Cyberbullying - What, Why and How

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I remember this from my childhood. Seems to be useful for the ongoing trend of cyberbullying.

Image credit: Pixabay
I'm not a person of interest nor a target that people would cyberbully but I have to admit that I have posted a not so nice comment regarding someone here and there. I once made a remark regarding a young international Filipina singer whom I said will not have a long career and actually, I partially came out right. The singer in question is quiet now, mainly because SHE is now a HE and he is starting to revive the career that had a bit of a bump while he made life-changing decisions. I have also made harsh statements regarding the current President of the Philippines and his administration and earned a vile one-word counterattack by other Filipino online users. Doesn't happen anymore...I guess I'm not appealing as I used to be. I read the news and head towards the comments section, and there I can see all the vile, malicious crude comments by so many Filipinos. It's a very sad reality.

According to the University of Toronto, in 2015, the Filipinos ranked number 1 as The World's Most Active Cyberbullies (applause...finally, the Filipinos are the best at something worldwide). 1 out of 4 cyberbullying events was because of a Filipino. You give a Filipino a gadget and that's what he makes use of it. It's not a very comforting thought.

[Related: Online Scam Sites: What to Look For]


So, what is CYBERBULLYING and why do people do it?

According to Wikipedia, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology which includes devices ( cellphone, tablet, laptop, PC) and equipment as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. It involves the misuse of electronic information and mass media, such as e-mail, SMS, weblogs, cellphones and defamatory websites, to harass or attack a person or a group. It can cause emotional damage. May include sending threats and unwanted sexual messages.

The website www.covenanteyes.com enumerates several common types of cyberbullying which involves certain levels of harassment:
1. Gossip - posting or sending cruel gossip or rumors to damage a person's reputation and relationships with friends, family, and acquaintances.
2. Cyberstalking- a form of harassment that involves continuous threats and rude messaging and may lead to physical harassment in real life.
3. Flaming- refers to an online fight exchanged via e-mails, IM, or chat rooms. Harsh language and images are used.
4. Exclusion- intentionally singling and leaving a person out then subsequently harassing the excluded with malicious comments.
5. Outing and Tricking-while outing is disseminating personal and private information, photos, or videos (remember "amalayer" or all those videos with the #letsmakehimfamous) of a person publicly through the internet, tricking entails tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information which is consequently shared online.
6. Masquerading/Impersonation- I guess you've spotted a troll here and there. These people create fake identities and fake accounts or may steal an identity or break into someone's account. All this to harass someone or cause embarrassment. Unfortunately, some trolls are being paid to do this (This is where the law should step in. Being paid to harass people? No honor in that.).
7. Cyber threats- remarks that imply violent behavior towards the victim.

As I go through websites which tackle the sensitive subject of cyberbullying, most of them have associated this with teenagers because of the high percentage of teens that have experienced cyberbullying and are the bullies themselves. But, it is now a known fact that cyberbullying happens regardless of age, race, profession, and gender. Anyone can be a target. Unfortunately, those who should be role models also participate in cyberbullying. Needless to say, we need to stop.

180706-F-PO640-106.JPG by Courtesy Graphic is licensed under public domain.


So why do people do it? Do these people take immense pleasure in making the lives of other people a living hell?
Here is a list of reasons given by www.endcyberbullying.net
1. Anonymity- it's an easier way to bully because it doesn't need face to face interaction. You also don't need a lot of courage, intellect, or money to do it. Just start clicking away. Being anonymous also provides the illusion of never getting caught or reprimanded.
2. For entertainment- yes, some sadistic people get immense pleasure in watching your pain. They do this to get a reaction or rise in you and they do it for laughs.
3. They are paid to do it.- Trolls are on the rise and they are being paid to harass people or to cause a stir. They do this for the traffic. More hits, more comments, more reactions means more money for them.
4. Power- for popular kids, it makes them feel powerful. For sadistic people, power in the satisfaction of seeing your sadness and pain.
5. Anger, Revenge or Frustration- vengeance is a dish best served cold and one of the ways one person can do that is getting back at that person online. Usually escalates when the bully isn't satisfied with the results.
6. Stupidity- always remember this "think before you click". Often, most especially with the younger population, comments and remarks are posted online without thinking and without thinking of the consequences or repercussions of said post. A teenage daughter of a Filipina celebrity/ politician posted expletives towards the Philippine Vice President after she (the Vice President) won the election. Makes you really think. So before you go all keyboard warrior, THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK.

Like all forms of bullying, cyberbullying causes psychological, emotional, and physical stress. www.fundforcivility.org says that people who are cyberbullied have a higher risk for depression and anxiety. This can lead to thoughts of suicide. Sometimes, the victims may retaliate through violent means. In 12 of 15 school shootings in the 1990's, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Cyber bullying is a big problem that needs to be addressed. But, how can it be addressed properly when we as adults can't be proper models for the younger generation? Actually, some of us are just jumping on the bandwagon. Since they are doing it, why can't I/we? I remember when social media was new and not a lot of people had access to the internet. During that time using cellular data was expensive and FB wasn't free. The people I first encountered on social media had proper etiquette and never posted a comment that was harsh or derogatory. They were very cordial. In the beginning, I felt that social media was a fantastic venue to find friends and family that I have lost touch with. Now, it's a haven of uncouth and vile people and these people are the reason why I want to swear off on social media. Wish it were that simple but without it, it will throw me back all the way to the stone age.

How can we address cyberbullying and how is the government aiding in squashing these bullies? In reality, even if we do so much and also do our part, it's a tough road. The government in partnership with social media and websites have to take serious action for cyberbullying to stop. For example, in certain groups on FB, a post has to be considered by the admin before it can be publicly seen. If social media sites could implement such a procedure with specific guidelines before a comment can be posted, it would diminish the rate of cyberbullying. As for the government, laws need to be implemented. The issue of 'fake news' has to be tackled. Make government officials a model of law implementation to show the seriousness of the issue. Others will then follow.

In our own simple way, how can we combat cyberbullying?
www.connectsafely.org  lists some helpful tips to end cyberbullying:
1. Don't respond. Your reaction is usually what the bully wants. It gives him power. Do not empower the bully.
2. Don't retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully's behavior. Help avoid the cycle of aggression.
3. Save the evidence. This is the only bit of good news about digital bullying. All posts or messages can be saved, captured and shown to someone else. Do this even if it's minor, in case things escalate.
4. Especially for minors, reach out for help. Talk to a trusted adult; you deserve back up. If nervous, find a way to report it to the school anonymously.
5. Block the bully. Use account preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it is a chatroom, just leave. Be sure to protect your accounts.
6. Be civil. Tell the person to stop, be decent, and rise above them.
7. Don't be a bully. How would you feel if someone harassed you? Be a nice person. The world needs nice people.
8. Be a friend, not a bystander. Step up and defend a victim. If someone you know is being bullied, take action. Let bullies know their behavior is unacceptable. If you can't stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behavior.
9. For parents, respond thoughtfully not rashly. Acting fast can cause your child to be left out even more. The goal is greater resilience. Let your child know that even if we may not be able to eradicate all the evil in the world, we can get past it. It's all about how we deal with it. Always make sure that your child knows that you have his/her back.

Let's stop the cycle and end cyberbullying. Keep in mind, IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY, THEN DON'T SAY OR POST NOTHING AT ALL.



Image credit: Pixabay

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Comments

  1. This is what people don't understand about cyberbullying...when you put out fake news about someone, it's cyberbullying. Please don't spread fake news. It's not funny.

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