Need to Investigate Cyberbullying among Adolescents
In recent years, bullying has risen to become a hot topic in both the national and global media. Cyberbullying has added a new dimension to the already severe life-impacting issue, especially children and adolescents. The evolution of traditional bullying has facilitated this due to the emergence of modern digital communication. In the U.S., the adolescent culture is shifting from the usage of the Internet as an “extra” to a “primary and necessary” mode of communication. It is suggested that approximately one-third of Internet users worldwide are children. Its capability to encompass every aspect of human activity is almost infinite. The rapid spread of the Internet and children’s easy access has facilitated the promotion of traditional bullying by granting it an opportunity to expand from the school grounds into the vast and complex cyberspace, which also includes homes. Studies have revealed that since 2004, approximately 20% of children aged between 10 to 18 have fallen victim to cyberbullying ((Vaillancourt, Faris, & Mishna, 2017). Nevertheless, only a limited proportion of the victims have been reported.
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Furthermore, this new form of bullying is more rampant and unique to the traditional one in that there is an unlimited audience, and it provides an illusion of anonymity. This is because the perpetrators hide behind the social media platforms; hence, they may not comprehend the outcomes of their actions. Consequently, this reduces the crucial feelings of personal accountability. In addition, the focus on this topic has been instigated by the recent news media, bringing to light the association between cyberbullying and adolescent suicide, the third leading cause of death among adolescents (Alavi et al., 2017). For instance, the case of the fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, who committed suicide. This is after she experienced relentless acts of cyberbullying from a 35-year-old Dutchman and her classmates ((Vaillancourt et al., 2017). Nevertheless, cyberbullying has implications for the perpetrators as well. In 2010, nine high school students were charged with the death of Phoebe Price, a 15-year-old who took her own life following several months of offline and online harassment (Alavi et al., 2017). Overall the before-mentioned studies and cases illustrate that cyberbullying is an extremely relevant issue facing society.
Implications on the Family System and Parent-Child Relationship
The type and quality of parent-child relationships differ significantly based on the diverse parenting styles, which greatly impact modeling their children’s identity, character, and relationship with peers. Naturally, cyberbullying is regarded as a phenomenon ensuing more within the family context and less beyond it (Lopez-Castro & Priegue, 2019). Parent’s knowledge and awareness of digital bullying and parent-child child relationships have an important position in the emergence, maintenance, and prevention of cyberbullying. Recent studies are emphasizing on determining if and how parents are communicating with their children as the family systems are a powerful force modeling the personality of individual children (Lopez-Castro & Priegue, 2019). This recommendation is grounded on the family systems theory that highlights the interconnectedness between family members and the continuous creation of shared beliefs.
The communication and relationship that is existent in a family play a significant role in a child’s socialization as they are the primary way children learn to interact with others. Therefore, in consideration of bullying, parents are the main factor in attaining an effective solution to cyberbullying. Overall, the before-mentioned statements imply that it is essential to foster a positive parent-child relationship. Parents should cultivate having clear and direct communication with their children, as this has been noted to lead to positive behavior towards their peers. In contrast, poor communication patterns have been correlated to feelings of unsupportiveness and rejection by children, hence, predisposing them to develop behavior problems (Offrey & Rinaldi, 2017). It is essential to note that although there might be positive communication, it is necessary to address the topic of bullying to encourage children to share experiences of victimization.
The other implication is that parents should improve their knowledge of online bullying. In a study by Lopez-Castro and Priegue (2019), the findings illustrated that most parents were unable to provide accurate descriptions of different types of bullying; thus, it was suggested that there should be an increased awareness surrounding the scope of bullying. Furthermore, the study revealed that parents perceive that direct forms of bullying, such as physical aggression, are more severe than their indirect counterparts. Lastly, it is implied that parental warmth, cohesion, closeness, support, care, and attachment facilitate the creation of a strong relationship between parents and their children to prevent cyberbullying. Family support was negatively correlated with cyberbullying perpetration and victimization.
