Technology and Bullying

I don’t know much about the topic I chose and I have never personally experienced bullying or cyber bullying myself. I have, however, seen on the news and read about cyber bullying and the growing trend it is becoming. I remember a very specific case that happened two years ago at Rutgers University where a closeted-gay college student’s roommate secretly videotaped him performing sexual acts. The roommate then released the video on the Internet and the gay college student committed suicide two days later. The case had just finished last month and the defendant was found guilty of a hate crime and sentenced to 30 days in jail. This definitely caught my interest toward cyber bullying and I started to take notice that it is happening frequently across the nation. I also know that currently forty-nine states have an anti-bullying law in effect. Part II – What I Want to Find Out

From the research, I want to find out how technology is contributing to cyber bullying, or bullying. * How frequently do students bully other students?
* When and where did the first cases of cyber bullying take place? * Is it just in the United States that cyber bullying exists? * Can bullying be prevented, and if so, how?
Part III – The Search
The word “bullying” is defined as using strength or influence to intimidate someone, forcing them to do what one wants. It is also used as a theme in many children and adolescent books such as Oliver Twist and The Chocolate War. Bullying has been around for as long as anyone can remember, possibly since the age of humanity began. However, only recently has bullying caught the attention of the public and scientific community. Dan Olweus, a Norwegian researcher, emerged with the first scientific studies on bullying in the 1970s. Bullying is now acknowledged throughout the world as an issue among children and youth, and research on the topic is increasing (Hymel,
and Swearer).

There is still scientific dispute as to the nature of bullying and why it begins. There are a multitude of reasons why someone feels the need or want to bully another person. Nevertheless, most researchers believe the aggression starts with wanting to cause deliberate harm to the victim, having the bullying occur repeatedly, and the difference of power between the bully and the victim (Olweus 422). One of the reasons may be because the person behind the bullying feels a “sense of power” when they harass someone. They like to become dominant in this situation and if the victim does become submissive, the bully feels as if they’ve fulfilled their goal and may repeat this process for a long time. Another reason may be that the bully wishes to befriend and feel close with the victim; to have a sense of belonging. As Dagmar Strohmeier states in her article Bullying and its Underlying Mechanisms, “If this wish for affiliation is a motive for bullying, the victim plays an important role in establishing and maintaining group coherence. If the harassment of the victim leads to a closer bond within the bullying group, the perpetrator reaches his goal and the negative behavior is reinforced.” As long as the victim is still submissive, the bully will constantly harass them until the bully is content (Strohmeier).

When thinking of bullying, usually people think of a sort of physical interaction – the big kid picking a fight with a smaller kid. However, there are cases where numbers come into play; groups of students will pick on one individual. This is not uncommon and in fact, happens as often as one-on-one bullying (Hymel, and Swearer). There are, essentially, two types of bullying: physical and mental. Physical bullying is direct contact between the aggressor and the victim, and includes punching, kicking, pushing, or any physical contact with the bully and victim. The bully will not stop the violence until his or her victim is unable to retaliate back. Physical bullying is also not limited to school, and can occur at home, the office, or anywhere the bully chooses. Mental bullying may seem less harsh than physical bullying and may not physically damage the victim, but it can emotionally. Mental, or verbal, bullying involves name calling, making fun of a person’s appearance, and making offensive remarks to the victim. Making
verbal threats of violence is also verbal bullying. There is also indirect bullying where the person will spread rumors and stories about someone else although it may not be true. This type of bullying accounts for 18.5% of bullying. Social alienation is another where the bully will intentionally exclude another from a group. But the type of bullying that is gaining ground is cyber bullying (“Time for Tolerance”).

Cyber bullying is when a child or teen is being harassed, threatened, or embarrassed by usually another teen, and the bully is using the Internet, cell phones, or any other technologies. It includes sending threats or cruel messages to a person’s email account and cell phone. Cyber bullies also spread rumors online or through texts, and post unkind messages on web sites or social networking sites. Pretending to be another person using someone else’s account or making a fake account and sending harmful messages is another form of cyber bullying. Boys are more prone to take part in tradition bullying, physical bullying, whereas girls are more likely to cyber bully. (“Bullying Statistics”).

Most cyber bullies and their victims are teens, and there are numerous cases where the victim being cyber bullied will harm themselves, and even commit suicide. Cyber bullying “has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyber stalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyber stalking is NEVER called cyber bullying” (“Stop Cyberbullying”). In 2007, a mother created a fake account and posed as a boy to befriend a former friend of her daughter. The mother then began posting insults and creating posts about the daughter’s former friend which were hurtful and untrue. The teen, who was battling depression, soon committed suicide. It is hard to believe a parent or adult will do that to a child but there have been several cases where a parent will actually be the person cyber bully. Majority of the reason why a parent will cyber bully another teen is because they believe they are protecting their children, but are, instead, harming another (“Stop Cyberbullying”).

