Technology has added an expansive convenience to our lives, especially when it comes to communication. The recent pandemic led to millions of people having to pivot to conducting business and personal activities online that would otherwise be done in person. Companies went completely online and schools switched to a virtual learning space where comments and messages were often unmonitored.
Of all the children in the United States, 53% have a smartphone by the age of 11 and over 95% of teens regularly use social media. This wide growth of the internet and advanced technology over recent years has made the presence of cyberbullying worse than ever.
What is cyberbullying?
By definition, cyberbullying is the act of texting, messaging, commenting, sharing, posting or sending hateful, false or hurtful messages online. These messages or posts can include private and sensitive information about another person with the intent of causing harm or embarrassment. Cyberbullying can be done on any platform online, from instant messaging, email, memes, social media and more.
The majority of us can define cyberbullying to some extent and have likely been either a victim or witnessed bullying online. Although we hope our readers have not been on the giving end of cyberbullying, often it can be easy to type hurtful words online when we’re seemingly safe behind the anonymity of our computer and smartphone screens.
Cyberbullying has become more critical to combat than physical bullying because the usage of technology is now a preference for those wanting to spread hate. A whopping 73% of school-aged students have been bullied in their lifetime and 87% of youth say they’ve witnessed a form of it online. Unfortunately, 23% of those students admitted to saying or doing something mean to someone else online.
Why do people choose to cyberbully?
The internal choice to say something hurtful can be stemmed from multiple sources. Endcyberbullying.net reports that cyberbullying can be seen as a way for someone to become or remain popular, to feel powerful, to cope with their own self-esteem issues, or because they have trouble empathizing with those around them. Many people simply cyberbully because they think it’s funny.
It’s important to point out that cyberbullying is not limited to children and youth. Adult cyberbullying is actually a very common occurrence. As “grown-ups” we are just as likely to behave poorly when interacting online — and often for the same reasons pointed out above. In fact, young adults between the ages of 18-25 years old are the most likely to be a target of cyberbullying and are capable of saying and doing more hurtful acts. It’s disturbing just how bad cyberbullying has become among adults — in particular towards celebrities. The worst part is that we should know better.
How can we prevent cyberbullying?
For many young people, teaching cyberbullying awareness starts at home. It’s critical for parents, guardians, and any influential adult in a young person’s life to continually educate youth on the importance of spreading kindness and not hate. There needs to be an emphasis that saying or doing anything hateful or mean online has its consequences. And, even though you cannot see the harm done to the targeted person, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
According to Psychology Today, we can also begin to take steps to improve our own behavior and experiences online by:
- Reporting and flagging mean behavior online and not engaging with (“liking”) this type of content online.
- Limiting how much we share online.
- Knowing when we are becoming too interwoven with social media and taking a break and time to enjoy face-to-face relationships that can reignite our empathy for others online.
Although antivirus software cannot prevent cyberbullying, Total Defense offers parental controls that can help your family protect against online bullying. Check out our Security blog or contact us to speak with our support team.