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Cyberbullying and youth

Published: 
Friday, March 13, 2015

Part 1 

In a society that is grappling with the ramifications of the rapid pace of technological advancement, Cyberbullying has emerged as a serious issue for the youth and education sectors. Cyberbullying can be considered a relatively new phenomenon though youths have been bullying their peers for generations through varying forms (eg: verbally—name-calling, teasing, threats; physically—punching, tripping, kicking; socially—leaving out, ignoring, spreading rumours; psychologically—giving dirty looks, bad-eye or cut-eye, or being stalked.) The latest generations of youths have been able to bully others using new technologies. 

Cyberbullying is the label that refers to a person being willfully and repeatedly harmed, tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another person through using information, communicative and electronic/digital technologies such as the Internet and mobile devices. 

It predominantly occurs via the Internet through e-mails, blogs, posts, videos on social media Web sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc) and interactive devices (mobiles) through text messages and instant messaging. These are used to aggressively and intentionally harm someone. 

Cyberbullying transpires when three components intersect: teenagers, technology and trouble. This perfect storm manifests into the willful, repeated harm inflicted on a person using computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Cyberbullying, an old problem in a new guise, is a serious issue in T&T and is rapidly becoming an epidemic in more subtle and prevailing forms within the nation’s schools. 

The cyber world is part of the real world and cannot be viewed separate and apart as bullies possess similar motives for their deliberate and hostile behaviour that are multiple and complex. They intentionally inflict harm and put fear into others under the cloak of anonymity as cyberbullying is covert in nature. 

These cyberbullies have the need to feel empowered, popular, superior or are being socially pressured by their social colleagues or have been victims of bullying themselves. Likewise, for other cyberbullies, their motives may differ; some are often motivated by anger, revenge or frustration, others do it to defend themselves or torment others. Some even bully others for entertainment or may have done it by accident without considering the consequences. 

Cyberbullies deliberately harm others by name-calling, making angry/vulgar/abusive comments, sending/posting cruel/insulting messages, spreading rumours/threats, posting rude or upsetting images, revealing secrets or embarrassing information, intentionally ignoring/excluding someone, or engaging in online impersonation—pretending to be someone else to damage the reputation of someone by stealing their password.

The benefits of technology in education are undeniable and supersede their vulnerabilities to cyber attacks. As a result, bullies are aware that cyberbullying, because of its covert nature, can be difficult to detect. Nevertheless, parents and teachers need to look out for any overt changes in a child’s behaviour which may give some clues that the child is being bullied. 

These signs may include: unusual reduction in socialising with friends/family, avoidance of school, dropping out of recreational activities, sudden aversion to using Internet or mobile devices, nervous when messages/e-mails are received, change in sleeping patterns, abnormal nail-biting or exhibiting self-harming behaviour or sudden change in mood and actions. 

Do you remember in traditional days, the old school yard adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words alone will never harm hurt me?” In this technological world, the statement sounds a little antiquated because the child on the receiving end is affected by the cruel words or name-calling. 

The child today, as a result of being cyber-bullied, may become paranoid, embarrassed, trapped, frustrated, distracted, experience depression, sadness, anger, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, loss in confidence—all of which can propel him or her to participate in deviant behaviour, use of illegal substances including alcohol or have thoughts of suicide that can further negatively affect family, peers, school and the community as a whole. 

Cyberbullying has the potential to involve public humiliation and embarrassment across a wide viral audience that is enduring in nature. The bullying behaviour can be invasive as the bully can infiltrate the victim’s home and privacy through the use of communicative technologies. 

Since cyberbullies are physically distant from his/her victim, they are sheltered from their target’s response. They fail to realise the seriousness of the harm they are deliberately instigating. The negative psychological effects can be long-term resulting in poorer functioning in the child’s social and occupational roles, decrease in academic achievement due to lack of concentration or being in class with bullies, increase in truancy actions to avoid the bullies, poorer mental/emotional health, and self-harming/suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Next week, we will deal with solutions to cyberbullying, and more specifically, what should parents, schools and students do. 

• The Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety offers a wide range of short training programmes for teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, law enforcement, security personnel and other public safety officers in almost 100 subject areas. These are done at its scheduled classes or in-house at organizations. Contact us at 223-6999, [email protected] or www.caribbeansecurityinstitute.com.

Stacy Ramdhan MSc
Guest Writer, CISPS

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