Technology and Cyber Bullying

Until recently, bullying has been associated with aggressive behaviors among students while at school. Bullying was associated with the molesting of fellow students in school yards, dormitories and sometimes in class. The advent of internet technology, however, has changed the nature and dynamics of bullying. Today, the major challenge that schools and authorities face is not school bullying, but the emergence of a new platform that is difficult to monitor and control; cyber bullying. Cyber bullying involves the use of internet media to harass, embarrass, intimidate, or threaten others. Although cyber bullying does not pose immediate physical harm on the victims, it, however, poses the same psychosocial problems as school bullying. The journal article, “Electronic Media, Violence, and Adolescents: An Emerging Public Health Problem” by Corinne Ferdon and Marci Hertz discusses the ways in which electronic aggression poses serious health risks to school-going adolescents. The journal is based on the recommendations of a panel of researchers drawn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, universities, federal agencies, schools and policy makers. The panel was convened in 2006 with the aim of assessing the ways in which technology promotes aggressive behaviors in young people (Ferdon and Hertz 52). This essay provides an analysis of the journal article with regards to its relevance to emerging trends and pertinent issues in cyber bullying.

The main question that the journal addresses is whether the use of “new forms of media technology” exposes adolescents to victimization and development of psychosocial problems (Ferdon and Hertz 52). This journal is relevant to this analysis because it focuses on the connection between the digital world (electronic media) and behavioral problems among school-going adolescents. On the basis of the panel’s findings- the primary data from which the authors drew their conclusions, it is evident that cyber bullying poses serous health risks to school-going adolescents. Although cyber bullying does not pose immediate physical harm to the victims as is the case with school bullying, it can lead to psychosocial problems such as emotional distress, school behavior problems and carrying weapons at school.

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The credibility of the journal’s conclusions is supported by the authors’ use of data from reliable sources. The panel was comprised of representatives drawn from recognized institutions, which gives authority to their recommendations. Similarly, the authors’ professional qualifications and field of allows them to render an authoritative voice on the issue in question. Both are affiliated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s divisions of Violence Prevention and Adolescent and School Health. In addition, the journal makes reference to previous research studies to support its conclusions. In this regard, the credibility of the journal’s conclusions rests on the fact that it is based on empirical data arrived at through scientific methods of discovery.  

Nevertheless, the journal is most relevant to the wider scope of this course’s theme, “The Digital You,” because it focuses on the influence of electronic media on social relations between people. The advent of internet technology has led to a shift from the traditional face-to-face medium of interaction to one where participants interact through online networking. The challenge posed by this shift is that it allows anonymity, which enables perpetrators of cyber bullying to hide their identity. Consequently, victims can not confront their oppressors as it may be the case with school bullying. The question that arises at this point is whether cyber bullying is the successor of school bullying. Not surprisingly, school bullying is not as a serious concern as it was a few years ago. The decline of school bullying and the proportional increase of cyber bullying may be the result of two possible scenarios. On the one hand, the decline of school bullying may be attributed to the intervention of school authorities and policy makers to end the problem in schools. On the other hand, it could be that the- could-be school bullies found a new way of harassing their victims without revealing their identity.  In this light, there is a need for schools and policy makers to determine whether cyber bulling is actually the same old problem of school bullying, the only difference being the means through which it is perpetrated. Drawing an analogue with the rise of cyber terrorism, it is possible that the perpetrators are keen to escape from punishment by remaining anonymous.

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The authors point out a very interesting aspect of cyber bullying. They observe that cyber bullying is partly a product of the youth’s exposure to “extremely realistic violence through online and offline video games and the potential impact these experiences may have on adolescents’ propensity to be aggressive” (Ferdon and Hertz 53). This situation suggests that indeed the youth are adapting to new forms of technology in ways that school authorities and policy makers have not anticipated. For a long time, the major concern has been on the impact of TV watching on aggressive behaviors in the youth. There are extensive previous studies that have explored the connection between the amount of time spent watching violence-packed TV programs and videos and the prevalence of aggressive behaviors among the youth. School bullying is one of the ways through which media violence is manifested in school-going adolescents. However, this journal provides a new perspective on the problem of aggressive behavior among the youth. Electronic media expands the youths’ access to violent content on the internet. Ordinarily, this should translate to an increase in school bullying in light of the panel’s recommendations that online video games increases the youth’s propensity to be violent. Instead, the perpetrators resort to sending threatening texts to their victims rather than harassing them at school. This trend points to a new reality that policy makers ought to address. The internet has not only replaced traditional media such as television and videos as the influencing factors on adolescent behavior, but also provides a conduit through which violence is perpetrated. In this regard, the new forms of technology are a double-edged sword as far as cyber bullying is concerned. Firstly, they promote violent behavior by allowing the youth unlimited access to violent content on the internet. Secondly, they provide a convenient platform through which learned violent behavior is manifested through cyber bullying.

In light of this scenario, it seems that school bullying is still a reality only that it has adopted a new face. This is because the perpetrators and victims of cyber bulling are usually classmates and peers. And it is more challenging than school bullying not just because of the anonymity of the perpetrators, but more so because it can happen even outside the school. The ability of the perpetrators to harass their victims even during out of school hours means that school bullying has evolved to overcome the barriers of time and space. It is no longer a school-time affair, but a-no-boundaries activity that follows the victims even to their homes. To make the situation even worse, the victims suffer in silence because of two reasons. One, they do not know their tormentors and therefore cannot report the matter. Secondly, there is nothing they can do; they cannot retaliate because it is not a face-to-face confrontation as in school bullying. The consequence of this situation is that the victims experience emotional distress and psychological torture.

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Is it possible, then, that the concerned authorities are fighting a losing war with regards to school bullying? The journal’s authors provide a startling insight; the internet and other new forms of technology presents a situation that is difficult to monitor or control. Unlike television, it is not possible to regulate what the youth can watch in private. Indeed, regulation of what the youth can access online is for a long time going to be the focus of relevant authorities. The challenge is how this can be achieved without impacting negatively on the potential benefits of these new forms of technology. The internet provides an efficient, quick and convenient means of communication. At the same time, perpetrators of cyber bullying exploit this efficiency to commit their acts. The helplessness of the victims suggests that it is necessary for school authorities and policy makers to implement intervention and prevention measures to protect them from the negative effects of cyber bullying. The reality of the problem is that school bullying has adapted to technological changes such that it is difficult for school authorities to detect it when it occurs. By evolving into cyber bullying, the perpetrators are able to flaunt any regulations that have been implemented to deal with school bullying.

Consequently, one of the ways of dealing with the problem is to make cyber bullying seem harmless to victims. This is because cyber bullying plays on the victim’s emotions and psychological reactions to embarrassing and threatening texts. Accordingly, schools should offer counseling programs to enable potential victims view cyber bullying differently to avoid experiencing emotional distress and other behavioral problems. In addition, parents should be educated to detect emotional and psychological problems in their children that may arise as a result of cyber bullying. This is necessary to allow early intervention through counseling to enable victims develop a mindset that is immune to the negative effects of online threats and harassment.

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