Implications of Cyberbullying of Adolescents as it Relates to Children
Adolescents and children need to learn how to cope with cyberbullying. Children need to realize that there is no simple solution to cyberbullying, nor is there a completely secure way to handle a bully. First, they have to learn to prevent cyberbullying before it occurs. They could begin by never sharing the Internet passwords, blocking communication with cyberbullies (they should often try to delete messages before reading them), never posting or sharing personal information or those of their friends online (Help Guide, 2019). Furthermore, they should never talk about their lives online, always be polite online, and not send messages when angry or upset. Nevertheless, it implies that in the instance of cyberbullying, children should report threats of harm inappropriate sexual messages to the relevant authorities and do not respond to offensive threats or messages nor seek revenge (Help Guide, 2019). They should also save evidence of the cyberbullying and then report it to a trusted adult.
Lastly, while being bullied, it is vital to have trusted people to turn to for encouragement and support while managing stress and boosting resilience. Children should begin by unplugging from technology and find people who share the same values and interests (Help Guide, 2019). In addition, they can talk to parents, trusted friends, counselors, religious leaders or coaches, amongst others.
Implications of Cyberbullying of Adolescents on the Society
Cooperation between parents, governments, schools, Internet companies, and nonprofit companies is required to combat online bullying. If society acts responsibly, the prevalence of cyberbullying will become less significant. In most cases, supplements of cyberbullying occur in schools; hence, educational institutions have a crucial role to play. This encompasses discussing the issue, explaining the impacts of bullying, working together with parents and students to raise awareness. Educators are required to adopt risk prevention programs and, with the assistance of parents, to provide support to students ((Stopbullying.gov., 2020). The creation of a supportive and amicable environment in schools has positive effects on the student population; thereby, minimize the probability of cyberbullying. The conception of policies by school leadership is central to addressing the problem of cyberbullying. Administrators should be preemptive in implementing effective anti-bullying programs.
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are among the popular platforms for cyberbullying. As a result, such platforms have integrated options through which users can report harassment and even have the choice to block another user. Lastly, the various governments and non-governmental organizations have put into place legislatures criminalizing cyberbullying. For instance, the American National Crime Prevention Council launched a campaign under the name “Don’t Write It. Don’t Forward It. Stop Cyberbullying.” There is also StopBullying.gov that offers information from several government agencies on how parents, children, educators, and youth can prevent and stop cyberbullying ((Stopbullying.gov., 2020).
Relevance of Cyberbullying of Adolescents to Healthcare Practitioners
Since targets and bystanders are less likely to report bullying to adults, health providers serve an essential function in uncovering bullying that would otherwise be missed. The findings of a British study suggested that most parents (88.7%) and adolescents (90.8%) believe it is necessary that their health practitioners be capable of recognizing bullying and help the victims (Vaillancourt et al., 2017). Furthermore, the students perceived that having an independent family physician separate from the school environment holds its advantage. Therefore, it is implied that healthcare practitioners screen, validate, and advocate for cyberbullying. According to Ranney et al. (2016), the results showed that out of the 353 participants, 23.2% screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, 13.9% for depression, and 11.3% for past-year suicidal ideation, which have been strongly correlated with symptoms of bullying. Therefore, healthcare providers should be equipped with information concerning potential signs and symptoms of cyberbullying on which they should be alert. Some of these include school avoidance (increased truancy and absences, or other academic issues), diminished self-esteem and increased depression, sleeping problems, detachment from peers and family, sudden rage, and self-destructive behavior.
The other implication is that when children or their parents present to their healthcare provider with troubles regarding bullying, the practitioners should certify the concerns as legitimate, crucial, and commendable of receiving attention and necessary intervention. This is because the social lives of adolescents should not be disregarded as the present state of knowledge outlines the presence of an association between cyberbullying and poor health and academic outcomes (Vaillancourt, Faris, & Mishna, 2017). Furthermore, the absence of validation among adults regarding children’s bullying experiences might be traumatic.