There are various reasons as to why teens feel the need to cyber bully
someone. Sometimes the cyber bully is motivated by resentment or jealousy, and sometimes they do it for entertainment. Another reason may be because they are bored and have nothing to occupy themselves with. Some may do it unintentionally, and others do it for torment and to get a reaction from the victim. Although traditional bullying still occurs more than cyber bullying, the amount of cyber bullying happening in today’s world is consistently growing because of all the technologies being available. This means that cyber bullying happens worldwide and cyber bullies are sometimes strangers from halfway around the globe. (Patchin).

Despite the seriousness and harmful effects of cyber bullying, it is common among teens and youth. According to a study done by the i-SAFE foundation in 2003, more than one in three teens have received and experienced cyber threats, and over 23 percent of teens are repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet. Cyber threats are when teens post messages about harming themselves or another person and are sometimes followed by actual acts of violence. There have also been reports that cyber bullies will make FaceBook pages or web pages dedicated to insulting and bashing their victim, and 75 percent of teens have visited these sites. According to a UCLA study on cyber bullying, one in five teens report having been cyber bullied by someone they know or a complete stranger, and the study also found that 85 percent of teens that were bullied online are still bullied at school. Still, only 1 in 10 teens who have been cyber bullied tell a parent or adult and only 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement (“Cyber Bully Alert”).

Currently, forty nine states have passed anti-bullying laws, and a number of state legislatures are proposing laws to require schools to have anti-bullying policies and programs. If someone is charged and convicted of bullying someone, they are charged with a misdemeanor and possibly serve time in jail. Cyber bullying is against the law but most of the laws in many states are not enforced because cyber bullying usually takes place outside of school. Still, that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to enact and stiffen cyber bullying laws. At least five states want to add penalties to cyber bullying, and in 2009 North Carolina passed a law that criminalizes
cyber bullying, making it a misdemeanor for youth under 18. Senator Jeffrey Klein of New York is one of the law makers that want to make sure cyber bullying can be punishable by law. Klein stated that “When I was growing up, you had a tangible bully and a fight after school. Now you have hordes of bullies who are terrorizing over the Internet or other forms of social media.” Under his proposed law, anyone that uses technologies to harass or stalk someone could be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and face prison time. Some, however, oppose these laws believing that it limits freedom of speech (Alcindor).

Although it may seem unlikely for anyone to not support anti-bullying laws, there are a few groups that are no in favor with the law at all. A group called Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry, believes that these anti-bullying laws cross “the line in a lot of ways beyond bullying into indoctrination, just promoting homosexuality and transgenderism” (Hall). Focus on the Family has been a supporter anti-anti-bullying laws because they believe that these laws are a reason to teach children about gay marriage and not about bullying. Most of the groups that oppose anti-bullying laws are religious groups, and most agree with Focus on the Family. There have been a few states that have passed or tried to pass anti-bullying laws that protect bullies who use their religion as to why they bully others. This caused outrage among the public and most of these supposed anti-bullying laws have since been voted out or the specific clause has been removed (Hall).

There are several ways to prevent bullying, or cyber bullying, from happening. First is beginning an educational campaign with children and teens, and informing others what exactly is cyber bullying and the steps to prevent it from happening to them. Teaching youth how not to unintentionally become part of cyber bullying will help slow down cyber bullies. Children need to be taught that being silent while another is being hurt is not alright, and if they stand up with the victims, cyber bullies can be stopped. Another way is keep personal information private. Children and teens should not share passwords with friends or strangers to keep themselves safe. Sharing this personal information can give cyber bullies
the opportunity to hack into personal emails and social sites, and post damaging things online. And once things are posted on the Internet, it may be impossible to delete it permanently. Adolescents should also know that if they are targeted by a cyber bully to not respond and instead block the cyber bully and inform a parent or adult that can help them. Checking to see who they are sending messages and emails to is another way of preventing cyber bullying. Making sure that they are sending it to the right person and place will help stop cyber bullies from receiving private messages. Also, teens should know that it is not alright to forward and send other people’s emails and personal information without their permission. Teenagers also should not send emails or post messages online if they are angry. If they do, they may provoke the cyber bully and turn into a cyber bully themselves (“Stop Cyberbullying”). Part IV – What I Learned

Through this research, I learned that cyber bullying is persistently becoming more known, and although traditional bullying still happens, cyber bullying is growing. Because of all the new technology becoming available to people of all ages, especially adolescent teens, it is easier for someone to become a cyber bully victim. Cyber bullying is also common in the lives of teens today, and happens worldwide. There are several effective ways to prevent cyber bullying and states in the United States are recognizing that bullying is a serious matter. Although bullying and cyber bullying cannot be stopped in a day, it is possible to stop bullies from hurting another person.

Works Cited
Alcindor, Yamiche. “States look to enact cyberbully law.” USA TODAY. Gannett Co. Inc., 19 Mar 2012. Web. 9 Jun 2012. Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. New York: Dell Publishing, 1974. Print. “Cyber Bully Data, Statistics, and Facts.” Cyber Bully Alert. Vanden Corporation, 23 May 2012. Web. 7 Jun 2012. “Cyber Bully Statistics.” Bullying Statistics. Bullying Statistics, 2009. Web. 7 Jun 2012.

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