Cyberbullying - A Reflection on a Societal Issue

Take A Stand Against Cyberbullying (CC BY 4.0) by.i.s.b.e.i.g.e.
In the social media age, cyber bullying has become an issue of great significance that has to be addressed not only by educators, but by our societal leaders. Cyberbullying can be defined as willful, repeated and aggressive acts conducted by an individual or a group over electronic media, in a situation of social power imbalance, intended to cause intimidation, embarrassment and emotional distress in a victim who cannot easily defend themselves. Cyberbullying needs to be addressed not only within the context of students and the educational system, but also as a societal concern that affects our health, wellness, relationships, and public discourse. Given that a large proportion of cyberbullying victims do not even know the identity of their bully/bullies due to the anonymity provided by electronic media, laws and regulations against cyberbullying, while important, are not enough to stop it. In addition to laws and regulations, cyberbullying needs to be addressed by improving student knowledge of bullying, its consequences, methods of prevention, and helping students develop empathy, character, and citizenship.

We live in an age where we can interact with media on a 24/7 basis; previous generations had to go sit at a radio, television or computer, while we can take these things with us wherever we go using mobile devices. Using social media, we also are able to communicate with each other and the world in an instantaneously, in a way that was not possible just a generation ago. While we may possess and understand how to use the latest in technology, we are not up to date in our understanding of the consequences of being immersed in technology, and do not always have the foresight to predict how new technologies will affect our lives and society. We need to understand how to develop a positive digital footprint and avoid negative interactions online by  protecting ourselves and our personal information, while also learning how to cope and react appropriately to cyberbullying that affects us and those around us.

Cyberbullying is something that is not only being discussed and addressed at highest levels of society but is also occurring at that very level. The White House has implemented the “Be Best” initiative, spearheaded by the First Lady, to encourage children in their individual path and teach them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health, with social media use being a major area of focus. However, contradictorily, individuals of prominence in public life now regularly spar, name-call and attack each other through the news media and social media, lowering the standards of our public discourse and serving as poor role models for children and adults alike.
We also needs to address our "culture of humiliation",  which is the enjoyment of the humiliation of others, also pervasive at all levels of our media and society. This takes the form of bullying on social media, trolling, sending personal images and information to others without permission, gossip websites and reality shows.

Our schools need to create and introduce citizenship programs into the curriculum that would cover topics like cyberbullying, digital citizenship, empathy, and understanding the differences of others. Students need exposure to these issues with age appropriate instruction at as young an age as possible, because with the integration of technology into our daily lives the problems are going to only get worse; children who cyberbully peers are going to become adults who  cyberbully coworkers, acquaintances and  partners. We need to be educate students on the consequences of cyberbullying, both on the victim and themselves, in addition to just being informed on how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if they are victimized by it. Many students and parents don’t see the harm associated with cyberbullying, with the vast majority disregarding and ignoring what they see online because they don’t see it as a serious issue compared to other forms of bullying. Being presented with facts, examples and case studies will allow students to know and understand the cyberbullying consequences, and develop greater empathy and responsibility for their actions towards others. The necessity of empathy, knowledge and social responsibility make the awareness of cyberbullying an important part the of social aspect of digital citizenship.


Resources

Be best. (n.d.). White House. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/bebest/

Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 255-260. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.073

Essex, N. L. (2016). School law and the public school: A practical guide for educational leaders. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. (Section Cyberbullying, pp. 111 — 113).

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lewinsky, Monica [TED]. (2015, March 20). The price of shame | Monica Lewinsky. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8y0WLm78U

Olweus, D. (2005). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Olweus, D., Limber, S., & Flerx, V. C. (2007). Olweus bullying prevention program: Schoolwide guide. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.).

Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008). Cyberbullying: Its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 376–385. doi.org/10.1111/j.1469- 7610.2007.01846.x.



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