Cyberbullying has been linked to various physical and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, suicide, drug abuse, and other substantial consequences. Quality detailing of cyberbullying prevalence is significant in the development of evidence-based policy and aversion strategies. The purpose of this informative essay is to detail the quality and reported incidences of cyberbullying in the United States, particularly focusing on high school and college students. Searches of peer-reviewed articles and journals on the topic have been conducted. An in-depth analysis of previous cases, statistical information, cases before the court, and news articles was conducted to comprehend the problem entirely and to find precautionary methods that could be undertaken. This article highlights a background situation on cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevalence in the U.S., cyberbullying effects on the victims, current legal policies and endeavors, and the preventative steps concerning cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is perceived as a severe health hazard in the United States and can be seen as an advanced form of peer-based animosity. Advancements in technology have altogether expanded teenagers' utilization of the internet, online communication channels, and social media platforms, for example, Twitter and Facebook. Due to the uprise in cyberbullying instances, legislators have created laws and criminal sanctions for offenders. Cyberbullying can have a negative effect on its victims and while the act is starting to be heavily regulated, the best solution is prevention.
As stated by Marcum (2017), cyberbullying is characterized as 'persistent and deliberate damage perpetrated using personal computers, mobile phones, or other electronic gadgets.' Descriptions and the types of cyberbullying vary; however, some popular forms include badgering, stalking, flaming, impersonation, outing, phishing, and exclusion. Using digital technology, the culprit can send or post embarrassing or compromising statements or pictures of the person in question (the target person), to another person, or to an open discussion such as a public forum where numerous online participants visit. Cyberbullies utilize various sorts of electronic mediums to oppress their victims. These mediums may incorporate text messages, websites, email, blogs, social media platforms, public forums, and chat rooms (Notar, Padgett & Roden, 2013).
Unlike real-life harassment or bullying, cyberbullying exploits the obscurity of digital platforms, and also the likelihood of immediately spreading rumors, gossip, photographs, or other personal data, whether real or false, with the purpose of embarrassing, harming, or slandering a potential target. This happens at an alarmingly faster rate among kids and adolescents and, usually, is done by their peers. Common forms or types of cyberbullying that target high school and college students in the United States consist of spreading rumors over the internet, commenting mean or insensitive remarks on social media accounts, being blackmailed online, as well as being embarrassed through a mobile phone text (Notar, 2013). Ridiculing other individuals online, calling somebody fat, or ugly, or mocking their physical looks using online platforms are examples of cyberbullying activities.
As indicated by Reed (2019), 92% of U.S. kids and youth report going on the web every day, and 71% utilize at least one social media platform, which intensifies their introduction to cyberbullying. As indicated by Wright (2019) around 30% of students learning in public schools across the United States revealed being cyberbullied in 2018. In the United States, where an ever-increasing number of kids access digital ways of communication at a tender age, cyberbullying has become a typical subject. In April 2019, more than 33% of middle and high school learners in the United States expressed that they have at least once been victims of cyberbullying (Reed, 2019). In many cases of web-based harassment, the offenders are in a similar age group as their victim and, most times, a schoolmate or neighbor. As a result, some cyberbullying cases may not be reported.
Effects on Cyberbullying Victims
There are very many negative effects of cyberbullying. The results of cyberbullying can include a drop in academic performance, dropping out of school, physical violence, and sometimes suicide. Suicide is a negative effect frequently experienced in adult victims (Novak, & El-Burki, 2016). As per Wright (2019), cyberbullying is associated with severe consequences, such as low self-esteem, family problems, violence, academic problems, and criminal behavior.
Nevertheless, the most exceedingly horrible outcomes are suicide and violence. While cyberbullying has similar negative effects when compared to real-life bullying, it is conducted mostly without any physical contact or knowledge of the offender's identity (Cavell-Clarke, 2018). These instances go well past the extent of real-life cyberbullying since unlike real-life bullying, cyberbullying can occur anywhere like school, at home, and any other place so long as technology is available (Cavell-Clarke, 2018). Various studies have suggested that even though it might happen less often than traditional bullying, up to 75% of students in the U.S. have encountered cyberbullying (Barlett, 2019). For that reason, there is a need for further research to acquire a conceptualized view of the number of students across the U.S. and worldwide who have encountered cyberbullying.
Due to their tricky nature and the constant harm, such harassment may dispense, cyberbullying is listed among the most crucial online security topics for both online youngsters and their folks. Cyberbullying is, without a doubt, one of the most examined subjects with respect to social media threats, as indicated by guardians in the United States. In 2018, 30 percent of guardians in the United States reported that their kid was a victim of cyberbullying. Most guardians globally know that social media, mobile phones, and web-based chat rooms are platforms for cyberbullying youngsters (Wright, 2019).
