FEATURES: Cyberbullying Among Teens Continues To Rise

(Photo courtesy kernhigh.org)

(Photo courtesy kernhigh.org)

By Arielle Eighmy – Staff Reporter

Amanda Todd, born in British Columbia in 1996, was very happy and easy-going person until  an anonymous person on Facebook convinced her to flash her topless body to him. A year later, the anonymous person posted the photo on the internet for everyone to see. This caused a string of bullying, harassment, and tormenting to the point that Amanda had to change schools several times. Her reputation was ruined, she had no friends, she was beaten up by some classmates, she even tried drinking bleach but was saved at the last minute.

Months later, Amanda Todd took her own life. The hate still went on even after her death. The authorities couldn’t find the suspect of all this harassment because they weren’t of interest in the case.

Cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide. Many teens suffer from this and you can prevent this from happening by getting people involved that you trust and let them know what’s going on.

Cyberbullying takes many forms such as sending mean threats online, posting harmful messages or posts, spreading rumors, sexting or stealing someone’s account. Over 25 percent of adolescents have been bullied repeatedly over the internet or using cell phones.

The most common types of cyberbullying is spreading rumors or sending/posting mean and hurtful posts or comments. The bullies believe this to be funny and posting or sending inappropriate things can harm them when they want to go to college or pursue a job. Whatever you post or send will stay there forever.

The most common locations for cyberbullies are in chat rooms, in e-mails, and on social networking sites. The sad part is that only one in 10 teens tell their parents about being a cyberbully victim. There is a correlation between how much time teens spend on social media networks and the likelihood that they will be bullied.

Being bullied can make people feel helpless, lonely, and cause problems at home. People who bully others do this to feel in control over the person and could be because they are having issues themselves and feel the need to take it out on someone who seems weaker than them.  It is important that the parents of both children know what is going on and try stop what is going on.

It is good for the victim of cyberbullying to not respond to hateful texts or posts, save all evidence that someone is harassing and giving you a hard time. Also if the school gets involved then it can put a stop to the bullying and this can help others come forward and talk about what is going on. Unfortunately, 58 percent of teens do not tell their parents about being harassed online and suffer since they don’t tell anyone. Some people believe bullying is just a part of growing up but this is intentional and extremely mean. The consequences are unbearable for the victim and can cause anxiety and depression.

Cyberbullying is growing more dangerous and malicious. Students have been becoming more aware of the threats made online, spread rumors or scandalous pictures. Cyberlaw expert Parry Aftab was honored by Congress in 2005 because of her cyber safety.

“In high school, they don’t call it cyber bullying at all,” Aftab said. “They call it digital drama, they call it life. They don’t want to call it bullying because they think it makes them look weak.”

Most times schools are busy dealing with in school bullying rather than internet bullying.

“Schools can work to set some policies and behavioral expectations, but it’s nearly impossible for school administrators to police the internet,” Kenneth Trump, a school safety expert and president of National School Safety and Security Services said.

Bills have been brought to Congress about cyberbullying, but unfortunately, Aftab said, lawmakers have failed to find the right definition.

“I’ve been doing this over the past 16 years,” Aftab said “But I’m losing this battle.”

Teens tend to create more of issue by continuing to send hurtful messages or inappropriate pictures.  Teens should not send the pictures or harmful comments to more people because this just creates a bigger problem.

“If a child receives a photo circulated through social media there are many things that he or she can do. Perhaps the most important thing is to let someone know and not be part of the problem, but part of the solution,” Debra Pepler, scientific co-director of PREVNet, a national authority on research and resources for bullying prevention said.

The summer after Tyler Clementi’s high school graduation , he started to share with people that he was gay. Clementi attended Rutgers University, and he had a roommate named Dharun Ravi, who decided to take a video of Clementi kissing another man. This video was shared among many people. Clementi found out that others teens were criticizing him over Twitter. On September 22, 2010, Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Almost a week after his suicide, his roommate was charged with invasion of privacy.

Ryan Halligan was a bright kid who developed speech language and motor skills from preschool to fourth grade. He started receiving help from education services. Ryan’s struggles and hardships through school made him an easy target for kids to pick on him. In February of 2003, Ryan and a bully had a dispute which then ended with what seemed to be like a true friendship between the two children. Unfortunately,  Ryan had shared personal information with his supposed friend who soon let out a rumor that Ryan was gay. The bullying continued during the summer of 2003.

Ryan thought he had finally became good friends with a very pretty and popular young girl, through instant messaging. The girl made Ryan think that she liked him which led to him sharing more personal information which was copied and pasted to all of her friends. On October 7, 2003, Ryan Halligan committed suicide. Shortly after his death, John, Ryan’s father found all of the messages between the girl during the summer.

Approximately half of all young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20% experience it regularly. The most common type of cyber bullying is mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors. Girls are as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims.

Kids who are bullied may start struggling at school,they will receive poor grades, have low self esteem, use alcohol or drugs and even drop out.

Interestingly enough, kids that were bullied when they were younger had three times more suicidal thoughts than other adults. People who are bullied begin to have increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities that the person enjoys.

95% of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior on social networking sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior; 55% witness this frequently.

Bullying is becoming more common over texting and about 90% of students see the online cruelty and ignore this behavior.

Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl, was a victim of cyberbullying and as a result of that, she committed suicide just weeks before her 14th birthday. Megan dealt with ADD, depression and issues concerning her weight. Sixteen-year-old Josh Evans wanted to be friends with Megan on a social networking site, MySpace. They communicated all the time but never spoke in person. Soon enough, Josh decided he didn’t want to be friends anymore and then began saying cruel things to her such as ,“The world would be a better place without you.”

The bullying grew as more kids on the internet started taunting her, too. After Megan’s death, Tina Meier founded the nonprofit Megan Meier Foundation. Later that fall, Tina was informed that an old friend of Megan was impersonating “Josh Evans,” and saying all those things to her over MySpace.

(Some information courtesy nobullying.com, bullyingstatistics.org, guardchild.com, stopbullying.gov, netsmartz.org, usnews.com, globalnews.ca, nobullying.com, cyberbullying.org)



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