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Cyberbullying: Causes, Effects, and Remedies

Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying that has been getting more attention as it becomes increasingly common.

In 2020, approx. 19% of children aged between 10-15 reported being victims of cyberbullying in the UK (That's one in five children).

Cyberbullying can take many forms including posting mean or embarrassing photos online, spreading rumors through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or sending threatening text messages or emails with attachments such as viruses.

The effects of these actions can be devastating for victims since they are often embarrassed by their peers and have no way to stop the harassment from happening again.

This can lead to depression, anxiety, and in some cases, suicide attempts and completion.

Causes of Cyberbullying:

The exact cause of cyberbullying is unknown but many think that the anonymity and permanence of the internet has played a large part in its spread.

People tend to feel more protected when they are online so they may be more likely to say things they wouldn't normally say if there were no repercussions, and the permanence and searchability of information online can make it difficult to remove anything offensive that is posted.

Some causes include:

  • Lack of parental supervision over children's Internet use or their computer activities (Nunes & Nowell, 2013) (Balfe & Li, 2004);
  • Lack of experience with the Internet and/or computers;
  • Racial, ethnic, or religious differences between the offender and victim;
  • Low self-esteem in both victims and bullies;
  • Lack of knowledge about appropriate online behavior. (Nunes & Nowell, 2013)  
  • Bullying is not directly caused by any one factor but rather a variety of risk factors coming together to increase the likelihood of bullying.  
  • There are many potential risk factors that may contribute to children becoming bullies or victims.  
  • Bullies are more likely to have friends who bully, be male, and have low grades in school (Nunes & Nowell, 2013). Victims tend to come from families characterized by dysfunction
  • Low self-esteem is also a risk factor for both bullies and victims.

Effects of Cyberbullying:

The effects of cyberbullying are similar to those experienced in physical bullying since they include depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-confidence, poor academic performance, and in some cases, even suicide.

The effects can be more severe for younger children who may not realize that the information posted online is permanent and doesn't go away with time.

They may also be less likely to find ways to stop cyberbullying because it is done through technology which they may feel is out of their control.

When cyberbullying involves the distribution of embarrassing or threatening photos, information about victims spreads to a much larger audience than physical bullying, making it potentially more devastating.

In some cases, the harassment may never stop especially if young people aren't educated on how to seek help and avoid becoming victims.  

A study by Craig and Pepler (1997) found that 27% of children who were bullied online reported bullying incidents happening more than once, while only 8% who were bullied in person said it happened more than once.  

This suggests that cyberbullying can have a much longer lasting effect on its victims especially if it continues over a long period of time.

Remedies:

The best way to prevent cyberbullying is to educate young people on how to use computers and the Internet responsibly.

This includes knowing what information should and shouldn't be shared, how to avoid communicating "headlessly" (using webcams or microphones without showing your face), and how to recognise and report online bullying.

Parents can also play a large role in preventing cyberbullying by setting up restrictions on the amount of time their child is allowed to be on the internet, checking websites they visit, and monitoring text messages sent from phones.

When students learn about safe practices for social media use at an early age, they are less likely to engage in cyberbullying in the future.

As a result, schools and educators should create programs that teach students about appropriate Internet behavior.  

In recent years, many organizations have also become involved in online safety and bullying prevention through educational programs and websites such as stopbullying.gov and kidsecure.com.  

Awareness campaigns have also been created to help raise awareness about cyberbullying and how it can be prevented.

Through education, increased awareness, and community programs, the negative effects of cyberbullying can be reduced while helping students develop friendships, learn social skills, and become responsible citizens in the digital world.  

Wrapping up:

Cyberbullying is a problem that affects many people, but it can be prevented through education and awareness.

If you or someone in your family has been the victim of cyberbullying before, make sure to educate yourself on how this form of bullying works so you know what to do if it happens again.  

There are now more resources available online than ever before for victims with advice on everything from prevention techniques to coping mechanisms when things get tough.

The hope is that cyberbullies will become less common as they learn about appropriate internet behavior in school programs, at home discussions, and by visiting websites like these where they may find help along the way (Nunes & Nowell).

The definition of cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person.

This can include text messages, emails, social media posts, and more. Cyberbullying can be just as harmful as traditional bullying. 

Cyberbullying can have a number of negative effects on victims, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicide. 

There are a few things that we can do to help prevent cyberbullying and mitigate its effects: talking to our kids about cyberbullying, reporting incidents when they occur, and creating safe online spaces for our children. 

We need to work together to create a culture where cyberbullying is not tolerated - let’s start by talking to our kids about what is and isn’t okay online...

We can all make a difference.

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