The proliferation of internet and ease of access have brought desirable benefits such as considerable improvement in the manner people work, communicate and able to do more with increased effectiveness and efficiency. These positive outcomes of the internet have been felt by the society in its quest for knowledge. However, the increase in internet access has also ignited a bullying, a major societal problem that deserves an urgent utmost attention.
In this paper, the author discusses social media for cyber bullying. The author observes that social media platforms have perpetuated cyber bullying by encouraging anonymity of the perpetrators. Besides, teens’ behaviors such as love for social media as a way of ‘hanging out’, passing time and psychological issues have contributed to cyber bullying by media platforms.
Bullying is not something new; it has undoubtedly transformed over the years. Today, it is pervasive because it is occurring in more locations that ever before. In the past, children were bullied in their neighborhoods or in the school. However, with the increasing use of the technologies such as the internet, bullying is happening at all times and in all locations. According to Hyunjin (16), cyber bullying relates to a form of harassment that happens using the internet. This harassment may entail name calling in chat rooms, vicious forum posts, cruel emails, and posting fake profiles on social sites. Unlike other forms of abuse, cyber bullying targets young people.
Dunbar (153) illustrates that social media platforms are leading places that teens and pre-teens experience bullying. In a study conducted using Finish adolescents, it was found out that online bullying was ingrained using instant messaging applications where teenagers would send a message in real time to each other (Sourander et al., 726). In this context, victims were harassed by their colleagues in the same age bracket. In the study also, it was revealed that cyber bullying was less common than face-to-face bullying (Law et al., 226).
A study conducted by Ditchthebel with a sample survey of 10,008 teenagers aged 13 to 22 years old, it was found out that thirty-seven percent of teenagers experienced cyber bullying on a regular basis. Of the seventy-five sample used, fifty-four had experienced cyber bullying on Facebook (Ditchthebel). The study drew samples of participants from UK, Australia, and the USA. In their research into teenagers and technology, Duggan, Coresi, and Gassar (2014) confirmed that out of the 802 teenagers aged 12-17 years old, seventy-eight percent had access to mobile phone, ninety-five percent had access to the internet, and twenty-three had a tablet while forty-seven owned a Smartphone. These figures show that accessibility of the digital world and the effect this has on cyber bullying.
The interactions between users and the amount of personal data posted on social media networking sites have contributed to cyber bullying. Most teenagers aged 13 to 18 years use social networking sites for various activities such as learning, raising their self-esteem when they are down, communicating with friends and family members and passing time among other activities (Hyunjin 19). This assertion is confirmed by a research which surveyed a sample of 1,030 teenagers aged between 13 to 17 years old in the U.S. In the study, about seventy-five teenagers had social networking accounts, eight – eight percent used their accounts to keep in touch with friends they do not meet or see regularly, fifty-seven percent used their profiles to connect with other people of similar interests while sixty-nine used their profiles to nurture friendship with other students at school.
Park & Gursoy, (1192) illustrates that today’s teenagers belong to what he call ‘generation Y’; hence, their lives revolve around social media as a form of communication tool. Generation Y is a group which has grown up embracing technology from a tender age. According to him, generation Y has grown up with mobile phones and computers where they have relied on these tools to interact with one another and as a form of entertainment. During the growth cycle, teenagers’ views that the transition from childhood to adulthood is a time to explore and develop own personality and identity. Thus, the social media has been seen as a platform helping them develop their own personality and nurture a network of friends. This is unlike the conventional interaction model between friends. The traditional model viewed teenagers belonging to a particular clique, which was a small group of friends that shared similar interests. The social media enables teenagers to have a wider choice of building friendship groups.
Cyber bullying occurs on social networking sites as a result of the loss of control of personal information. Herring & Sanja (46) demonstrates that teenagers using social media may lose control of their information. This may be through displaying private information on their public profiles and private information being shared by their friends among others. Depending on the user’s security settings of their profiles, and behavior of their profile friends, cyber bullies can find more about the users in order to hack, stalk or impersonate their profiles and disseminate undesirable comments.
