Cyberbullying is growing with technological advancements. The use of technology in different industries and functions is increasing in the society. Technology is similar to a two-edged sword because it has both benefits and drawbacks depending on how the community handles it. The information society offers an undefined scope and a sea of opportunities to the human society as far as identification, analysis, evaluation, and exchange of information is concerned. Proper use of these opportunities is for an individual as well as societal growth. However, there are those that use technology for malignant purposes. The use of technology with the intention of blackmailing, harassing, humiliating or causing any harm to another person is called cybercrime. Using computers and mobile phones to send unwanted sexual content is also a crime, and it falls under cyberbullying (Smith, 2002). The cost of cyberbullying and cybercrime is very high as the victims could lose their credibility, their reputation or even essential documents and sometimes suicide. Cyberbullying is increasing with the advancement in technology, and a change of policy is vital to stopping it.
The use of the internet is increasing in the contemporary society. In the United States today, over 90% of the citizens can access the internet or a mobile phone; this does make them not only targets of cybercrime but also potential perpetrators of cyberbullying. The society views the internet and technology as an essential aspect of their lives. Internet and mobile phones contribute to the highest cases of cyberbullying because most incidents are perpetrated through mobile phones and internet. The fact that these two, mobile phones and the internet, are the most significant communication systems makes it challenging to stop cyberbullying. Almost everybody, including teenagers, can afford a mobile phone today; this can be the reason why Cyberbullying is prevalent among the youths and teenagers (Smith et al., 2008). Among the teenagers, cases of cyberbullying include posting rumors about a person and sending threats to an individual; this can be done by creating a website aimed at humiliating the victim.
Creating a website is simple nowadays and so is the ease of using to humiliate another individual. In the modern world, people have access to all forms of information through Google and yahoo answers. If anyone wants to create a website, all they need to do is ask how to create a site and create one. By creating a website, one individual can harass or torment another through social media without their identity being revealed. These websites have fake names and fake or no profile pictures. The information on these sites is also false; this gives the perpetrator an opportunity to bully their victim without exposing their identity (Smith et al., 2008). These websites, when integrated with the social media pages, can cause untold suffering to an individual.
Social media websites lead in cases of cyberbullying. There are various social media sites available to the public today. They include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Ask.fm among others.Facebook is the most significant social media site in the world today with over a billion users all over the globe (Patching, 2017). Despite its decline in popularity among the teenagers today, millions of people still use it. Facebook users post pictures, and comments on their profiles and the bullying crime happen when one individual comment these photos using vulgar or abusive language. When teens post pictures or write their stories on their walls, they expect positive comments but, with cyberbullying, they end up receiving the opposite of their expectations. Another trick used by the perpetrators is whereby they create a social media account or website impersonating their victims with the aim of causing harm and humiliating them.
A recent case of social media bullying involved a 16-year-old Amanda in 2012. This story is about a pervert who asked for a flash of Amanda’s breast as they were talking through the webcam this incident happened when she was in the seventh grade. After sometimes, the same pervert wanted her to perform a live sex show and threatened to expose her topless photo. It turned out that the pervert had screen-shot their previous conversation. When she refused, the man sent the naked picture of Amanda to everybody on Facebook. The people in school and friends started ridiculing her which forced her to change schools. Nonetheless, the man stalked her to her new school and opened another Facebook account impersonating her. He used her topless photo as the profile picture and used to post her naked pictures. Students from the new school taunted her which frustrated and stressed her to the extent of developing a self-mutilation habit. Upon realizing this, her father took her to another school where she was tracked down and beaten by bullies of one of her former school (Goad, 2015). This case is just one of the many examples of what teenagers are going through as a result of cyberbullying.
Other than the creation of website and Facebook pages, sexting is another form of cyberbullying used in the society. Sexting is the electronic exchange of sexual content such as explicit pictures and information from one person to another. It becomes a crime when either of the parties is not interested in the pictures. According to research, one out of every seventeen-year-old American student has sent or received an explicit photo. However, this trend is common among male teenagers whereby 19.6% of them report having received an explicit picture while 14.2% admit to sending (Patching, 2017). These stats change when it comes to females with 17.7% of the interviewed ones reporting to have received an explicit picture while 10.0% admitted to sending such a picture.
According to these stats, exchanging explicit pictures either through emails, messages or even WhatsApp is a common problem among the teenagers. However, people also receive unwanted explicit photos through the same means. When it is done in repeatedly, it becomes a crime (Patching, 2017). Also, sending these pictures to another person can come to hurt an individual as it was the case with Amanda. Mostly, the perpetrators blackmail their victims into doing them favors or other illegal issues and threaten to expose these pictures if they refuse.
