This article appeared in the print magazine under the headline “Say It To My Face”
It’s a term that’s all too familiar to students,teachers and parents alike. Its very presence threatens an individual’s psychological, emotional and physical state of being: bullying.
According to The National Bullying Prevention Center, bullying is considered “a behavior that hurts, harms or humiliates a student, either physically or emotionally, and can happen while at school, in the community or online.”
While the definition of bullying has remained essentially the same for decades, the ways in which people bully each other has drastically shifted. Bullying nowadays, especially at MVHS, doesn’t always occur in the form of a looming, muscular, foul-talking person with an angry face. Itís much worse than that. It comes in the form of a 5-inch. touch screen, with 101 keys and a charger.
Here at MVHS, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, electronic devices are everywhere. We can’t avoid the use of electronics, and we can’t avoid the possibility of being cyber bullied by someone. According to the Cyberbullying research center, approximately 18 percent of people said they were victims of cyberbullying as of May 2007. As of Feb. 2015, the percentage has rose to 24.6 percent. According to 384 students, 26 percent have said they were victims of cyberbullying. The complicated situations in which cyberbullying can occur are something that sometimes confuses parents and administration when they face solutions to solving cyberbullying issues.
“It’s interesting that [technology]has opened up different ways that students can engage with one another. That didn’t exist when I was in school and when I was a kid,” assistant principal Michael Hicks said. “It’s new for a lot of adults and staff members to try and support, manage and ensure the safety and comfort of students.”
What is it about cyberbullying that makes it such a threatening force? According to Puresight.com, an online parental control website, cyberbullying is considered more harmful than face-to-face bullying. The speed, longevity and size of the audience seeing the hurtful content are all contributors to what makes cyberbullying dangerous to the victim. With a click of a button, a person’s humiliating experience can be shared with hundreds of people, when it was only meant to be shown to one, or even none.
The article “Why do people cyberbully?” from Delete Cyberbullying.com, points out that having the ability to remain anonymous while committing acts of hate is one factor that has led to the increase in cyber bullies. Insulting a person indirectly takes less courage than insulting that person face-to-face, and makes the consequences for bullying a person online seem minimal, or even non-existent. According to 163 students, 48 percent said they didn’t know the person who cyberbullied them.
Perhaps it was posted as a joke. Maybe someone was dared to do it. Whatever the reason was, it wasn’t meant to be nice. Most of the time, embarrassing pictures or posts are meant to intentionally harm the victim. Removing hurtful content becomes more difficult or even impossile to do, and as a result, the humiliating experience can never truly disappear.
And just like the content, bullying won’t really disappear forever. “The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications” cites the act of bullying as a way of expressing a survival instinct. The journal claims that the competitive atmosphere created by a personís desire to successfully survive has been around ever since the beginning of the human race. But just because bullies wonít go away, doesn’t mean people have to live with the emotional impact of bullies.
“I’d rather help students learn how to co-exist with these devices and these modes of communication rather than neglecting them at school, knowing that in other parts of [student’s] lives, ” Hick said, “they’re going to have access to [devices]or continue to use them more and more as time marches on.”
When a person cyberbullies, the internet becomes a medium for the person to vent their hatred or frustration towards another person. The bullies want to feel superior and powerful, so they turn to attacking their victims online where the bullies can have control over how much of the victim’s embarrassing information is made public. But when the bullies say things online instead of to a person, itís a clear sign the bully is afraid of the consequences they might get if someone overheard or saw them doing so.
Perhaps bullies even hide behind the screen to hide their guilt. When bullies stay behind the computer screen, they are actually afraid to feel guilt and afraid to look at themselves through the eyes of the victim. The computer screen is a way for bullies to continue attacking their victim without having to face their inner conscience. And the incapability to not truly see the bullies that they are makes them weak.
Because of these factors, the act of cyberbullying becomes even more harmful than being bullied physically. In the case of physical bullying, anyone can stand up to the bully, respond on the spot or even violently retaliate. In the case of cyberbullying, there is no opportunity to take the challenge head on — of course you could respond, but typing a response to your bully will never have the same effect of personally telling them off. This reason is the worst part about cyberbullying –that the bully is not under threat of retaliation, but the threat of the words typed at them.
While ultimately there is no permanent solution to bullying as a whole, we can take steps to reduce the amount of the more harmful cyberbullying. While bullying anyone for any reason isnít a favorable outcome, going up and saying it to their face is better than saying it online. It at least gives them the chance to retaliate however they see fit as opposed to being confined to 101 keys.