Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

Summary: Most of Generation Y have come in contact with cyberbullying. We often blame the problem on teenagers alone - but is this actually the case?

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The prospect of cyberbullying is becoming an ingrained part of the Generation Y online experience.

Anyone can be targeted -- whether the high school student, public figure, or online blogger. It can range from a snide comment on a Facebook page, to private video footage released online without consent.

But are we doing enough to limit the damage of cyberbullying, and educate younger generations in how to copy with it?

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life project stated that 95 percent of teenagers aged between 12-17 are now online, and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites. Furthermore, 41 percent of those surveyed revealed that they have witnessed cruel behaviour online either 'frequently' or 'sometimes'.

A comparative infographic produced by Check Point suggested that teenagers are the main demographic that experiences 'unkindness' online (up to 31 percent). 88 percent stated they had seen examples of cyberbullying.

With such a high predicted rate of bullying online, why is it becoming such a problem?

The consequences of online abuse can be severe. From knocking a teenager's self-confidence to professional reputations being damaged, it can have terrible after-effects.

Student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after his roommate used a webcam to broadcast his sexual encounter with another man. Another student committed suicide after suffering online abuse. Others end up in court facing charges of Internet slander and libel.

You can be convicted of 'trolling' in the UK -- labelled under 'offensive communications' -- and this can apply to anyone. An example is that of Sean Duffy, who was jailed this year after posting abusive messages and videos about dead teenagers to their grieving families.

It's not only the younger generation that may not understand the consequences of abusing others online. An ISP address works as a fingerprint -- and can be used against you.

There is no true level of anonymity (unless you delve into systems and circumventors that most of the general public don't pursue).

However, it is easy to create a fake profile online and disguise yourself -- an exploit used by both children and adults alike.

It must be taken in to account that bullying online can be accidental in some scenarios. You lose the use of tone and expression, and without those kinds of body language pointers some commentary online can be misconstrued.

It may also be 'ego-based' -- the 'I am right, you are wrong, and I am going to prove it until you give in' mentality. This kind of 'abuse' you see on a regular basis online -- and sometimes it is through word choice alone that defines whether it is considered a discussion or abuse.

Throughout my research I discovered a great of online abuse seems to stem from crowd mentality; not so dissimilar from real-life situations. In the same way a group attacking one individual can form ‘traditional’ bullying, a crowd mentality can also be imposed on Internet networks.

This, in turn, can escalate situations of abuse. Once others get involved, levels of attention attributed to the act rise, and generally won't die down on its own.

In a recent survey it was discovered that only 26 percent of K-12 teachers surveyed have taught kids how to handle cyberbullying.

It's unlikely many of the younger generation understand the legal consequences of what they're doing -- in the same way that we need to educate in the changing values of privacy, we also need to let children know how to cope with online abuse.

Some kids might be unaware that there are support networks, and something can be done about it.

Teachers should have children understand that online networks are not separate from reality. It is an extension of it. In the same manner, it is governed by a set of social rules.

It's not only the kids that are to blame. Take to the Internet for research, and there are countless examples of adults seemingly leaving their manners in the physical world and indulging themselves in abusive behaviour. Apart from people that should know better, this sets no good examples for children growing up in a world of online networks.

Social networking sites do attempt to regulate and keep the stem of abuse down, from groups and image captions to wall posts.

But it's not enough.

Further legislation needs to be put in place to both protect individuals online, and parents themselves need to take a look at their reflections and wonder if they're teaching their kids bad values.

After all, it's only online. I'm not abusing that person to their face.

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46 comments
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  • Oh please

    Cyberbullying, as opposed to any other form? As long as it doesn't turn into physical violence or criminal (libelous) actions, this whole "cyberbullying" concept is much ado about nothing as "bullying" is part of life in the real world. From your parents to your peers, from your teachers to your bosses, you learn to deal with such pressures, or turn to thumbsucking and baby blankets.

    And here's a novel concept kids -- stop obsessing over social networks, and quit treating the Internet like it's an anonymous zone immune from consequences!

    [i]Further legislation needs to be put in place to both protect individuals online.[/i]

    Yep let's call for even MORE censorship from our learned legislators! All in the name of protecting the uber-sensitive and clueless ones. Sheez, like we don't have enough censoring everywhere we turn, including on boards like this one.

