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In today’s world, everything is digitized, and that even includes the way people communicate with each other. Social media networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are three of today’s most popular social media services, each amassing hundreds of millions of users over the course of a few years.
While the majority of the users of these social media networks tend to behave and utilize the resources that they provide in the proper manners, there are some who choose otherwise—with the intent or mindset of harming others—to use the resources of the network at their disposal for wrongdoing. This wrongdoing is called cyberbullying.
The act of cyberbullying is the intended harm of an individual (usually a minor) through means of social media online, and has started to become a serious issue for the very users within the social media communities online. It can happen to anyone at any time, and can occur on any social media website.
Examples of such behaviors include sending an indecent or inappropriate photo of an individual to other individuals with the intent to ‘spread’ the image to other individuals’ media newsfeeds so they can see the image themselves, which would result in the humiliation of that individual, circulating rumors, normally falsified, to other users of the social media networks with the intent of spreading it to other individuals as well, threatening an individual by sending them textually crude messages with the intent of scaring them, or harassing them online with the intent of eliciting a reaction from them—also known as trolling. In other cases, entire fake user profiles of an individual including real photos of the victim have been created by others with the sole intent of slandering the victim.
According to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), it is believed that the act of cyberbullying is a serious issue for youth, and it is estimated that approximately half of all teenagers have been cyberbullied in some form at one point during their adolescence. It was calculated that the record low of cyberbullying occurred in 2013, although female students seem to be victimized at higher rates than males.
While the statistics for the NCPC have been calculated and currently stand where they are, the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) believes that the calculations and estimations made by the NCPC are ‘exaggerated’ and estimates that approximately 9% of adolescents in the entire country have been cyberbullied at one point.
In 2007, the CDCP identified cyberbullying as an emerging public health problem. Statistics provided by the Pew Internet and American Life Project discovered that one third of teens that use the internet have claimed that they have been threatened and harassed online at one point, and have been victimized by online rumors as well. In rare cases of online cyberbullying, adolescents turn to suicide. It is also believed that there is a strong link between the occurrence and the action. The occurrence (cyberbullying) alone does not oftentimes lead to the action (suicide), but the likelihood of attempting suicide is increased when the adolescent is dealing with personal issues, situations that are stressful, or psychological vulnerabilities.
In researching, the Cyberbullying Research Center has discovered that victimized individuals of cyberbullying are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who are not. In 2010, a survey was administered by the Cyberbullying Research Center on a set of students aged 11 to 18 who were members of social media networks. Twenty percent of the students in the group said they had been cyberbullied and among the same students in the group, another twenty percent reported engaging in cyberbullying behaviors at least once.
Ten percent of the group that had been surveyed also said that they had both been victimized and had played the oppressor at least once as well.
It is not fully known why people decide to cyberbully others online via social media, but one reason may be for the ability to remain anonymous when cyberbullying another person. It is also believed that the ‘popular’ adolescents on social media tend to cyberbully other individuals simply because it makes them feel ‘powerful,’ or do so as a means of remaining popular and retaining their status on the social media network.
Individuals who have low self-esteem or are dealing with other psychological issues like depression may be cyberbullying others to help themselves deal with the personal issue as a means to ease it. Peer pressure could also play a huge role in a cyberbullying act —it is likely that a person who is doing the cyberbullying themselves is only doing it so they can appear ‘cool’ to their peers and fit into that associated social category.
Desensitization to others’ empathy is also another likely reason that a person cyberbullies others —they cannot, or have difficulty, empathizing with the people that they have already victimized, so something as potentially devastating as cyberbullying to them may make them feel as though they are not hurting anyone, or that cyberbullying does not cause emotional or psychological damage to the person they are victimizing.
While people cyberbully others for the benefit of remaining anonymous or for the simple reason to that of them believing it being ‘funny,’ cyberbullying is an increasingly threatening social media issue, although the popular social media services Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have cyberbullying prevention methods and dedicated pages listed on their websites in order for their users to be informed and take those necessary actions when/if the time comes.
Fortunately, these social media websites have organized groups geared towards anti-cyberbullying in order for their users to engage themselves for combating situations which involve potential cyberbullying aspects, and essentially keeping cyberbullying to a minimum.
There are also a set of dedicated cyberbullying prevention methods that the social media services have set in place for the cyberbullying situations that do occur.
Measures that a social media user can take to prevent cyberbullying and potential harm to others include:
‘Blocking’ the person who is harassing or victimizing them—essentially cutting off all contact with that person and disallowing them from viewing each other’s content.
Reporting the cyberbully to the website staff via a help request system so the staff themselves can deal with the issue, and more than likely penalize the individual who is behind the cyberbullying.
Spreading the word to other friends about the cyberbully so that the other individuals can be aware of the person’s actions and more than likely catch the attention of the website staff so the cyberbully can be penalized.
Removing the cyberbully from the friends list—or ‘unfriending’ them—so the victim cannot see the cyberbully’s content and send the cyberbully’s messages to the message filtering system.
Setting the content page to ‘private’ so only certain people that have been selected can see what is there—this way, potential cyberbullies cannot freely roam the user’s page and see the user’s activities.
When a user performs any of these actions to prevent or stop a cyberbullying issue, more than likely the cyberbully themselves will be penalized for their actions, and oftentimes resulting in that individual’s account being deactivated for a specified period of time ranging from a day to a number of months. In rarer cases, the cyberbully’s page is deactivated or even removed from the social media website by its staff, and sometimes the individual is banned from the website permanently, depending on the severity of the offense.
Essentially, regardless of cyberbullying becoming a major social media website issue among its users, nearly all websites concerning social media exchanges have some type of measure, or measures, to prevent the actions from potentially harming any of their users.
The three main social media networks Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have set the standard in anti-cyberbullying methodologies today, and all other minority social media websites have structured help systems implemented into them, which are heavily influenced by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s help systems alone.
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