Bullying takes new shape in cyberspace

by Jennifer Sosa

Staff Writer

Bullying has been going on for far too long! Generations ago bullying happened on playgrounds, in parks, or walks home from school where adult supervision was limited.

Bullying today is different. Now, you can generally be bullied everywhere. That may include public spots like, the classroom or cafeteria. It might also include private spots like at home in your bedroom.

Why? Cyberspace.  Since there is no limit to where and how a bully can harm you, it’s that much easier to become a victim. 

How big of a problem is bullying or cyberbullying in school today? 

According to 2017 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports of cyberbullying among students attending public schools are highest for middle school at 33%.  The next highest is high school at 30%.  Even primary schools show 5%. 

  The ability to victimize anyone with little to no effort may be the biggest problem.

Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying allows the offender to disguise his or her identity behind a computer or screen name. This obscurity makes it easier for offenders to verbally abuse and emotionally damage their victims, without having to see the victim’s physical response or hold any accountability for their actions. The distancing effect that technological devices have on today’s youth often leads them to say and do crueler things compared to traditional face-to-face bullying.

Kathleen A. Olson, program director in partnering for school success for the University of Minnesota Extension Service, offers advice about bullying for parents on the service’s webpage.  She points out that research has found bullying is different for both male and females. Males tend to use physical violence, she says, such as punching, slapping, or pushing. Females, she says, are more likely to report verbal and psychological bullying such as sexual harassment and rumor mongering.

      And what effects do bullying episodes have on students?  Olson writes, “Bullies can cause lasting psychological and physical damage to other kids.”  

     Who’s to say how bad that damage might be?

     According to stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, bullying can cause a long list of physical and mental problems for those who are victims of bullying, those who bully, and those who are bullying witnesses.  On its webpage, stopbullying.gov says children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety that lasts into adulthood.   

I am 25 years old, and I was a victim of bullying from the age of 7 until the end of middle school. While primary school was manageable, secondary school was hell. I hated school and wondered every day what was going to happen to me. 

It didn’t end when I got home either. The effects of bullying shape your life as a child and a teenager.  And there are things that you take with you forever, both good and bad. Luckily for me, it made me tougher.  I am now a determined person, but I still deal with self-esteem issues. 

In an effort to preserve the mental health of children, it is important that we educate our youth, parents and teachers about the long-term effects of bullying and the impact bullying can have.  Children need to learn about the subject when they are little so when they get older, they are less likely to become a bully, bystander or a victim. 

 Kids also learn from the actions of adults. Adults can be mean too.  By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives there is no place for bullying. 

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