Like traditional bullying, it mostly involves teenagers and preteens with access to smart phones and social media. But it doesn’t stop here. Many fail to make the connection between malware and its bullying attributes, which may include the theft and abuse of your photos, electronic messages, and other personal data. Ransomware, rogue ware and virus hoaxes are usually driven by monetary gain, which likens them to the bully who steals his victim’s lunch money.
But what makes cyberbullying so dangerous is its constant presence. Whether automated or simply accessible by way of a website, victims are not granted any form of reprieve. The abuse is ongoing: Twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week. This can be quite distressing and in some cases, has even led to increased suicide rates among the young and impressionable.
Cyberbullying is a Display of Aggression
A common misconception about those who commit different forms of cyberharrassment is that they are harmless: That they are pranksters who are just having fun or letting off a little steam. On the contrary, these people are aggressors who target their victims with the help of smart phones, websites, and other electronic means of communication. These perpetrators will resort to intimidation, slander and threats by way of social media, chat rooms and other forms of instant messaging.
A primary concern about cyberbullying is the sense of guiltlessness among its perpetrators. Experts believe this is due to the level of anonymity they receive online. This is where privacy and responsibility meet. While Internet activists fight for freedom of action and speech, none of them are oblivious to the aggression of cyberbullying and its potential reach. They appreciate the ability to convict a perpetrator of a crime, just not at the expense of forfeiting our civil liberties.
Dealing with Cyberbullying
Governments around the world have begun to realize the immense threat that cyberbullying poses to the mental and physical health of those most vulnerable online. They understand that proactive measures must be adopted. Among the important steps that can be taken to curb cyberbullying are:
Robust cybersecurity measures: In the case of malware and other automated threats, advanced heuristics and artificial intelligence is needed to keep them at bay.
Legislation: Laws which take into account the complexities of the Internet and cyberbullying are desperately needed to effect change.
Working together: Teenagers must request counsel from their parents, teachers, psychologists and other professionals in the face of cyberbullying, and not succumb to its anguish and mental effects.
Taking appropriate action: When implementing solutions, the feedback of those most vulnerable should be actively sought out in lieu of text book-like and standardized programs.
Stewardship: Governments, social media sites and technology companies, for better or worse, often steer the direction of technology in society. It is incumbent on them to collaborate on workable solutions, and to eradicate the threat of cyberbullying.
As damaging and pernicious as cyberbullying is, the answer lies not in abjuring technology, but in realizing the importance of keeping those who use it safe. Bullies have existed since the beginning of time. If they are found in schools, colleges or any other physical place you can imagine, then you can also be certain of their presence online. It is up to everyone who uses technology to combat their horrendous behavior and rid the Internet of cyberbullying once and for all.