Cyber culture

What causes cyber-bullying and what are its effects?

Most of the perpetrators of cyber-bullying are children themselves. The motive could range from anger, revenge and frustration to entertainment or even mere boredom. Many indulge in it, thinking it to be a harmless banter and for laughs or just to get a reaction, but end up liking and enjoying it. Many others do it to bolster or remind people of their own social standing, to torment others and for their own ego. Free access to computers and mobiles and plenty of available time (mainly due to poor-quality education) lead many to indulge in such behaviours.

There are four major types of cyber-bullies, reflecting the disparate intents behind cyber-bullying:

  1. The “Vengeful Angel”: this cyber-bully is protecting himself or others from the “bad guy” who they are victimising. This includes situations when the victims of traditional bullying or cyber-bullying retaliate and become cyber-bullies themselves.
  2. The “Power-Hungry”: this cyber-bully wants to show that he is powerful enough to make others do what he wants and to control others with fear. They often brag about their actions and need an audience. They seek reactions from victims and keep on pestering, till they get one.
  3. The “Mean Girls”: this cyber-bully plans in a group either virtually or physically and wants others to know who they are and that they have power over others. It grows when fed by group admiration, cliques or by the silence of others who let it happen. It quickly dies if they do not get the audience or entertainment value that they seek.
  4. The Inadvertent cyber-bully or “Because I Can”: this cyber-bully may be pretending to be tough online, or role playing being tough, or he may be angry or hurt, reacting to hateful or provocative messages they may have received and usually respond in anger or frustration without thinking about the consequences of own actions.

Interestingly, there is a common thread connecting the four types – there is a degree of co-play in cyber-bulling situations, the victims react or respond to the prowls or simply play victim for long. In a way, cyber-bullying is easier to handle – effective avoidance is one simple way.

Effects of cyber-bullying

Cyber-bullying is an intense form of psychological abuse, where victims experience shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, retaliation, poor sleep and face lower self-esteem, and increased suicidal ideation. It can be more harmful than traditional bullying because it is more forceful and avoidance is difficult at later stages. Making the issue worse is the reluctance of children to share their trauma with an authority or parents. The victim begins to avoid friends and activities, becomes quieter and appears less confident and the aefects start showing up in their academics and development.

Here is a listing of the possible effects of cyber-bullying:

  1. Being vulnerable: Bullied from all corners and at all times – there seems to be no place safe from the unknown bullies.
  2. Being humiliated: Bullied most by the feeling of ‘nakedness’ by the bullying material – the sheer public glare on information placed on the internet.
  3. Being cornered: Bullied to a point that left victims alone to fight off the bullies.
  4. Being submerged: Bullied to the level of feeling over-powered; often involves several bullies acting in unison.
  5. Being angry: Bullied in ways that hitting back is the only escape.
  6. Being dejected: Bullied to a level that there is a feeling of being trapped for ever and life seems hopeless and meaningless.
  7. Being circumspect: Bullied into avoidance of risks of any kind
  8. Being robbed of identity: Bullied by the very personal attack that scars key ideas of self-worth/self-pride
  9. Being unsocial: Bullied to a level that one is afraid of any social contact for the fear of facing a bully or possible shame.
  10. Being stressed: Bullied to a level that self-confidence is shattered.
  11. Being affected: Bullied to a level that it induces psychosomatic effects such as low-grade fever.
  12. Being cynical: Bullied into believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; becoming distrustful of human sincerity or integrity in general.
  13. Being suicidal: Bullied to a level that drives one to think of escape in death; mostly involves dual attack – real world (but not physically) and online

Cyber-bullying can have significantly boundless impact on children.

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