Impact of Cyber Bullying
It is commonly known that face-to-face bullying results in long-term psychological harm on victims (Willard, n.d.). This harm may be manifested in the form of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger, school failure, school avoidance, suicide and school violence (Willard, n.d.). Many victims also lack social confidence, tend to cry easily, experience loneliness and have difficulty defending themselves from an attack (Schwartz, Dodge, & Coie, 1993). In addition to these internalizing behaviors, victims may display externalizing problems such as impulsivity and hyperactivity (Schwartz, Proctor, & Chien, 2001).
However, consequences on victims of cyber bullying could be more severe than face-to-face bullying (National Crime Prevention Council, 2009), due to the following factors.
Cyber Bullying occurs where children and youth feel most safe.
Negative Impact of Cyber Bullying
- Bullying can be harsher as people feel free to say things online that they would not say in person (National Crime Prevention Council, 2009).
- The power of written words (Campbell, 2005) – when bullies abuse verbally, the victim might not remember every word. However, in the case of emails and text, chat rooms and websites, the victim can read what the bully has said over and over again (Campbell, 2005).
- Cyber Bullying can be anonymous. Cyber Bullies often use fake identities online. Not knowing who is responsible for the bullying messages can add to a victim’s sense of insecurity (National Crime Prevention Council, 2009).
- There is a potential for a much wider audience to be aware of the incident than in schoolyard bullying (Campbell, 2005). Therefore, the negative impact can be even more far-reaching than that of traditional bullying.
Why Cyber Bullying should be Prevented / Curbed
Why must Cyber Bullying stop?
The severity of cyber bullying varies with incidents ranging from annoyance to danger with the occurrence of death threats (Beran & Li, 2005). Cyber bullying may even lead to physical harm offline. It is possible that bullying at a distance through computers and cell phones can gradually lead to face-to-face bullying.
More specifically, as a result of not receiving punishment for engaging in cyber-harassment, bullies may then continue the harassment when in close contact with the victims in school. For example, if “electronic bullies” remain undetected, their bullying behaviors at school may become more severe and direct (Beran & Li, 2005). One particularly horrendous anecdotal account deserves mention here.
In May 2001, viciously offensive messages putting down and humiliating a high school girl who suffered from obesity and multiple sclerosis were posted anonymously to an online message board associated with a local high school in Dallas, Texas (Benfer, 2001). In time, the bullying crossed over to the physical world as the victim’s car was vandalized, profanities were written on the sidewalk in front of her home, and a bottle filled with acid was thrown at her front door – which incidentally burned her mother. This example clearly depicts how bullying online can lead to physical harm offline.
In view of the severity of the problem of Cyber Bullying and the negative consequences it can bring about, it is extremely important to execute strategies to prevent and curb it.