Today, more and more people are spending large parts of their day on technology in some form. Especially with teenagers, many have turned to social media platforms to interact with their friends and family. While this certainly makes it easier to and more convenient to socialize, it has many negative effects as well. Perhaps the worst negative effect is the reliance that teenagers have on social media for approval and their self esteem. That is, through the interaction with social media, they naturally seek the approval of their peers, but this can also lead to increased bullying. In other words, social media platforms make it easier to make fun of or insult other people, as well as for something negative to spread quickly. Because of this, some teenagers have cyberbullied to the point where they committed suicide. Therefore, this paper will discuss cyberbullying and how it affects teenagers.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is simply the act of verbally or physically harassing a person for long periods of time. In the past, bullying was limited to being face to face with the person, in that a person being bullied could escape his or her situation. However, now that the lives of many teenagers are largely lived online, it means that those looking to bully have far greater access to a those that they want to bully. For example, they can harass a person via digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram, emails, text messages, etc. According to a campaign by US government entitled stopbullying, “Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. This allows bullies to send threatening messages or insults from anywhere in the world” (What Is Cyberbulling). Another aspect of cyber bullying is that it can be unclear who is doing the bullying. That is, it is possible to harass someone simply by creating an account on one of these platforms, which does not limit the amount of accounts a person is able to create. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, social media platforms allow for the rapid spread of information. Therefore, embarrassing material or negative comments can be spread to virtually an unlimited amount of people in almost no time at all. Because of these reasons, cyber bullying has the power to destroy the lives of teenagers, as they live much of them online.
The Effects on Teenagers
Cyber bullying can have devastating effects on teenagers. This is because teenagers are at a time in the lives when they are forming who they are, meaning that they are very impressionable to positive and negative interactions, especially interactions with their peers. According to Charisse Nixon in a paper entitled Current perspectives: the impact of cyberbullying on adolescent health, “Adolescents who are targeted via cyberbullying report increased depressive affect, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal behavior, and somatic symptoms” (Nixon 143). This means that teenagers that are cyber bullied are likely to experience psychological problems that will follow them for a long time. In extreme cases, some teenagers actually turn to suicide to escape this effects. For example, in an article published in The Telegraph, the author Sarah Knapton claims that “cyberbullying raised the risk of self-harm or suicidal behaviour 2.3 times” (Knapton). That is, many stories have appear in the news about teenagers and even pre-teens committing suicide because their lives had become unlivable, as their social media accounts were continually berated with embarrassing information and insults from large numbers of people.
Because of how widespread this problem is, it is likely that everyone knows someone that has experienced it in some form. To get a closer look at the problem an interview was conducted with an acquaintance that had experienced cyber bullying first hand. During this interview, she revealed that the cyber bullying began when she broke up with her boyfriend and this boyfriend began to spread rumors about her both online and in person. Eventually, other people picked up on the insults and began to join in, and it eventually spread to her social media accounts. In fact, a separate Facebook account was created just to share embarrassing information about her. She claims that this affected her self esteem heavily, even to the point of her being afraid to go online. Even today, although this was a few years ago, she claims that she is still affected by it (Rodriguez).
Overall, technology has given people a much greater ability to interact with each other, for better or worse. While there are many benefits, this technology also gives people an easier and larger way to bully people. Today, because many teenagers have transferred large aspects of their lives to social media platforms, the effects of cyberbullying can be enough to kill themselves. Even if it does not go this far, the damage to a person’s self esteem and self image will be affected for their entire lives. Because of this, a lot of initiatives have been created to stop cyber bullying, and in areas, it has actually been made a crime. Although these ideas have been able to lessen the rate at which it happens, it is still prevalent, as many teenagers are regularly harassed online by their peers and classmates. The solution for this has remained elusive. While many experts have proposed solutions, they have not been able to stop it entirely. Therefore, it will continue to be a big problem for teenagers, as they continue to live their lives online.
- Knapton, Sarah. Cyberbullying Makes Young People Twice as Likely to Self Harm or Attempt Suicide. The Telegraph, Apr. 2018, www.telegraph.co.uk
- Nixon, Charisse L. “Current Perspectives: the Impact of Cyberbullying on Adolescent Health.” Adolesc Health Med Ther., vol. 5, 2014, pp. 143–158.
- Rodriguez, Maria. Personal Interview. 7 Aug. 2018.
- “What Is Cyberbullying.” Stopbullying.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018, www.stopbullying.gov