Agencies, Programs, Support Services or Web Sites for Cyberbullying Victims
To protect children from cyberbullies and help victims recover, the Rhode Island state government created its first statewide cybercrime support and recovery hotline. The system allows Rhode Islanders to dial “2-1-1” to report and locate resources to recover from cyberbullying. The support and recovery system is managed via a partnership between the United Way Rhode Island 2-1-1, Cybercrime Support Network, and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (BVAC) (United Way of Rhode Island, 2020). Upon calling the hotline, victims will be connected with trained operators who can evaluate the situation and link them with organizations to help victims of cyberbullying. They will then be put in touch with non-profit and governmental support groups who can offer counseling, amongst other services.
Furthermore, the Rhode Island state government enacted and approved the Safe School Actin response to standardize school responses to cyberbullying issues. The Safe Schools Act provides a statewide policy of disciplinary actions in response to digital bullying, comprising the prompt notification of both the victim and the perpetrator (Stopbulling.gov., 2020). It also protects students who anonymously report bullying. Therefore, in the case that children and parents are inquiring help from Human Resource support, the professional can make aware to them the details of the Act and how they should take up the issue with the school administration to solve it. Lastly, the professional can recommend some helpful websites created by and for children and adolescents to identify ways to address bullying, take action, be heard, and own an important social cause.
I learned that cyberbullying is still a massive problem in today’s society. With the increasing amount of children getting access to the Internet, it is possible that the severity of the issue might heighten. Although social media platforms are integrating the “report abuse” options, there are still many individuals hiding behind the illusion of anonymity provided by the Internet that perpetrators use. I also learned that cyberbullying has significant adverse impacts on children’s wellbeing, which encompasses their mental and academic spheres and can even lead to death.
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I realized that there are not sufficient anti-bullying strategies in place. For instance, only a few state governments, such as the Rhode Island state government, have created state laws to supplement the federal regulations. Moreover, in most instances, victims of cyberbullying end up not reporting abuses or harassment to their teachers and instead of family physicians. Therefore, this suggests that those who do not have family physicians suffer the harmful effects of cyberbullying solely. Thus society needs to mitigate the gap by creating policies or providing support services unavailable to adolescents from this niche. Alternatively, since bullying is centered on family systems and parent-child situations, it is recommended that changes be made to these modalities to enable children to be open with their parents and prevent others from becoming perpetrators.
I will advocate by participating in community programs providing anti-bullying support services. Specifically, I will emphasize working on platforms through which parents can be made aware of the essentiality of parent-child relationships and family systems on online bullying. Parents should be enlightened on the various parenting styles and how they should communicate with their children to encourage an environment for open communication. Furthermore, healthcare practitioners should be trained on how to screen and manage victims of cyberbullies as children find them most approachable.
Alavi, N., Reshetukha, T., Prost, E., Antoniak, K., Patel, C., Sajid, S., & Groll, D. (2017). Relationship between bullying and suicidal behaviour in youth presenting to the emergency department. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26(2), 70–77.
Help Guide. (2019). Bullying and cyberbullying.
Lopez-Castro, L., & Priegue, D. (2019). Influence of family variables on cyberbullying perpetration and victimization: A systematic literature review. Social Sciences, 8(3), 2-25.
Offrey, L.D., & Rinaldi, C. M. (2017). Parent–child communication and adolescents’ problem-solving strategies in hypothetical bullying situations. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 22(3), 251-267.
Ranney, M. L., Patena, J. V., Nugent, N., Spirito, A., Boyer, E., Zatzick, D., & Cunningham, R. (2016). PTSD, cyberbullying and peer violence: Prevalence and correlates among adolescent emergency department patients. General Hospital Psychiatry, 39, 32–38.
Stopbulling.gov. (2020). Rhode Island anti-bullying laws & policies.
United Way of Rhode Island. (2020). Cybersecurity. Web.
Vaillancourt, T., Faris, R., & Mishna, F. (2017). Cyberbullying in children and youth: Implications for health and clinical practice. Canadian journal of psychiatry, 62(6), 368-373.