Cyber bullying can be defined as the use of technology, namely the Internet, as well as interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones to harass, torment, threaten, embarrass, etc another person. By definition, it occurs among young people – specifically, preteen youngsters and teenagers. It involves a minor on both sides and when an adult is involved it changes terms to cyber harassment. The methods used in of cyber bullying are limited to each child’s imagination and access to the Internet (Hiridjuda and Patchin 72). Cyber bullying has had adverse effects on the victims especially when looked at from the backdrop of a recent case when a former Rutgers University student , allegedly used a webcam to stream the footage of his roommate’s sexual encounter with a man in their room. Dharun Ravi, the bully, faces a 15-count indictment that includes hate crime charges, especially with reference to the death of Tyler Clementi the victim who killed himself after the incident by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. This therefore shows how adverse the problem is and evidences there is a need to understand the cause and effects of cyber bullying and how it can be controlled.
Firstly, there is a need to understand how cyber bullying occurs. Cyber bullying takes two forms: direct attack and cyber bullying by proxy. Direct attack involves various methods which include instant messaging which is about kids sending hateful or threatening messages to their peers, stealing passwords and logging in as the said kid. The latter often involves chatting with others pretending to be the child and in the process say mean and offending things that may compromise the relationship of the victim with their friends (Hiridjuda and Patchin 72). Direct attack may also take the form of blogs where some kids may use blogs to damage other kid’s reputation or invade their privacy. Kids also use websites whereby they may create pages that are intended to insult other kids especially by posting other kids personal information and pictures. People get to comment on the victims issues as addressed by the blogs and with the negative image created of the victim they may lose their social standing and esteem, which is frustrating and embarrassing for them. It may also come in the form of sending pictures through phone and email. Many pictures are not meant for public and hence this affects the victim psychologically by shaming and tormenting them.
Furthermore, direct attack can also take the form of polling where kids vote for who’s hot who’s not, who’s the biggest slut etc. Such questions may end up being offensive to others and can be used by some teenagers to bully. These polls affect the victim in a way that the victim appears to be subjected to public ridicule, frustrates and torments him/her and dents their ego. Direct attack may also take the form of sending malicious codes where kids will send each other viruses, spyware, and hacking programs to their counterparts to destroy their computers, spy their victims. It may even allow the cyber bully to control their victims’ computer remote control. By controlling their computer the bully may even delete the information from the victim’s hard disk and bring unimaginable losses. Through direct attack a victim may also be sent porn and other junk E-mails and IMs. They load their inboxes with porn material, which leads to the victim being punished by parents for being involved in pornography.
The other form of cyber bullying is cyber bullying by proxy where the cyber bully gets adults involved unknowingly. This happens for instance by using warning or notify wars. The kids normally click on the warning or notify buttons on their IM screens, or email and chat screens and in this case alerting the ISP or server that the victim has done or is doing something that violates their rules. The victim then gets so many warning messages and notifications that they can almost lose count. This frustrates the victim since they can even lose their accounts. It makes the victim angry and this may make them say something rude or hateful back spurring a conflict or reason to engage in a fight. The most typical way of cyber bullying by proxy, however, is when the cyber bully gets control of the victim’s account and sends hateful messages to their buddy list as they pretend to be the victim. This compromises the victim’s relationship with their friends and the victim ends up being harassed and tormented them.
It is now important to understand what causes cyber bullying. Cyber bullies are mostly motivated by anger, revenge, or frustrations. This mostly occurs in cases of rivalry among the young ones. The rivalry may result from their studies or class work where the bully may feel subdued always when it comes to class tests. Being unable to compete, the bully may hit back through the internet. The rivalry may also come in terms of rivalry for girl- or boyfriends and when the deal goes sour or when one of the parties is beaten they resort to bullying or harassing the victim by using technology.
Cyber bullying may also be done just for entertainment especially when the kids are bored, have too much spare time and have access to many tech toys. They may do this just for laughs or to get a reaction. This is inspired by the kid’s tendencies to always pull a prank at each other and get the laughter out of it all. However, it all gets mucky when the cyber bully gets so much dominance or control over their victim and as the bully keeps doing all this the victim is left frustrated and tormented while the bully and friends get the laughter. It gets worse when the weak points of the victim, especially through polling, are represented as the ugliest traits and then paraded to all and sundry. In this case, the victim gets exposed to mirth and shame and his/her self-esteem is thus lowered The Rutgers University case might have been just out to seek some laughter and fun out of the whole thing but then it turned tragic and the depression that followed led to suicide.
It’s also important to note that sometimes cyber bullying occurs accidentally. This may occur especially through a text or IM message sent to a wrong recipient. The impersonal nature of text messages IMs or emails may make it difficult to understand the senders tone and many times one person’s joke could turn to be a hurtful insult on another person. Yet, when this is repeated and tends to create a pattern, it is no longer accidental. It may be something done accidentally but in many cases the effects are the same and they come in adverse proportions sometimes putting at risk the life of a victim by humiliating him/her or even denting his/her self-esteem.
Discussing bullying, one can also not ignore the fact that it may be caused by the power-hungry to torment others so as to boost their ego. This is especially true about those who would want to be seen as the tough guy or tough girl (Jacobs 43). They will then do it repeatedly and with many other victims. This will be done mainly to bolster or remind people or their counterparts of their own social standing and status in a society or school. However, some may do it thinking they are righting some wrong or standing up for others, which nevertheless turns out to be up tormenting, harassing and frustrating..
Signs of bullying are brought out differently by the victims. Many are reluctant to tell their parents due to the fear of a social stigma. Also, sometimes they have a fear that their computer access privileges may be denied by their parents. However, parents can note this from their children by various signs (Jacobs 43). There may be signs of emotional distress, especially after using the Internet or phone, some children will be withdrawn from friends and activities, and others will avoid school or group gatherings. There may also be signs of slipping grades, change in moods or behaviors and being very protective and secretive, especially of their digital life.
From all that has been said above a conclusion can be drawn that it is important that cyber bulling be prevented and or controlled. This can be done in various ways: parents need to educate their kids on the consequences of losing their ISP or IM accounts, etc. Parents can also describe adverse effects, death among others, to some of the victims of this practice. In this context, they should teach teenagers to respect their peers and take a stand against bullying. The schools should get involved by disciplining students involved in the practice of bullying that takes place both in – and off-campus. Schools may sometimes be sued for this, but it is an issue of life and death and whatever happens they should come in and put an end to this. Parents, however, have a major role in this since apart from controlling and helping their own children who themselves might be the bullies, they need to create a trusted platform on which their children may run to when things go wrong online and offline. They should avoid overreacting and avoid blaming so as to build a strong and formidable psychological wall to shield their children from harassment. In addition, they may involve the school and counselors to guide and protect the victims so as to avoid adverse effects like suicide.
Cyber bullying is therefore a vice that needs to be controlled. This is especially evident from the effects that it has on young people: tormenting, embarrassment, social and psychological trauma, as well as denting of the child’s ego and self esteem. Moreover, it has been found to be leading to deaths as a result of suicide judging by the case at Rutgers University being just an example of the many more that go unreported. It has been often seen to take the form of direct attack, which comes in various ways. (Jacobs 43). All of them produce the same adverse effects. The causes have been explored and it is clear that cyber bullying can be controlled to save the future generations from extinction, especially as a result of bullying. Parents and schools should come to the rescue of the situation and when it becomes impossible the authorities and the police force should come in to salvage the situation. It is possible and it can be effective in avoiding the adverse effects that come with cyber bullying.