Law et al. (227) demonstrate that personality of a person/teenager while using a social media platform contributes to cyber bullying. A teenager having narcissism personality has a higher potential of disclosing personal details on his/her social media profile. Narcissism is a constant desire or a need for admiration. In illustrating how the personality of the teenager contributes to cyber bullying, Rao and Madan (2013) explored issues of social networking sites and insecure attachment by teenagers. They investigated ninety-five Indian teenagers regarding their social networking sites and attachment style behavior. Out of the 58 students (27 girls and 31 boys) who used Facebook more frequently, about seventy-three percent of girls and seventy-one percent boys experienced insecure attachment. Reasons given were that they wanted to escape from the offline world where contact through face to face is required to create a relationship with another human being. This study reveals that personality behavior such as having anxiety attachment and high level of social anxiety results in teenagers feeling more secure communicating with others via social networking sites on a regular basis. This is prompted by the lack of confidence and self-esteem in the ability to interact with others face to face.
Social media apps have also perpetuated cyber bullying on a wider scale. Apps such as Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat are readily available for users to download on their Smartphones and chat while on the move. This is a major problem owing to the fact that approximately eighty percent of teens regularly use internet enabled cell phone. This aspect makes a cell phone a popular tool for online bullying. Herring & Sanja (86) shows that teen’s use of cell phone has risen; hence, it is easier to note its contribution to cyber bullying because the apps installed on these cell phones allows bullies to execute their ill intentions on an innocent victim. Further, the flexibility accorded to teenagers using these new innovations contributes significantly to the pervasiveness of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying poses the greatest threat for young people. Social media has accorded bullies more discreet channel to cause harm to others. The bullies feel a sense of security hidden behind their cell phones and computers. This is due to the fact that most teens have been addicted to social media platforms. Park & Gursoy, (1196) points out that this addiction is unhealthy contributing to cyber bullying.
In assessing severity and the contribution of individual social networking site to cyber bullying, Dunbar (200) outlines three most common sites. These include Facebook, Instagram and Ask.fm. According to Dunbar (156) cyber, bullying is so pronounced on Facebook. While the platform has seen a decline among the teens in recent times, millions of teens continue to prefer the site as a place to ‘hang out’. One common form of bullying on Facebook is harsh comments on a user’s photo or ‘selfie’. This act is vicious because teens who post their photos often look for encouraging affirmation but at the end, they get the opposite of what they had expected.
Similarly, Dunbar (156) also notes that Instagram is famous with teenagers. It is another platform which openly encourage teens to be bullied. The rapid rise of the platform is attributed to the popularity of ‘rate me’ post or the impromptu beauty contest run by the site. Teens, mostly the girls, although boys also are affected, post pictures on Instagram platform; these pictures are mostly used to request positive comments and likes. It is not astonishing that a huge junk of comments are not normally favorable. Additionally, the Ask.fm has the highest ratio of negative comments to positive ones. This attributed to the fact that ‘good’ teens often register for Ask.fm with their authentic credentials such as names, but on most occasions, they seldom subscribe to the requirements. Bullies are at liberty to register using fictitious accounts, thus, bullying other innocent victims without being uncovered or identified. Dunbar (169) explains that Ask.fm has been connected with nine teen suicides in the United States in 2016.
In conclusion, while mobile phones and the social media communication systems have made people’s lives easier, it is unfortunate that they have destroyed and poisoned many by being used to harm others. The positive contribution of social media cannot be enumerated or questioned; however, care should be taken so as they can contribute to positive transformation of the whole society. Cyber bullying is on the increase, and it affects anyone who uses a computer or an internet enabled mobile phone. However, the idea of obstructing or curbing the vice seems to be far. We all have a role to play in encouraging the ethical and moral use of social media technologies to reduce the severity of the issue among our teenagers.
Ditchthelabel.The Annual Cyber-bullying Survey. 2014. Web https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp- content/uploads/2016/07/abs2014.pdf. Accessed 8 April 2017
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