Cyberbullying can be defined as the use of information and communication tools to perpetuate intentional or deliberate, repeated behavior which is hostile by a group or group of individuals with ill motives of causing harm to others. Until recently this has not been a subject of discussion albeit heartedly because it was not all that serious. But with the advent of the internet and subsequent advancement of technological tools like notebooks, tablets and mobile phones, cyberbullying has evolved to a very challenging issue in our lives now more than ever before (Smith, 2009). The advancement of social networking sites has also made the matters even worse. This includes such sites like face book, tweeter, LinkedIn, my space just to mention but a few. Cyberbullying mostly occurs in chat rooms, blogs, emails, texting and more commonly social networking sites. For the sake of this article I will mostly dwell on cyberbullying caused social networking sites.
Negative effects of cyber bullying
The effects that cyberbullying can have on an individuals greatly differs from one person to another. This is dependent on a number of factors like age, experience, knowledge, emotional maturity among many other variables. The most common emotional effects that have been reported to have occurred to individuals include depression, anger, sadness and frustration. It is important to note here that the effect that cyberbullying can have on one individual, is not the same effect it can have on another. This is because we all perceive what happens around us very differently (Smith, 2009).
Smith goes further to indicate that physical effects that have been reported include attempts to harm one self, physical harm and even suicide cases have been reported in some extreme cases! Thus it is evident that cyberbullying is a serious challenge facing our generation, more delay to act will pronounce disaster especially to our young people. Psychologically bullying through social networking, have been known to bring about low self esteem, psychosomatic symptoms and even withdraw feelings. This is because the way we feel when and individual bullies you on face to face scenario is more or less the same when he uses social networking sites. In fact the effect can be even far outreaching because social networking sites can reach a wider audience over very short time. For instance if some one hacks your face book account and posts obscene updates, it will reach to all your friends who are on line irrespective of where they are at the blink of an eye! It will in turn be very difficult for you to explain to them what had happened.
There are other harms of cyberbullying that are indirect or are just consequences of the same. One is the fact that it can lead to one dropping out of school (if one is schooling) or from work. This is especially true when the bullying is diminishing and has become public. This will often lead to poor performance in whatever occupation an individual is involved in. On the same note the bullied person can opt to turn violent and harm other people who are near him. Thus as much as this is indirect, it can lead to serious consequences (Smith, 2009).
In conclusion, I can say cyberbullying is a real threat to our lives now than ever before. In fact it has become more serious even than face to face bullying. This is due to the fact that whereas in face to face you can identify an aggressor who is bullying you and take a necessary step, in cyberbullying the aggressor is anonymous. The ability to reach a wider audience, more enduring nature of written word makes the matters even worse. Thus there is an urgent need for us to seek all possible ways to protect ourselves from this new wave of crime
Peter Smith (2009). An investigation in to cyberbullying, its forms, awareness and impact, and the relationship between age and gender in cyber bullying. Oxford university press, London.
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