Cyberbullying has many definitions. The broad definition of cyberbullies is the use of communication technology to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behavior intended to harm others.
A more comprehensive definition is harassing, threatening, or humiliating another person or group through electronic means such as email, texting, chat rooms, or by using social networking sites.
As our technology has advanced, so have the opportunities for this technology to be misused. Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying in that traditional bullying usually consists of physical or verbal torment.
While cyberbullying does not cause physical harm, research shows the damage can be much worse.
Cyberbullying facts are disturbing. Victims of cyberbullying are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who have not experienced cyberbullying. But new technology allows these bullies to inflict emotional harm at an alarming rate.
A 2008 study of children in grades 4-8 found that 42% had been bullied while online and that one in four had it happen more than once.
When asked to rate how this made them feel, the most common answers were: anxious, angry, frustrated, sad, embarrassed, and scared. The cyberbullying facts from the perspective of the bully are markedly different. A recent study showed that 81% of responses indicated that nearly all cyberbullies think it’s no big deal.
They don’t consider the consequences, are often encouraged by their friends and don’t really believe they will get caught. Since there is no physical harm, most cyberbullies are convinced that in the event they do get caught, there will be little or no punishment.
That may soon change. Currently, 47 states have some type of legislation regarding cyberbullying prevention. These laws vary from state to state in what defines electronic harassment and bullying.
There are variations in punishment as well. This ranges all the way from school suspension or expulsion to a fine and/or jail time depending on the state, the degree of bullying, and the bully’s repeat offender status.
Statistics of Cyberbullies
In an age where all things are transitioning to online, cyberbully is becoming a major concern for parents and legislators who seek to protect the nation’s children online.
Instances of cyberbullying are increasing; in February 2020, the Cyberbullying Research Center surveyed nearly 4500 students aged 10 to 18 years in the southern United States. The following results about cyberbullying were gained from the study:
Cyber Bullying Statistics for Victims:
- At least 20 percent of students have been cyberbullying in their lifetime with seven and a half percent stating they had been bullied online in the past 30 days.
- 13 to 14 percent of those surveyed were the victim of rumors or mean and hurtful comments online.
- Just over 15 percent of students surveyed had been threatened either through a cell phone text message or online.
- 17 percent of those surveyed stated they had been cyberbullied more than once in the past 30 days.
Cyber Bullying Statistics for Offenders:
- In the same survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly 20 percent of 10-18-year-old students admitted to cyberbullying others in their lifetime.
- Eight percent of students admitted to cyberbullying in the last 30 days with 11 percent admitting they had taken part in various forms of cyberbullying on multiple occasions.
- This study openly revealed students who admitted to spreading rumors, making threats, creating victimizing web pages about peers and posting mean or hurtful images and videos of fellow students online.
Technology is making it effortless for young teens to have access to the Internet without any precaution. Consumer Reports state that at least 7.5 million Facebook users in the United States are under the age of 13.
The report surveyed parents’ knowledge of whether their child had a Facebook account. For this reason, legislators suspect the number of child-users on Facebook is even higher as some children may be hiding their accounts from parents.
If parents are unaware of how their children are being exposed to harassment today, there is little they can do to stop it for tomorrow.
Cyber Bullying Laws
Cyberbullying laws are being created to make this destructive activity illegal. As of June 2011 in the US, thirty states have passed bullying laws where cyberbullying was included.
In Wisconsin for example, it is a misdemeanor to threaten or to harm an individual via e-mail or other electronic devices and computerized systems. Laws against cyberbullying are yet to convict an individual.
There is no uniformity of cyberbully definition since each state is left to create their own. The National Crime Prevention Council states that nearly 50% of US teenagers have been influenced by cyberbullying.
Schools are required and have needed to create a cyberbullying policy since social networking websites have gained in popularity. School administrators lament the lack of resources, funding or framework to properly do this.
Current cyberbullying laws leave teachers vulnerable to lawsuits whether they take action or not against cyberbullies as there is no clearly defined precedent.
Schools require a direction from state legislators and Education Departments to draft policies that will hold up in court. Disagreement currently prevails about what the policies should say.
Most states are concerned about infringing upon the First Amendment. Some states have chosen to get proactive. New Hampshire’s bullying law includes bullying that occurs off of the school campus. Broward County schools have a specifically defined 12-page anti-bullying policy.
Citizens need to lobby lawmakers to pass specific laws against cyberbullies. Clear definitions and legal repercussions must be outlined.
Most parents won’t admit their children are cyberbullies or even the children who are victims are reluctant to tell their parents that they are being cyberbullied. Kids often do not realize they are doing this or that it’s happening.
Parents need to better monitor what their children do online since some social sites attract vulnerable teens and encourage online bullying.
Cyberbullies choose to bully others as an escape mechanism to release anger, frustration, and fear. The Internet and electronic devices like cell phones offer a powerful opportunity to take bullying to another level. Cyberbullies are growing at an alarming rate and at it’s most devastating can result in suicide.
The ease of anonymity provides the cyberbully more self-confidence to increase their vicious attacks. As of June 2010, research indicates about 20% of teens in the US have experienced cyberbullying. Adolescent girls are the predominant demographic of which cyberbullying occurs
Parents and school officials are just now beginning to realize how important it is to be vigilant against Cyberbullies.
They are beginning to educate young people on the consequences so that hopefully, they will not choose to be a bully. They are also educating them on how to deal with and stop cyberbullying if they are ever to fall victim to it.