When idle hands are the devil’s playground, students don’t have to wait for recess to be picked on by a bully or come home with a black eye after school. A study about the prevalence of bullying published by the National Institutes of Health revealed that bullying in the United States is not something to be ignored. At the time of the study, adolescents in school reported that within the last two months, 20.8 percent of them had been bullied physically at least once, 53.6 percent verbally, 51.4 percent socially, and 13.6 percent had been bullied electronically.
While traditional bullying involves physical violence, verbal taunts, or social exclusion, cyber bullying involves aggressive behaviors communicated over electronic devices. Long gone are the days of passing notes in school with a mean remark about a fellow student. Students now have unlimited access to social technologies like text messages, online chat groups, Twitter accounts, and personal Facebook pages. These technologies are making the telephone game of gossip not only a whole lot faster, but the messages are coming in a whole lot clearer. Cyber bullying involves aggressive behavior towards a victim, such as electronically sending threatening or vulgar messages, spreading lies and rumors, posting private information or pictures, or deceiving victims into revealing personal information. With actions like this, it is no surprise that the wounds of cyber bullying are deep for everyone involved and, as they can’t be seen, are also not easily healed.
According to a survey on cyber bullying by the National Institutes of Health, youth who were bullies, victims of bullying, and were both bullies and victims, had the tendency to score higher on measures of depression. Those who were regularly involved in verbal, relational, or physical bullying reported higher depression levels than those who were only occasionally involved. However, when it came to cyber bullying, victims who frequently experienced bullying reported significantly higher levels of depression than those who frequently bullied and slightly higher scores than those who were both victims and bullies. Therefore, while both sides are affected, youth who experience cyber bullying at school have a greater risk of developing depression than the youth who are involved in bullying themselves. This may be because faceless cyber bullies give their victims little chance to stand up for themselves, leaving them feeling more isolated, helpless, and dehumanized. But bullying does more than leave its victims depressed, it also interferes with academic achievements, social skill development, and overall feelings of happiness.
Sadly, it is becoming more and more apparent that young students aren’t realizing the real life consequences of their virtual actions. The best way to prevent cyber bullying is to be aware of it and look out signs of it occurring. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration recommends that teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and even fellow students, regularly access the social environment at school for signs of bullying. Parents are also advised to talk to their children about cyber bullying, and encourage them to let an adult know if they are victims of harmful online behavior.
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