The twenty first century is known to be the world of the ‘Internet’; it is the most efficient way to get connected to our friends, relatives and colleagues. Sites such as Facebook have become very common among our youth today and have influenced our modern lives in many aspects. Being enrolled at a school with over 1000 students you begin to notice the reliance that a majority of the students have on Social Networking. As a student myself I have always had an interest in the way people act and the effect that these sites have on both the social and psychological side of us; this led me to the question ‘How often does cyberbulying occur?’
Technology allows all of us immediate access to information, which can greatly benefit our lives1. However, it has also provided some people with the means to exploit the innocent, commit crimes, and inflict injury on others. This technology has allowed some teens to take bullying that thrives in school hallways into cyberspace1.
Bullying refers to any kind of aggressive behaviour, which is normally intentional and entails an imbalance of strength or power1. Cyberbulying is also referred to as a social online cruelty which can be described as an intentional aggressive act which is carried out by an individual or a group of individuals against a victim, done repeatedly over a long period of time and sent through electronic contacts1.
Research indicates that there are a variety of reasons as to why people bully2, * Cultural causes – fascinated with winning, power and violence.2 * Institutional causes – the place in which bullying takes place, whether the home, school or workplace is not of high standards for the way people treat each other bullying is more likely to occur.2 * Social issues – the fact that one gets more social recognition for negative behaviours than positive one can also contribute to reasons as to why people bully.2 * Family issues – families that are not warm and loving and in which feelings are not shared are more likely to have children who bully, either with in the family home or in other locations in which children meet others.2
In relation to why people bully, a survey was conducted from December 2006 till January 2007 by the members of Kids Help Phone which had over 2500 respondents3. This stated that more than 70% of respondents to the survey reported that they have been a victim of cyberbulying, while 44% said they have been the bully themselves. At least 38% reported having experienced cyberbulying within the last three months3. This was a major key finding as it is clearly evident that there are a large number of cyberbulying incidents that occur, considering that there were only 2500 respondents and 70% reported being a victim is a huge thing, not to mention that most cyberbulying incidents are not reported and go un-noticed.
Having investigated this further studies show that almost most cyberbulying cases go unreported because a large number of youth and their parents think that cyberbulying is not a big deal4. However, it has been proven that a victim of this type of bullying can lead to serious disorders for the future, including suicide4. This indicates that when one becomes a victim of cyberbulying, they are a victim for life. Though the bullying itself may go away, the fear, the hurt and the memories scar the victim forever.
In a survey that was conducted at Mount Gambier High School similar results were found5; 54.5% of students said that they had been a victim of cyberbulying, while 23% said they have bullied someone online. 81.8% say that whilst on these sites they have witnessed cruel behaviour, 33.3% say that they ignore this behaviour when and if it occurs5. This was an important finding as it is apparent that when and if cyberbulying occurs, teenagers who are a witness tend not to do anything about it. This relates to my previous findings because if people did something about the cruel behaviour they witness online, than the victim of bullying statistic (70%)3 wouldn’t be as high as it is. It just goes to show that teenagers have a power that they don’t quite realise nor understand.
Cyberbulying is a major concern of young people. In 2010, it was ranked the third highest issue of concern for 11 to 14 year olds6. Over a quarter of this age group indicates it was a major concern, compared with 20% of 15 to 19 year olds and 16% of 20 to 24 year olds6.
In an interview with a parent of two teenagers7 (Anonymous), it was evident that technology creates certain challenges for adults who are trying to keep up with the relationship problems among adolescents. It is clear that to an adolescent the primary influence are his/her peers and what they think; while physical assaults or bullying is bad, verbal or the relational aggression can be equally as bad for certain kids.
Many adults don’t trust teens these days because they assume that they are engaging in bad behaviours. They believe that it is the teenager’s responsibility to demonstrate to the adults in their lives that they are using technology safely, responsibly, appropriately and for them to sort of take some ownership over that. It’s very important to have a discussion between parents and teens so the adults know that the vast majority of teens are doing the right thing online. On average 11% of teens talk to their parents about incidents of cyberbulying.8
Another interview took place9 with a student at Mount Gambier High school who clearly stated that she believes Social Networking sites such as Facebook are encouraging teenagers to bully, it is giving them more of an opportunity, as on the internet you can practically be whoever you want to be and there is less risk of getting caught. It is common for teenagers to use Social Networking sites such as Facebook to their advantage, having that availability to all those sites give teenagers more freedom with very little boundaries; therefore making it an unsafe place to be. The student said that whilst on these sites you don’t think about the risk factors, it’s more of a spur of the moment thing. She also stated that a majority of the time it’s more for entertainment or a joke without actually realising what effect it could have on a person.9
With this information at hand it is clearly evident that Social Networking sites are definitely encouraging teenagers to bully. Social networking sites encourage people to be more public about their personal lives, intimate details of our lives can be posted so easily and users are prone to bypass the filters they might normally employ when talking about their private lives. What’s more, the things they post remain available indefinitely. Facebook in particular, by far the most popular social networking medium is encouraging the ‘anonymous’ by making it easy and accessible to under 18’s.
A Senior Research Associate from the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide conducted a survey at Mount Gambier High School in 2012 as part of the South Australian Media Use Survey (SAMUS)10. The study employed the best available psychological measures of mental health-related issues; the survey helped the understanding on how youth use media and it’s interaction with mental health. A total of 523 students took part in the study and within that study it showed that 35% of males use the internet to escape from problems compared to 31% of females; male and females do not differ greatly in terms of their preoccupation and difficulty in regulating the use of the internet.10 The vast majority of students at Mount Gambier High School report having at least one close friend with symptoms of a mental health issue in which was connected to Social Networking.10 The known prevalence of depression among adolescents (12-18 years) is about one in five (20%)10. Taking this figure into account, the symptoms profiles across gender were close to the expected norm, although females tended to report more depressive symptoms than boys.10
In conclusion, with the expansion of the internet and social networking technologies cyber-bullying is becoming more common and more severe. The research presented clearly shows that cyberbulying is on an uprise with a majority of teenagers reporting that they have been a victim of cyberbully while the other small portion admitting that they see it happen yet don’t do anything about it. Within my study it was shown that the average school student has at least one friend with symptoms of a mental health issue which is connected to social networking. This research paper is to inform society about what has been going on lately. Cyberbulying is technology powered and will only get worse as technology becomes more widespread; hopefully this paper will help to inform today’s youth and parents. If you see any kind of bullying happening in front of you, stop it if possible, and then report it.