In an era where the internet and social technology are as close to our fingertips as the next meal and where access to the internet is practically a household need, it is unfortunate that cyberbullying is on the rise and abuse via the internet is becoming all too common.
When the word ‘Bully’ arises many may cast their minds to a child throwing their weight around in the playground, and whilst this kind of bullying is still a major problem for schools throughout the UK; the rate of people being bullied via cyber space is rising fast. Not to mention the torrential abuse you can find all too easily on Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and the like. Anyone who is in the public eye, who has said anything that could warrant an opposing opinion, a picture or a status and so on, could attract hateful messages. And not just from one person, hundreds. From inane ‘trolling’ to blatant harassment, it really needs to stop.
So why? Why is it so easy to harass a person through the internet and yet many would not dare to do this in a face-to-face situation? On the street, most people understand that it is unacceptable to act this way, not only is it downright awful, there are consequences such as being arrested or being stood up to. Yet, through the internet, it seems that it is a whole lot easier to get away with such behaviour.
The internet is such a great place for so many reasons; including the connection of people from all over the world. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter were created for this very purpose. Yet, it seems that these sites are so easily transformed into an instant access hate mail site. It’s a shame in an era where technology, academia and science is developing at an accelerated pace, that these revolutionary platforms are being used for such uncivilised spite. The sheer amount of times I have seen someone telling another to ‘die’ or threatening their family or throwing out hurtful names is horrific and far too common.
Arguably, the inconsequential nature of abuse on the internet is allowing more and more children and adults to become unsympathetic and detached. It is becoming far too easy to send out hateful messages with no repercussions and believe that because it is via the internet, it isn’t the same as bulling. It’s becoming far too normal to post hatefully about someone, or to comment in a foul manner. How can we expect to stop our children from abusing each other via cyber space, when so many adults all too easily take up this mantle?
Children and adults alike are relying more and more on technology to communicate and debatably, the ease of typing hurtful comments is infectious. Many have argued that this is lessening the use of social skills and the ability to separate oneself from another’s feelings is becoming easier. When one insults another in a face-to-face situation, they normally have to physically see the hurt, upset or annoyance in the other’s face. They have to experience the consequences of having made that person hurt, whether that be guilt or being reprimanded by another. Naturally, this is how many learn to empathise and develop an ability to decipher between right and wrong.
Of course, this is not to say that without cyber communication there would be no bullies and everyone would act in a kind way, no. But even some bullies on the playground question, when no one else is there to laugh with them, is this really fun? Or do the tears in another’s eyes really make me feel good? Or perhaps as they mature they see that this is just not an acceptable way to act. Yet through the internet, a screen protects you from having any sort of moral backlash, one can just send out their thoughts into cyber space, close their laptops and be done. They don’t see the pain caused on the other side.
Many articles have been written, to raise awareness and tackle cyberbullying, outlining the statistics and the damage that it causes. Earlier this year the Guardian reported that Childline had seen an 87 per cent rise in cyberbullying cases in 2012-2013 alone. In 2012, it was thought that one in ten children commit suicide due to cyberbullying, and 20 per cent contemplate it. I don’t think I need to point out how awful this is.
On a social network site, a public post can be seen by a large amount of people in seconds, which could and does, invite others to jump on the bandwagon and mistreat the seemingly easy target. The abuse left for the world to see, could even suggest to others that this is an acceptable way to behave online and encourage them to act in the same way in the future. Or is it easier for an onlooker to close their laptop and ignore the abuse than step in to defend someone? Not to mention the fact that online, many bullies can create fake profiles or hide their identity. Thus any attempt to reprimand the bully is prevented completely. The internet is faceless and easy. Is the misuse of the internet not only mentally scarring but helping create an introverted and desensitised population?
So if you see or know of anyone being bullied online, please help them escape it. Or perhaps if someone you know is ‘joking’ around typing hurtful comments and you think it could be perceived otherwise, please point it out to them. Or even, something as small as putting down your phone or laptop and having a conversation that isn’t typed, may inspire others to do the same.
Let’s take back this great connecting platform from the hands of harassment.