Across the globe, bullying has been a menace to both children and adults for centuries. Bullying can manifest as direct bullying whereby the perpetrator directly attacks the victim verbally, assaulting, teasing or destroying their proper; indirect bullying in which the offender spreads rumors, verbal or social insults or using malicious practical jokes; finally, there is cyber bullying whereby the perpetrator uses the internet including social websites to attack the victim by spreading malicious text messages, e-mails or posting embarrassing videos. Unlike other forms of bullying, cyber bullying can occur anywhere anytime therefore depriving the victims of the traditional ‘safe heavens’ such as their homes or with their friend’s company. In addition, the audience of the bullying can be vast and be reached rapidly making the scale and scope of the repercussions stronger than any other type of bullying. Moreover, cyber- communications can be difficult to track and after sometime, it may resurface making it even more difficult on the victim. This paper will mainly focus on cyber bullying, its scope, how it can better be solved and the future impact of cyber bullying. In addition to this it will discuss a theoretical idea that can be applied to cyber bullying.
The Scope of Cyber Bullying
According to a 2007 UNICEF factsheet, girls are more likely to be victims of cyber bullying including sexual comments and rumor spreading than boys who are more likely to experience physical bullying. Furthermore, girls are more likely to bully each other than boys mainly using social segregation. The fact sheet goes on to state that approximately 80% of primary school students get bullied with majority of them getting bullied in the classroom (UNICEF, 2007).
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George Werbacher states that bullying occurs in various age groups; however, the highest percentage of bullying occurs among teenagers most significantly the high school goers. He reports that in 2013 approximately 43% of teenagers in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 17 experienced some sort of cyber bullying. Cumulatively, Werbacher reports that at least half of the teenagers in the country have experienced some form of cyber bullying in the past years which has had negative impact in their lives. He clarifies that cyber bullying is at its peak in high school because at this stage, students have maximum access to technology and the stage in life is marked by an alteration in personalities (Werbacher, 2014).
On the other hand, data from the division of criminal justice services reports that as much as most perpetrators and victims of cyber bullying are children with high access to technology, adults and other age groups have also been affected by cyber bullying. The report claims that the full extent of cyber bullying is quite hard to discern. According to a survey conducted by the division, 42% of children in the country have fallen victims of cyber bullying with 35% of them being threatened online. The report states that most children do not report bullying to their parents or guardians with fear of further embarrassment or further bullying; due to this, children are forced to deal with the agony of cyber bullying alone leading to depression and eventual suicide in some children (internet safety, 2017).
A Theoretical Perspective that Can Applied To Cyber Bullying
In sociology, theoretical perspectives are significant in explaining why people decide to act the way they do and how societies evolve or function in various ways. There are several theoretical perspectives in sociology including functionalism, feminism, social conflict and symbolic interactionism. Of the four theories, symbolic interactionism best describes the social problem of cyber bullying. Symbolic interactionism provides the understanding of an individual and the society. In this approach, human action and relations can be explained by meaningful symbols or communication. The key principles of symbolic interaction are; first, man’s acts are directed by the meanings that arise from the action; secondly, the meanings ascend from social interaction; finally, the social actions are consequences of accumulation of individual actions (Leon- Guerrero, 2011).
The symbolic interactionism theory states that human beings differ from infrahuman in that infrahuman respond to their environment whenever a stimulus is created (a stimulus evokes a response). On the contrary, human beings are capable of interrupting a stimulus and respond differently to the stimulus. From the approach, it is notable that there are multiple interpretations to a situation rather than a single reality. Symbolic interaction explains how reflected appraisals occur in the ‘social brain’- part of the brain that is involved in social interactions and aids individuals in understanding how other people think. Reflected appraisals in when an individual becomes concerned with how other people perceive us, how they judge us and how their judgment molds us. The theory explains that during childhood, children define themselves within their social framework. When human beings interact with others, they develop empathy for others as well as create an identity of who they are (Leon- Guerrero, 2011).
Cyber bullying is a product of social interaction between individuals. When children are still developing a sense of identity and belonging, they are prone to cyber bullying. According to the UNICEF fact sheet, children bully others because they lack empathy; they have impulsive and naughty personalities, they are inclined towards violence and have difficulty complying with rules. In addition, children may bully their peers because they may lack attention at home or from friends, they have been victims of bullying or they may have learned about bullying from others (UNICEF, 2007). From the above reason it is evident that bullies’ social brain has not fully developed thus their interaction with others is affected.
Further, symbolic interactionism implies that as children grow, they learn how to interact from their parents and elders. If the children have grown up in a violent or manipulative family, they may grow up learning the same behavior and end up doing the same to other people. In addition, if they are not taught the consequences of violence at home with the pain that the victim undergoes through, then the child will grow up knowing that bullying is a norm, not a vice. Secondly, symbolic interactionism states that as a child grows up and interacts with others, they become empathetic. However, when the social interaction is impaired, they lack empathy. Cyber bullies lack empathy and do not care about the pain that the victim will go through as a result of the bullying.
Personal analysis of how cyber bullying can be solved
Cyber bullying can have long lasting effects on the victim, the perpetrator and others involved including suicide; it is therefore imperative for long- term solutions to be put in place to curb cyber bullying. According to the ‘parents’ guide to cyber bullying’, the first step to curbing cyber bullying is letting the victim know that it is not their fault. Secondly, the victim should be requested not to respond as this will the victim into a bully too. Thirdly, they should save the evidence and appeal to the perpetrator to stop and if they don’t, legal actions should be taken (connectsafely.org, 2016).
However, cyber bullying can better be solved by dealing with the perpetrator first. As noted earlier, a bully lacks empathy for others and does not feel the pain that the victim is going through; this reaction can be prompted by lack of parental guidance or support of friends. If the offender is provided with enough support and the parents asked to talk to their child, then the issue of bullying may subside or end completely. Secondly, bullies are prone to violence and they have learned the behavior from their surroundings. Therefore, it is important that the involved parties, teachers, guardians or authorities, should find the root of the problem and solve it first before punishing the bully. Finally, for cyber bullying to stop, children must grow up with love and care of their parents. Without the love and care at home and support from friends, children become outcasts and become lonely. As a result of the loneliness, children do not learn the norms of the society and respond to stimulus negatively.
Cyber bullying is a peril in our society that needs to be faced head on. Although it does not cause physical pain, it leads to emotional and psychological trauma that can be fatal to an individual. Children who are cyber bullied at a young age feel responsible for what they are going and therefore do not communicate about the problem with their peers or the adults. As a result, they fall into depression and some of them even try to commit suicide. Therefore, it is imperative for all social groups to take it upon themselves to fight against any type of bullying for the physical, psychological and emotional well- being of the young members of the society.
Connectsafely.Org. (2016). A Parents’ Guide to Cyber Bullying. Connect Safely. Print.
Internet Safety. (2017). Cyber Bullying. Division of Criminal Justice Services. www.criminaljustice.ny.gov
Leon- Guerrero, A. (2011). Social Problems: Community, Policy and Social Action . Pine Forge Press, Newbury Park, CA.
UNICEF (2007). Stop Violence in Schools: The Scope and Impact of Bullying. UNICEF Fact Sheet. www.unicef.org
Werbacher, G. 2014. Narrowing the Scope of Cyber Bullying . Support and Structure English 400. www.wordpress.org