The impact of bullying can have a long-lasting and adverse impact on an individual’s physical health, mental health, relationships, ability to trust, and educational and career opportunities. In the U.S., the rates of bullying have increased self-harming behaviors and suicide attempts. If you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Cyberbullying uses technology, such as text messaging, communication apps, social media, forums, email, to send, share, or post negative, harmful, or threatening content. Cyberbullying is repetitive and can involve making threats, verbal or emotional abuse, and public shaming and humiliation. Cyberbullying is different from bullying in that the victim may have a hard time escaping from the abuse, which might otherwise be confined to school or public settings. In addition, cyberbullying can involve not just a handful of observers, but thousands or even millions of observers, which can magnify the negative impact.
Different forms of cyberbullying, according to Accredited School Online, include impersonation or fraping, which involves someone gaining access to a victim’s social media account, impersonating the person and posting harmful or inappropriate content; cyberstalking, which is using technology to harass or threaten someone; flaming, which is posting harmful or derogatory comments on someone’s social media; outing, which is sharing someone’s private information online; harassment, which is sending constant abusive messages online privately or publicly; trolling, which is trying to provoke someone or trying to incite anger; trickery, which typically involves befriending someone to gain and reveal private information; catfishing, which involves pretending to be someone else and using another person’s identity; denigration, which is posting rumors and gossip to ruin someone’s reputation; and excluding, which is taking someone out of online events, conversations, or groups.
Several powerful stories in Big Tech Tyrants illustrate the real-world impact of cyberbullying. A young teenager hung herself after nine teenagers stalked and harassed her for months, bullying her at school and on social media. The online bullies faced criminal charges. Another university student jumped off a bridge after a private moment of him kissing another man is posted online in a taunting and harmful way. In another instance, a young girl sent a nude photo to her boyfriend, who then shared the photo after breaking up, leading to bullying and public humiliation. She attempted to end her life and then appeared on TV to share her story to try and help others. There are many more stories like these. If you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Learning about and raising awareness about the dangers of cyberbullying and its impact is important for youth, educators, and parents alike. Talking to children about cyberbullying, educating them about safe practices online, using online privacy and security measures, building trust, and creating a safe environment can help address cyberbullying. Other ways for youth to cope with bullying are to ignore negative comments, let a teacher or parent know, or if it rises to a level of threat, abuse, or sexually explicit material, contact police. Blocking individuals who are bullying, deleting social media or other communication apps, or taking breaks from technology can also help. Parents, teachers, mentors, and friends can also look for warning signs, such as withdrawing from friends, sudden changes in behavior, being easily startled or jumpy, changes in mood, or poor grades.