    There is no quicker way to turn everyday folks against respect for laws and constitutions than by the [s]use[/s] abuse of over-legislation. Learn that above all else!
    klumper
    • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

      @klumper

      Agreed. With all due respect, most social networks have a function where you can 'block' comments from specific posters.

      I've personally used that on some regular forums and it's not all that hard to do.
      Lerianis10
      • Cyberbullying doesn't have to be in the victim's wall

        @Lerianis10 Apparently you don't have the intelligence to understand that cyberbullying is just another name for HARASSMENT.

        It is not necessary to have direct contact with the victim to cause the intended damage.
        wackoae
      • Bullying can be found anywhere, but that's life

        @wackoae<br>[i]Apparently you don't have the intelligence to understand that cyberbullying is just another name for HARASSMENT.[/i]<br><br>And there aren't legal implements already in place to deal with harassment, if such actions meet the established legal mark? <br><br>Exactly how much additional legislation and mollycoddling do you propose to put in place to protect people in the Internet zone? And please don't tell me me you're not aware of what high handed or excessive legislation leads to, invariably. Just look at present day France and Germany, where the population runs around half-gagged (shades of where America is quickly heading).
        klumper
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @Lerianis10

        That (block feature) doesn't necessarily help in the case of the hidden web cam broadcast, or even someone spreading lies and rumors or embarassing private information. The block feature only makes it invisible to you. Just because you don't see it on your feed doesn't mean it won't reach you one way or another.

        I'm not advocating legislating it to death, but I think awareness and education are important. While in many ways, it's not much different from in person bullying or spreading lies and rumors about someone, but the Internet and social networking certainly do make it much easier from a mass communication perspective, and certainly add a new wrinkle to it in the fact it can be multimedia.
        TroyMcClure
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @piousmonk
        About the webcam - people need to understand that if it's connected to the internet it can probably be turned on remotely. So - don't have sex in front of a webcam unless you want it to be public. Don't video tape sex in general, unless you want it to be public (any video, audio or photograph evidence is one step away from being public in the event of a bad breakup).

        Furthermore, legislation won't solve anything. If someone posts a video of you that you find so shameful you'll kill yourself over it, then it doesn't matter if the poster gets prosecuted afterward, the damage is done. Not saying there shouldn't be consequences, just unless the consequences are very severe it won't stop a lot of the bullying.
        p0figster
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @Lerianis10
        This is true but at times the bully or bullies will actually set up sites dedicated to attack the intended victim (hate sites) and send a viral email to classmates and others. This form of cyber bullying is just as hurtful and embarrasing as an IM, text, etc. In other words, blocking certain people from your social media page (i.e. facebook) is not a fail-safe against attack.
        larue3
    • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

      @klumper [i]this whole "cyberbullying" concept is much ado about nothing as "bullying" is part of life in the real world.[/i]

      It's part of life, so just move on... Okay, lets take this to the next level. Someone kills your family member, which as we all know is just a part of the "real world"... so lets not try to prevent it... just accept it and move on. Otherwise, you're just turning "to thumbsucking and baby blankets."

      Obviously, this example is over the top. But just because something is part of The Real World", doesn't mean it shouldn't be prevented.
      Badgered
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @Badgered
        You can't stop everything bad that can possibly happen. Just as you can't protect your kids 100% of the time. What you do is you become a parent and teach them how to cope with it. If we don't teach them to cope with criticisms and bad things, they do things like commit suicide.
        rpollard@...
      • Over the top indeed, and weak to boot

        @Badgered <br> [i]Someone kills your family member, which as we all know is just a part of the "real world"... so lets not try to prevent it... just accept it and move on. [/i]<br><br>A pretty weak analogy if you ask me, and definitely over the top. But I'll play along. You would need to tell me how increased legislation, beyond what is already on the books, is going to stop ANYONE from killing a family member of yours. How do the two even compute in such an abysmal equation?<br><br>The same goes for calls for increased legislation to deal with things as nebulous as "cyberbullying." Laws are already firmly established for harassment and libel, and the last thing we need is this mindless continuance of turning to GOV for righting every little wrong, especially when you consider what it ultimately costs society (a la the cash strapped taxpayer).
        klumper
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @Badgered I agree, and no it's not over the top. Teenagers can be very sensitive as well as some adults to information spread around about them whether the info is true or not. Just a couple of years ago, a young girl had received an email from, a young boy a couple of years older, then her.<br><br>They developed a good friendship online, and when the mother(in disguise of the young boy) spread around all this information that the young girl was a tramp and was fat, the girl ended up killing herself.<br><br>So while I agree that I don't want to see more controls put in place, offending persons should be caught if possible and prosecuted for their actions, especially where in this case the offender was an adult.......IMHO
        T-Wrench
    • Excellent illustration of the problem

