Cyberbullies aren’t always anonymous
Social networks are by far the most popular way to spend time while on the internet, especially for adolescents. Research states that more than half of the profiles on social networking sites belong to adolescence.
This sudden flood of technology has lead to a relatively new form of bullying called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is “the use of computers, cell phones, social networking sites and other technology to threaten or humiliate others.” This includes a threatening email, an insulting Facebook Wall Post or even the spreading of rumors through picture and text messaging on cell phones.
Rebecca Kalant was 16-years-old when she received her first death threat. Now a university student in Canada, Kalant remembers having to face the bully in real life. “I felt very unsafe. I was hurt and embarrassed, and I was scared,” said Kalant. “Her status was [a] graphic description of how she wanted to kill me, it was disgusting.” According to Kalant, she was also sentanti-Semitic hateful messages.
Kalant walked through the school hallways days after the threats in fear. “Luckily I had a friend walk with me to my locker and to my classes.”
Cyberbullying is not reported often. The reason being because teens themselves don’t want to report it or admit that they are scared.
“We’ve found that over 90 percent of kids did not tell their parents about these incidents,” said Jaana Juvonen, a Psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. According to Juvonen, the reasons were varied; among 12 to 14-year-old girls, the reason was because they were concerned that their internet access would be revoked. Others wanted to deal with the incident themselves, without adult help.
According to Kalant, she didn’t want to report it at first but her English teacher saw the status update by accident and reported it to the principal.
“I’m very thankful for her support,” she said. According to Kalant, she was given the choice to press charges and thereby get the girl expelled, but instead decided to give the girl a warning and not press charges.
Kalant’s ordeal is not over. She is now graduated from high school and never has to see her bully again. “Unfortunately,” said Kalant. “The girl continues to bully others by way of rumors so that she can’t get caught. She appears to have no empathy, which is disappointing to me. I had hoped that she would learn something from that, but I guess not. I sincerely hope she learns one day.”
Kalant urges teens to get help. “The main thing kids need to know is that it’s not okay and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Tell someone.”
Cyberbullying is affecting more and more young adults like Kalant.
Celine Sanborn was a freshman in high school when two former friends turned against her, calling her “a whore” and “that I should die in a hole.” “I felt betrayed and angry,” said Sanborn. “I just wanted to scream. I felt hopeless.”
Only a freshman in high school at the time, she didn’t seek the help of any adults or authority figures. “I knew that they wouldn’t have done anything,” she said. According to Sanborn, she immediately blocked contact with both of them.
Not everyone is a victim of cyberbullying, however, there is also another side. There are the cyberbullies themselves. According to Scott Meech in the book Media Violence, cyberbullying allows one to bully without a face-to-face confrontation. “Kids become emboldened by the false feeling of being anonymous and they say things they might not have said in person,” said Meech.
Cora Smith, a 14-year-old from Connecticut says why she bullied a former friends at 12-years-old on the social networking site myspace.com.
“I don’t think I had any real motivations for bullying her,” said Smith. “She was just an easy target, I guess.” According to Smith, she and the target used to be best friends. “We just stopped talking, and I started hating her,” she said.
According to Smith, she didn’t know that what she was doing was actually that hurtful – until she moved and was bullied herself. “I apologized to her for everything and she said that she forgave me but nothing has ever really been the same between us since then. It’s probably one of the biggest things I regret. I don’t even remember why I started harassing her, I just did it because I had nothing better to do.”
Kalent believes that cyberbullying “is a serious issue that can destroy lives, and needs to be taken seriously by adults. It can have lasting, damaging effects on a child’s psychology, self-esteem, and self-worth.”