Understanding and confronting cyberbullying

Damienne McCormick

For decades movies have portrayed bullies as the big kids that get satisfaction from stealing lunch money and intimidating children smaller than them, but in the age of technology and with the introduction of social media, bullies are finding new ways to flush their peer’s heads in the toilet.

The 21st century’s access to technology has made cyberbullying a part of everyday life for many teenagers and it impacts people across the globe. Cyberbullying can affect individuals in extreme ways, ranging from anxiety to depression and even suicide.

According to deletecyberbullying.org, many bullies argue that the things they do or say are harmless because they found their actions humorous. What these bullies may not understand is that once an image is released online, it can never be truly recovered and destroyed. Often, these pictures will resurface later on and cause the victim to feel the same pain again and again.

Junior Nathaniel Wallis-Garrison said, “Cyberbullies feel safe behind a screen but they shouldn’t be starting anything in the first place.”

Cyberbullying is a serious crime that can cost victims their careers, education and sometimes even their lives. Online bullying is a crime that is no longer taken lightly.

One-fourth of the world’s population are adolescents. That’s about 1.8 billion teenagers.

Over half of these adolescents have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying themselves. More than half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Senior Kennedy Hedlund said, “Schools just don’t do enough. I mean kids are still committing suicide over this. It’s not okay.”

Common symptoms cyberbullying victims show are low self-esteem, depression, high school dropout and suicidal tendencies.

Wallis-Garrison said, “Cyberbullying is a waste of time. It’s all just wrong. No one deserves to hurt or feel uncomfortable.”

According to the Hazelden Foundation, signs of a person being cyberbullied include someone who appears sad, moody or anxious. They avoid school, withdraw from social activities or show a lack of interest in them. The person may experience a drop in grades or a decline in academic performance. He or she may also appear upset after viewing a message on a cell phone or computer.

According to cyberbullying.org, there are five different types of cyberbullying. These are the most common forms of internet bullying. The first form is called harassment. When an individual is being harassed online, the person bullying them sends offensive or malicious messages.        Cyberstalking is a prime example of harassment that involves both threatening and rude messages that could possibly lead to physical harassment offline.

The next form is known as flaming. Flaming is similar to harassment but instead directs harsh images or profanity toward a specific person.

Exclusion is another cyberbullying method that intentionally singles out a person and ostracizes an individual from an online community, often leaving hurtful comments for the one they singled out.

Hedlund said that she was affected this way. She said that the experience hurt a lot and made her feel worthless.

One of the most dreaded methods of cyberbullying is called outing. Outing occurs when a bully shares personal and private information, pictures and sometimes even video of a person. The term outed concludes a person’s information has been disseminated throughout the internet.

The fifth form of cyberbullying is called masquerading and is the centerpiece for MTV’s hit television show “Catfish.” When a bully masquerades, the bully creates a false identity online and uses this alias to harass someone anonymously. Online bullies often masquerade thinking that they cannot get caught. However, as technology is advancing access to an individual’s true identity is becoming easier than ever to obtain.

According to Louisville Kentucky’s newschannel, Wave 3 News, parents and police officers have the tools to search for cyberbullies and cyberstalkers alike. Sites like Socialmention, Samepoint, Statigram and Nitrogram have the ability to search for names, usernames, hashtags and the internet traffic of a particular user.

Bullies can face legal charges for their crimes, and if sexually explicit texts or pictures are involved, the bully will be registered as a sex offender. As a sex offender, that person will be forced to register with the National Registry of Sex Offenders, the IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System), CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and the NPPS (National Palm Print System). Sex offenders also lose their right to vote, bear arms, have children in their home and enlist in the military among other consequences.

When confronted with a cyberbully students should save the evidence.  According to Carnegie Mellon University, every harassing or threatening email can be forwarded to [email protected]<domain name of provider> (the domain name follows the @ sign in the cyberbully’s email address). For example, if the bully’s email was [email protected] you would forward the email to [email protected] and request that the cyberbully’s email account be terminated.

If the harassment is by phone text message, contact your phone company to trace the sender. If the threats are severe enough, you may need to contact your local police for help.

Parents and teenagers can work together to reduce cyberbullying by talking about it. Hedlund said that the best way to prevent cyberbullying is for parents to keep an eye on what their kids are doing.

Students should also be made aware that it’s always okay to tell a trusted adult or parent. Wallis-Garrison said,“Victims of cyberbullying should be made aware that action is being taken and being bullied isn’t their fault.”

The victim needs to save the messages, no matter how hurtful, because they might be needed later. These messages will be needed later when confronting a bully, the bully’s parents, when telling a trusted adult or when the police need to intervene.

The easiest way to stop cyberbullying is to block the bully. If the cyberbullying keeps happening, the victim may need to get a new phone number or email address. The most important rule of all is for individuals to be cautious about who they give their information to.

Wallis-Garrison has a simple answer to end cyberbullying, “don’t encourage it, don’t do it.”