Costs and effects of Cyberbullying can be detrimental to any individual or victim. Various people have reportedly lost their loved ones due to shame caused by cyberbullying. Victims of this crime are humiliated, get detached and often commit suicide as a result of the frustration because the ridicules directed to them wear them down. For example, Megan took her own life in her room as a result of cybercrime. She was a 13-year-old girl from Missouri. An 18-year-old boy who pretended to be from her neighborhood tricked her into falling in love with her through her account in “MySpace.” MySpace is a social networking site where teenagers meet and grow relationships with each other (Thelwall, 2008). When the two met, Megan was tricked into believing that they were having a meaningful relationship only to realize it was a hoax aimed at getting back at her for fighting with her friend (Goad, 2015). The boy, Josh, was just a title used by her bullies to torment her. Upon revealing the hoax, she lacked the strength of dealing with the situation and took her life because of humiliation as her friends kept taunting and mocking her.
The government needs to protect the citizens and teenagers from the effects of cyberbullying and cybercrime in general. There are many consequences and effects if cybercrime and cyberbullying, but the worst is suicide. The public needs to be protected against such immoral behaviors as they affect their concentration in school and their day to day life. Through coming up with laws and policies regulating the use of social media, internet and other electronic modes of communication, the government will prevent more deaths and school dropout cases brought by humiliation (Smith, 2002). The public needs to know that this is a crime and there is a punishment for it. However, this process is not simple as people have different perspectives when it comes to this issue. Some argue that the threat of cyberbullying is not real as nothing is real on the internet or cyberspace. On the other hand, most adults and parents agree that cyber-bullying is the cause of humiliation, depression, social anxiety and suicide cases reported among the teenagers (Smith et al., 2008). Therefore, it becomes difficult to agree on anything as far as cyber-bullying is concerned. Nonetheless, for the sake of protecting everyone, laws, and regulations controlling this menace need to be put in place.
Most countries do not have proper laws and regulations regarding cyber-bullying (Smith, 2002). The fact that it is close to impossible to track a social media user whose identities are fake or missing is the reason for this scenario. However, lawmakers from various states have made efforts of passing legislation that illegalizes and criminalizes cyber-bullying and other cyber actions that cause emotional torture. Texas and Georgia have already passed laws that criminalize cyberspace crimes such as personification someone else on the internet. Social media users using other people’s profile pictures need to be charged and punished for their behavior. Also, states such as Missouri, New York, and Maryland among others have introduced legislation that is aimed at penalizing internet bullying and cyber-bullying. In the year 2007, over seven states passed laws against cyber-bullying. Mostly, this was after the reported cases of suicides and deaths due to humiliation and emotional stress caused by cyberbullying.
More states are slowly picking up the pace and have introduced laws and bills aimed at fighting this crime. For instance, Missouri’s Dardenne Prairie of Springfield passed a law which was focused on treating internet bullying as an offense. Also, the city of St. Charles of Missouri has also adopted a similar act. Currently, a bill aimed at covering all forms of cyber-bullying in the kind of computer, phones, messages and other electronic forms of communication has been given final approval. The steps taken by these states need to be emulated in the entire country as justice will be served to victims and parents of the victims of cyberbullying. Also, schools need to take measures that prevent students from harassing others by the use of internet or social media (Smith, 2002). Students caught with such issues need to be expelled immediately. Internet education programs should also be introduced in schools as they protect the teenagers from being victims of cyber-bullying.
In conclusion, Cyberbullying is increasing with the advancement in technology, and a change of policy and laws is essential in stopping it.The use of technology with the intention of blackmailing, harassing, humiliating or causing any harm to another person is called cybercrime. The fact that over 90% of the United States citizens can access a mobile phone and internet makes them both potential victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is prevalent among the teenagers with various cases of personification, harassment, and blackmailing being reported. These cases lead to indescribable mental suffering, stress, and depression which lead to suicidal thoughts and in some cases suicide. Various states have made steps towards preventing this menace and have come up with laws and legislation that treat cyber-bullying as a misdemeanor. This practice should be copied in the entire country and the globe as it gives hope to the victims of such practices. Also, learning institutions should come up with policies that prevent students from all forms of cyber-bullying. No person should go through cyber-bullying, and all cases regarding the same should be reported to the relevant authorities for further actions.
- Goad, J. (2015). 15 teen bullying cases with tragic ends. Article from though catalog. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/jim-goad/2015/04/15-teen-bullying-cases/
- Patching, J. (2017). New teen sexting data. Article from the cyber-bullying research center. Retrieved from https://cyberbullying.org/new-teen-sexting-data
- Smith, G., (2002). Internet law and regulation. 3rd edition. Sweet and Maxwell, London.
- Smith, P, Mahdavi, J, Manuel C, Sonja F, Shannet, R and Neil T. (2008). Cyber-bullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 49 (4): 376-385.
- Thelwall, M. (2008). Social networks, gender, and friending: an analysis of MySpace member profiles. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59, 1321-1330.