the workplace and personal lives of adults as well. This was publicly witnessed by the response of news anchor Jennifer Livingson and by the recent lawsuit by female victims against a “revenge-porn” website and GoDaddy.com:
If you are one who is being cyberbullied, please know that you are not alone. The bullying is a bad reflection of others–not you. There are many people and organizations eager and happy to help you find a way out….And there are ways out with their help.2
If you are one who engages in cyberbullying, please recognize that your actions can have immense and tragic consequences. Stop now.
1 For another free and informative academic article, click here.
Tagged: abuse, bullying, cell phones, Children, cyberbullying, depression, Facebook, girls, godaddy, harassment, high school, internet, jennifer livingston, middle school, NPR, online, sexual harassment, shaming, Women