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What Is Cyberbullying?


Bullying is a practice that has existed for far too long. Typically, bullying refers to those who perceive themselves as stronger, better than, or more powerful than others and attempt to intimidate, harm, or force something upon someone they perceive as weaker or lesser than them. There is no rational reason for this behavior, other than perhaps to give those who bully some false sense of power or popularity. In the end, it hurts everyone who witnesses it. Traditionally, bullying has been done in person, at school, or within specific social groups or neighborhoods. However, as the internet has grown and so many social media platforms have developed, the social hierarchies have found a strong internet presence as well. But just what exactly is cyberbullying?

Defining Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is sharing, posting, or sending mean, harmful, or fake text, images, or video to and/or about someone else. This can be done from any kind of device and typically happens via text, social media or other apps, or in online forums. It is particularly harmful because it is usually shared in places where others can view, share or otherwise participate in content that can include words, pictures, or video. Many who participate in cyberbullying might not bully in real life, but the disconnect of not being able to see the people whom they are inflicting harm upon allows them to cross lines they otherwise would not.

Targets of Cyberbullying

Those who are targeted in cyberbullying are often the same people who are bullied in real life. In fact, in one study done in the United Kingdom, of all of the students ages 11-16 who reported having been bullied, only one percent were only bullied online. All of the other students were bullied both in real life and online. This would suggest that at least during school years, the targets of cyberbullying are the same targets as in real life. The typical targets for bullying are people who are perceived as different than those who are doing the bullying. This includes people who look, talk, or act differently, people with disabilities, people of different races, ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Sometimes people are bullied for taking a stand about something or reporting inappropriate actions of others, or because of jealousy or other reasons. It is not always clear why particular people are targeted. Unfortunately, cyberbullying simply expands the reach of bullies.

How Cyberbullying Harms

Cyberbullying is incredibly harmful to self-image and mental health. Surprisingly, not just to those who are bullied. Often, the bullies themselves are also at significant risk of depression and other symptoms. However, for the victims, it can be completely devastating. The pain and shame caused by the bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, and more. Many victims will close social media and other accounts, or even change their phone numbers if not at least live in fear of using their own accounts due to being bullied further. Because peer groups online can often reflect peer groups in real life, those who are bullied may not be able to face classmates at school or elsewhere, and grades will often suffer, as well. In addition to the ability to both impact online and real-life self-esteem, behaviors, and mental health, in some cases, the victims have also become suicidal.

Why Cyberbullying Is Worse Than Other Bullying

One of the things that makes cyberbullying particularly stressful is that it is accessible to others around the clock, unlike bullying that occurs in real life, which has a beginning and end. There is no relief, no hiding, and the negative emotional impact is also constant. Additionally, cyberbullying extends beyond the scope of typical peers and can even go viral, able to be accessed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Online content is also permanent, giving one negative image, video, or comment the power to haunt a person forever. Cyberbullying is also worse for those who bully. Just as images and comments are permanent for those who are bullied, they are also permanent for those who bully. Even if the bully deletes the content, they have no control over people taking screenshots, posting to other places, or saving to hard drives. This can come back to haunt a person when it is time to apply for college, a job, and more, as your online presence is often considered now as part of the screening process for jobs and schools. In fact, when bullying crosses a line to criminal behavior, it can cost you your freedom, too.

What to Do About Cyberbullying

You have power against cyberbullying, whether you are the victim or you witness others being bullied. You can report bullying on social media to the relevant platform and block those who are bullying. You can screenshot the abusive content for evidence. You can report it to parents, school administration, or other adults — and in situations where there are hate crimes, threats, stalking, or explicit photos or other content that can cause serious harm in real life, you can report it to the police. Cyberbullying is a harmful and more pervasive form of bullying that can cause serious harm in real life. The victims of cyberbullying often feel helpless and defenseless, and serious depression, anxiety, or worse can occur. You have the power to stand up to cyberbullying. Exercise your power wherever you go online. Be someone’s superhero.

You can be a force against cyberbullying. Learn how to protect yourself and others by calling Potomac Programs 1-855-809-0409 today. Help make social media safe for everyone.

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