Abusing Technology: Cyberbullying

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

With the expansion of technology in today’s society we are seeing cell phones and internet and digital devices being used by younger populations. In my work with children at a summer camp there were children as young as nine years old with cellphones in which they would be actively texting throughout the day and getting fellow campers numbers. With children’s growing access to technology however a new problem has evolved — cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a growing phenomenon and more common among Canadian children and youth than one may think. According to a survey conducted by CBC news in 2007, more than 70 per cent of respondents reported that they have been bullied online, and  44 per cent said they have bullied someone online. 

So what exactly is being said and what technology is being used in cyberbullying? According to the CBC survey 7 per cent reported being bullied by instant messaging, 37 per cent by e-mail and 31 per cent on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. Furthermore,  respondents reported being called names,  having rumours spread about them and being threatened or scared. These numbers give a glimpse into this growing problem and its seriousness.

Bullying versus Cyberbullying

Bullying is a well known issue and has been ongoing for many years. Until previously bullying was always constricted to when an individual was around the bully at school, in the playground etc.  Cyberbullying however has expanded the location and bullies can virtually gain access to victims of bullying at any time whether it is via  social networking sites, emails, a chatroom or a cellphone. This can cause damaging effects as children and youth feel they can never quite escape it.

Furthermore, the problem of bullying has expanded as before bullies could be held accountable for their actions if a victim reported it however with cyberbullying it can occur anonymously which gives children and youth less fear of consequence to say really anything they want. I think of the youth that I know personally and on their facebook pages I see only glimpses of cyberbullying through status updates which can be harsh. I think of how much worse it could be when the bully is completely anonymous.

Below is a cyberbullying prevention commercial that illustrates the point that more harsh statements and rumors are said with cyberbullying as children and youth feel anonymous and feel like they can hide behind a screen.

In regards to an audience, cyberbullies have the ability to say harmful things online, humiliate individuals and spread rumours which is available to a much larger group of people.  Think if something was posted about an individual on a blog, how many people have access to that blog and how many people that link could be sent to.

Cyberbullying also has changed the format of bullying. As bullying is occurring less frequently in the traditional face to face sense there is more emotional bullying through humiliation and verbal abuse which can have more devastating and long lasting effects. Children and youth now have the ability to abuse technology in numerous ways. As just some examples children/youth have the ability to take inappropriate pictures/videos of individuals without their knowledge and post them, manipulate others personal accounts, and write status updates, emails, mass text messages and blogs that verbally abuse/humiliate an individual.

Prevention

Children and youth may feel comfortable using technology but it is important to keep in mind that they may not be knowledgeable about it or know how to use technology appropriately. Parents should discuss “netiquette” with their youth and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use.

Educating children about the consequences of cyberbullying such as losing social networking and IM accounts may help to portray that even though cyberbullying may be anonymous in a sense, many internet sites do not tolerate harassment. As many of you probably know on Facebook, you can block certain people and report inappropriate pictures and comments. These are ways that can all help to reduce cyberbullying. Educating children about treating others fairly and acting responsibly can also prevent cyberbullying from a young age. Parents should be involved in teaching their children that bullying even occurring over the internet, is wrong and that if they are experiencing this they need to tell someone they trust.

To conclude, as technology begins more accessible to younger populations, society has to address the abuse that can happen with technology in younger age groups. Parents, teachers and those with work with children should teach children of the privilege of technology but how abusing it can lead to long lasting effects for others.

 

 

 


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