There have been several profoundly publicized suicide cases in which children and youth affected by social media threats, online blackmail, or hurtful rumors spread about them over the internet chose to commit suicide. These cases have led to the enactment of laws in the United States, which purpose is to discourage culprits and to protect victims of such acts. As of November 2018, at least 48 states in the U.S. had passed state cyberbullying laws, and 45 states have incorporated criminal sanctions for cyberbullying (Wright, 2019). Many state laws likewise centered around sexting, that is, the act of sending, receiving, or forwarding images or recordings with explicit sexual content. Even though the sender or receiver wished for this content to be private, the advancement of digital technology can lead these photos or recordings to spread to a broader public, particularly when, for instance, revengeful ex-accomplices spread these pictures on the web. This online behavior is known as revenge porn. As of October 2019, 26 states in the United States had sexting laws, and nine unequivocally incorporated the word sexting. A sum of 42 states has revenge porn laws (Tunick, 2019).
Michelle Carter case
This is one of the recent cyberbullying cases that involved a young teenage girl known as Michelle Carter The case of a former Boston College student charged in a Massachusetts court after she was linked to her boyfriend's death bears conspicuous similarities to one of the most fascinating criminal legal proceedings over last few years. The said case is that of Michelle Carter's texting suicide case. According to the prosecutors, the 21-year-old girl was accused of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide. The case relied on extensive text message evidence. In February 2019, Michelle was found guilty of Roy's (her boyfriend’s) death and sentenced to involuntary manslaughter (Tunick, 2019).
There have been varied sorts of programs carried out in the United States to combat cyberbullying apart from the laws and policies laid out by both the federal and state governments. Preventive measures have been extended to incorporate educative talks, software programs, and student cyberbullying campaigns to understand the destructive outcomes of cyberbullying. Counteractive programs are currently being created and assessed to address cyberbullying and cyber security problems among children and youths (Wright, 2019). Websites, various research, and other online forums may be the places guardians, and educators are receiving data about how to best safeguard their kids. Nevertheless, these online assets are frequently sponsored by associations that are marketing their products and are infrequently proof-based. Therefore, parents, educators, and school directors ought to be wary when exploring data at these websites and should concentrate on the resources and methods that are produced by the federal organizations and advocacy organizations that utilize research to come up with cyberbullying preventive measures and recommendations.
As a part of my research, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Almonacy, a senior that currently attends Southern New Hampshire University. Michael inquired that he had been a member of social media accounts since he was 12 years old. He stated, “When I was in middle school, it was the norm for kids of my age to be actively involved on Facebook and Twitter. I remember I had to lie on the Facebook user agreement about my age and had to create a fake email as well.” (Almonacy 2019). Michael shared firsthand accounts he had experienced at a young age. Certain instances included his peers creating fake pages of his classmates for the main purpose of making fun of the individual. He recalled one page that was made that involved a special needs classmate of his, whom he was particularly close with. “ Devon was like a manager to our middle school basketball team as even though he couldn’t play due to his disability, he would still help out with the team”, Michael stated. “There was a fake Facebook page going around posting unflattering pictures of Devon and was blatantly making fun of his disability.”(Almonacy, 2019). Michael claims he and his teammates notified their coach, and with the help of school administrators, got the page removed and were able to identify the person who created it. Michael reassured me that these real-life instances do occur and with the explosion of social media over the years, matters are only getting worse.
Cyberbullying is a current problem within today’s society and has especially been enhanced due to the technological enhancements of the last 20 years. This epidemic can affect people of all ages but is specifically prominent among today’s youth. Due to many heavily publicized cyberbullying cases that have led to suicide, states have started to recognize the issue and have implemented laws and incorporated sanctions for these cases. Though, special cases such as the Michelle Carter case has assured legislators that there are different levels to cyberbullying. There is no set-in-stone solution to cyberbullying, which means the best solution is prevention and educating online users, especially adolescents, about cyberbullying and the different forms it comes in. A way to increase awareness could be implementing a program much like the D.A.R.E program that many teens have been through. The program would start at an early age as kids today have access to technology earlier than ever. Programs like this could help combat the epidemic of cyberbullying and allow kids to understand the repercussions of their actions while online.
- Barlett, C. P. (2019). Predicting cyberbullying: Research, theory, and intervention.
- Cavell-Clarke, S. (2018). Cyberbullying.
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- Marcum, C. (2017). Cyberbullying.
- Notar, C. E., Padgett, S., & Roden, J. (2013). Cyberbullying: Resources for Intervention and Prevention.Universal Journal of Educational Research, 1(3), 133-145.
- Reed, T. V. (2019). Digitized lives: Culture, power, and social change in the internet era.
- Staff, T. N. Y. T. E. (2018). Cyberbullying: A Deadly Trend. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.
- Tunick, M. (2019). Texting, suicide, and the law: The case against punishing Michelle Carter.
- Wright, M. F. (January 01, 2019). Cyberbullying.
- Almonacy, M. (2019, November 5). Personal interview.