      @klumper <br>If the parents (like yourself) think it's no big deal, the kids certainly won't be afraid to do it. But if parents and other authority figures start treating schoolyard bullies like the juvenile delinquents they are, then there's a deterrent.<br><br>Reply to klumper:<br><br>Looks like we're both thinking of the same set of authority figures, but I might also add police officers and juvenile court judges (I have this persistent fantasy of a young bully being escorted in handcuffs to Juvenile Hall immediately after his expulsion from school). I said nothing about new laws and don't advocate them to deal with the problem. But the response to bullying can't be that it's no big deal and the victims should stop whining, which appeared to be what you were saying.
      John L. Ries
      • Which "other authority figures" are you referring to?

        @John L. Ries

        Teachers and school administrators, priests and nuns, police and security officers, more experienced family figures? If so, I have no problem with that approach at all; it's just basic common sense. But if you're also advocating increased and costly legislation to deal with such things, you're out of your mind.

        Read rpollard above you for more. Everything starts at home. Then you learn to deal with such things on your own beyond that primary footing. All it generally takes is using your God given noggin' - even when young.
        klumper
      • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

        @John L. Ries +100!!
        T-Wrench
    • Right on, klumper!

      We don't need more speech-police laws. If you can't take the crap, go somewhere else. Nobody's forcing you to go online. Nobody's forcing you to click into that social network's site where you're not welcome.

      Blame the internet! LOL... If people do drastic things to themselves (like commit suicide) because of what they see online, then they have other issues.
      ScorpioBlue
      • re:scorpioblue 19th Dec

        where you're not welcome?! No young person should feel as though they can't participate on a social media site. It's a matter that involves a lack of parental guidance and/or involvement. And yes, if a person commits suicide because of cyber bullying, then they obviously suffer from a medical condition, such as depression. I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here...are you a "hater" yourself, or do you just lack empathy?
        larue3
    • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

      @klumper

      I think you may be confusing bullying with intimidation. If someone is being bullied by teachers, parents, etc. then something's a miss.
      As far as cyberbullying is concerned, kids are killing themslves. What ever the means, if it's causing kids to commit suicide something needs to be done. Many of these tragedies are linked to an age group that simply cannot abstractly predict the reactions of others (pre-frontal cortex development). Parents need to be more involved with the goings-on in their kids' lives. Furthermore, maybe parents need to be held accountable for their kids behavior in such instances.

      With respect to over-legislation, I couldn't agree with you more; but that's what happens when we as a society can't behave and act accordingly...Big Brother has to step in.
      larue3
    • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

      @klumper
      Parents need to be more aware of the goings-on in their kids' lives. The fact is, kids are physiologically unable to abstractly predict/understand the reactions of others by their action and/ or words (pre-frontal cortex not fully developed). Maybe it's time to start holding the parents of bullies (cyber and otherwise) responsible. I guarantee you the bullying will decrease. How many lives have to be destroyed or lost, before action is taken?
      larue3
  • Blame the parents

    How about parents actually take responsibility for the education and activities of their children?
    Sqrly
    • RE: Cyberbullying: Can we just blame the kids?

      @Sqrly

      While I agree that parents should be responsible for and involved with their children's lives, that's not full proof. Did your parents know everything that you did or that happened to you? I believe my parents were good parents, but I was certainly able to hide quite a bit from them, and that was pre-Internet days.

      And, you could be the most responsible parent in the world, but that doesn't mean the parents of the kid sitting next to yours in 6th period study hall is doing the same. It's simply a situation that no matter how hard you try, you can't control all aspects of it.
      TroyMcClure