Cyberbullying: Navigating the Complex World of Bullying From Schoolyard to Social Media

Understanding the Shift from Physical Bullying to Cyberbullying
The Harsh Reality of Cyberbullying: Teenagers in distress in a classroom setting, highlighting the urgent need to address digital harassment.
  • The Inherent Drive for Dominance: How Competitive Instincts Fuel Bullying
  • The Vicious Cycle of Bullying: From Childhood to Adulthood
  • Cyberbullying in the Digital Age: Anonymity and its Dangers
  • The Silent Suffering: Cyberbullying’s Impact on Mental Health
  • Beyond the Screen: Real-World Consequences of Cyber Harassment

The Inherent Drive for Dominance: How Competitive Instincts Fuel Cyberbullying

The ‘survival of the fittest’ is a motto that is inherent in humans and behaving according to those instincts has seeped into every sphere of life from academics, work and social life. The world has become such a competitive place where success is equated with wealth and everyone is on a constant drive to out-perform everyone else. This mindset is instilled at a very young age and children may resort to bullying as a survival tactic to achieve ‘success’. An unsettling view that exists in society is that everyone undergoes bullying and it is a rite of passage of sorts. The fact that such power play exists in an age where learning and growth should be of utmost importance, is disappointing. Once bullies get accustomed to such behaviour and realize its effectiveness in getting their way, they may construct their lives around it, which would lead to a vicious cycle of negativity that would affect them and those nearby.

The Vicious Cycle of Bullying: From Childhood to Adulthood

There are bullies, bully/victim(s) and victims wherein the first usually are strong, popular and have a good social and emotional understanding and hence want to establish their superiority wherever they go. Bully/victims are aggressive, low in popularity, come from families with a low socio-economic background and have most likely experienced bullying from siblings or otherwise. Victims usually have a withdrawn and unassertive character and weak emotional understanding. Bullying can be direct, that is physical or verbal or indirect which involves back-stabbing, spreading rumours or bad mouthing, all of which psychologically affect the victim.

The advancement of technology is considered as a mark of progress for mankind but it has propelled acts of misdemeanour, therefore allowing the traditional mode of bullying to evolve into cyberbullying. While the motive remains the same in both cases, cyberbullying provides a mask of anonymity hence giving the offender the confidence to bully without worrying about severe consequences. Hacking or catfishing is not the only means but misusing technology and using social media to defame someone by sending, posting or sharing such content is a form of cyberbullying. Harassment on such platforms can cause severe damage to one’s reputation because the information spreads like wildfire although its credibility is questionable.

Cyberbullying in the Digital Age: Anonymity and its Dangers

Social media is used as a tool for self expression, people use it to publish their opinions, pictures and personal information. The victim is therefore in a vulnerable position, potential offenders take this to their advantage and use the platforms to target and manipulate individuals which hampers their peace of mind. Bullies are able to create anonymous profiles to engage in such behaviour to bring down other individuals without having to see their reactions.

Also read – Adolescent Growth and Sexual Identity: Encouraging Exploration and Understanding in Teen Years

It is one of the reasons it is so prevalent as the offender doesn’t realise how much those worlds affect the victim and repercussions of the same. While comments are the major way in which online harassment happens, sending screenshots, trolling, sharing or liking of posts that openly mock another are also part of cyberbullying. An important thing to note is that it is not necessary that the bully is a stranger, often it is someone familiar or within the victim’s social circle.

The Silent Suffering: Cyberbullying’s Impact on Mental Health

Adults are victims to cyberbullying although it is given a different term like stalking or harassment. The most popular platform where cyberbullying occurs is Instagram followed by Facebook. The common reasons for bullying are appearance, intelligence, race, financial status, sexuality and religion too. All that being said, cyberbullying is mostly prevalent among the youth with almost 60% students stating they have been bullied online. The statistics are so high yet it is an issue that goes unnoticed because these platforms are so vast. Children who undergo bullying have been found to begin drug and/or alcohol abuse, developed an eating disorder, skipped classes, abandoned social media altogether or deleted posts, engage in self harm, developed depression, social anxiety and the list is endless.

Children spend the majority of their time around their peers rather than their parents, so exposure to such behaviour at such a young age could lead to trauma that would affect their lives and hamper them from realizing their full potential. Children from the age of 6-17 who undergo bullying are more likely to think about suicide in their adolescence. They have lesser control on their emotions and have a high tendency to lash out. 87% of students have mentioned that they have witnessed cyberbullying and these third party observers also play a part in bullying. Most do not interfere as they believe it is not their place but they should be the ones to take the chance to support the victim, offer suggestions like blocking or reporting or other accessible methods to seek help if the scenario is too abusive.

Beyond the Screen: Real-World Consequences of Cyber Harassment

Victims usually respond by taking the high road, because why stoop to such a low level. Most children have reported that they would rather suffer in silence than tell their parents or teachers due to fear of shame or reproval. It is vital that bullying and cyberbullying be considered as an important issue and adequate steps be taken to tackle the same beginning with timely check-ins by parents and teachers on the children and education for health professionals on how to deal with the mental, emotional and somatic problems that children may face due to this issue. Be careful of the kind of information posted on online platforms because in today’s world anything and everything can make you a target.

For the victims of bullying, recognizing that what the bully says is just their perception which does not have to be your reality. Surrounding yourself with people who realize your worth can help you develop into a wholesome individual, those bullies could never achieve, being the way they are. It is not necessary to always establish yourself as the alpha, being compassionate is what being human truly is. While the bully does not understand that, the victim definitely can. Overreacting and letting their behaviour affect you is a win for them and what keeps them going which is why never cross a line just because they do. Be above it all and realize that the way bullies behave is due to their limitations. Everyone has their limits and if all fails, going to the authorities is an ever-available option. Do not hesitate in reporting the bully when they turn criminal.

A Call to Action: Combating Bullying in the Cyber Era

A message to the bullies, be worthy of something before you decide to pick on someone just to satisfy your ego. It has been found in several studies that while the victims are the ones who are most gravely affected, engaging in bullying also impacts the offender. Bullies and bully/victims too face suicidal thoughts, are at an increased risk of criminal offences and psychopathy, they may also have trouble maintaining a job and have financial instability. It is no surprise really, because karma always hits back and it would do well for everyone to remember that.

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