Cyberbullying began about a decade ago, but it has continued to gainpopularity as more people access the internet. Most of the victimsare children and youths who are naïve and spend more time online.About 90 % of the young users of the internet have been affected orwitnessed a peer being bullied online. Online bullying may takevarious forms, including harassment, flaming, and outing. Bulliestarget people who have exceptionalities, such as learningdifficulties. In addition, users of the internet who engage in socialactivities (such as chatting and sharing information on the socialmedia) are more exposed than those who use online platforms to playgames. Male users of the internet are more likely to be harassed thantheir female counterparts. The internet-based harassment results in asignificant social depression that may culminate in suicide,substance abuse, or isolation.
Keywords: Vulnerability, cyber bullying, internet users, bullies, cyberstalking.
Cyberbullying has become a serious menace that affects the young users ofthe internet. Although bullying that takes place on the onlineplatforms began about a decade ago, it has gained popularity at anexponential rate due to the negative effects that it has on thevictims. About 97 % of the youths in the developed countries such asthe U.S. use the internet on a daily basis, where 90 % of them haveeither been terrorized online or witnessed at least one of theirfriends being affected (Notar, Padgett, & Roden, 2013). Althoughthe majority of bullies target children and youths, all users of theinternet are vulnerable, irrespective of their age. This paperaddresses the issue of cyber bullying, with a focus on itsprevalence, forms of harassment, type of victims, gender differences,effects, and factors that motivate online bullies.
Cyberbullying is a relatively new type of harassment whose prevalence hasincreased with technological advancement. This is because technologymakes it easier for the bullies to reach more victims and share theiractions with other heartless people within a short period. It isestimated that about 43 % of the students in the U.S. have sufferedfrom cyber bullying at least one time during their academic life( Research Center, 2016). One in every four studentswho have been bullied online experienced similar incidents more thanone time. In addition, studies show that victims suffer fromdifferent types of bullying, where about 12.8 % suffered from hurtfulcomments being spread online, 19.4 % holds that rumors about theirprivate life were shared social media against their wish (CBRC,2016). Technology has not only increased the vulnerability of people,but also the number of bullies. For example, approximately 58 % ofchildren who are able to use electronic gadgets reported that theyhave shared hurtful messages at least once, where some of them did itwithout the knowledge that their actions could harm someone (CBRC,2016).
Bullyingthat is conducted online take different forms, but five of them arethe most common. The first form is harassment, where the bully sendsmalicious and offensive messages that target an individual or a groupof people repeatedly (Snell, 2010). One of the key examples ofharassment is cyber stalking, which involves the use of rude andthreatening messages that may eventually lead to a real or offlinemaltreatment. Secondly, some victims suffer from flaming, whichinvolves the exchange of a fight that occurs via email or onlinechats. Third, exclusion is a form of bullying that occurs when anindividual is left out of a social group. Other members of the grouppost hurtful messages, especially those that have a pornographiccontent, about the person who was have been excluded (Lau, 2012)Fourth, masquerading occurs when a bully takes a fake identity withthe objective of blackmailing their victims anonymously. Theblackmail may occur by sending malicious messages to the victim.Lastly, outing is increasingly becoming a common form of cyberbullying. It occurs when the culprits share private as well aspersonal information about an individual online (Albin, 2012). Allthese forms of bullying involve sharing of messages that have anegative impact on the targeted groups or individuals.
TheType of Victims and Factors that Increase Vulnerability
Cyberbullying can affect anybody, but young people (including children)are at a higher risk of being attacked than adults. Perpetrators ofonline harassment target people with different forms ofexceptionality. Giftedness refers to a type of exceptionality inwhich the perpetrators use a false identifies to reach their softtargets. A study conducted by Notar, Padgett & Roden (2013)indicated that students living with learning disabilities are morevulnerable than academically gifted learners. Some of the key factorsthat exacerbated this form of vulnerability include social isolation,popular, and aggressive peers. In addition, the majority of victimsfeel that they are less popular which increase their tendency toassume internet-related risks and make extensive use of the internetin an effort to enhance their popularity. In addition, the types ofonline activities in which people engage determine their level ofsusceptibility. For example, people who engage in online chats aremore vulnerable than those use the internet to play games (Notar,Padgett & Roden, 2013). Therefore, the key factors that determinethe risk of being bullied online include individual characteristicsand the type of online activities.
GenderDifferences in the Prevalence of
Maleand female users of the internet experience the menace of onlinehounding differently. For example, a study conducted on collegestudents indicated that about 16.0 % of the female freshmen collegestudents compared to 35.2 % of their male counterparts are harassedevery year (Marcum, Higgins, Ricketts & Freburger, 2011). Thedisproportionate effect of buying on men than woman was furtherconfirmed by the data showing that more (5 %) male learners were atthe risk of receiving abusive emails compared to female with only 3 %of them being affected. However, female students were affected bymalicious text messages more than male students (Marcum etal.,2011). This disproportionate effect is attributed to the fact thatfemale users of the internet attack indirectly, which in turn reducesthe level of their vulnerability. However, the gender-baseddifference is insignificant, which implies that the menace can affectanyone.
Mostof the impacts of online-based harassment are related to thepsychological damage that the bullies leave on their victims. Peoplewho are bullied suffer from psychological stress or depression, butthe level of severity depends on the type of message that wasreceived or shared online. Depression is manifested in differentways, including isolation, sadness, loss of interest in variousactivities, and a change in eating as well as the feeding patterns(Albin, 2012). Depression may result in a significant decline in theacademic performance of the affected people. According to Faryadi(2011) more than 70 % of the affected people experienced asignificant decline in their academic performance.
Somepeople decide to commit suicide when they feel that the level ofdamage is unbearable (CBR, 2014). Most of the students who succumb tobullying suffer from extensive infringement of their private life.For example, sharing of reports about the rape incidents with thefull disclosure of the personal information about the victim affectsthem psychologically (CBR, 2014). The spread of such bad news addsdamage on top of the unfortunate incidents that affected the victim.This limits the speed of recovery and lower self-esteem. Victims whoreach this level may decide to take their lives, engage in substanceabuse, drop out of school, or withdraw from all social activities inorder to avoid being ridiculed by their peers.
Bulliesharass people online to in order to achieve different goals.According to Notar, Padgett & Roden (2013) the justification ofviolence in the society, a decline in the perceived level of socialsupport from friends, and the application of proactive aggression aresome of the key factors that motivate cyber bullies. In addition, theworld has been experiencing an increased in the level of intolerance.Consequently, bullies are more likely to target people who havedifferent social as well as demographic features, such as religion,gender, disability, ethnicity, and race. This category of theculprits may be motivated by prejudice, anger, guilt, envy, andpride. Members of the public have a perception that cyber bullies arecowards who are not able to confront their victims face-to-face. Thisis confirmed by the increase in the number of culprits who choose todisguise themselves by using fake identities when accomplishing theirmotives. Other factors that motivate people to harass others onlineinclude jealousy, anonymity approval, revenge, and boredom.
Theincrease in the prevalence of cyber bullying is positively related tothe rise in the level of technological advancement. Bullying has beenoccurring offline throughout human history, but the discovery of theinternet increased the ability of the bullies to access morevulnerable people and accomplish their objectives faster. The youngusers of the internet and naïve children are more susceptible thanthe adults. Online harassment takes place in different forms,including the use of text or email messages that are hurting andtouch on the private life of the affected people.
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