The increased use of cyberspace as a social networking forum has created a new medium for people to become victims of peer aggression. The availability of internet as a social tool serving all age groups, including youths and children either in communication or professionally has led to the rise of cyber bullying, which has long-term implications. The impacts are more severe because of wider audiences across the internet, with materials that can be stored online that relive the experience more often.
Bullying is said to occur through sending insulting, offensive, and messages to a person, disturbing them continuously, or stalking them via the internet to obtain information that can be used to inflict them. Spreading fabricated stories about people to ruin their image and social connection, or assuming the false identity to send degrading information about them is also cyber bullying. People get victimized, also when their private information is exposed in public, or when they are excluded from social encounters taking place in the virtual world.
Effects of Cyber Bullying on Children
Cyber victimization is associated with symptoms of social anxiety, thus the need to give the virtual empirical and clinical attention. This form of bullying causes psychological, emotional, and physical stress that increases the feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Suicide is the third causal of death among youths, with about 5,000 deaths annually (Alavi, Reshetukha & Prost, 2015). There are at least 100 suicidal attempts for every suicide among youths (Alavi et al., 2015). Youths and children who become victims of cyber bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide as compared to non-victims (Alavi et al., 2015). Suicidal feelings and attempts are more common among victims and perpetrators with high rates of attempted suicide among victims.
The relationship between bullying and depression that leads to suicide is unclear; studies fail to identify whether bullied individuals become depressed, or it is the depressed ones that are bullied. According to Lindert, (2017), victims of bullying have significantly increased chances of developing new psychosomatic and psychological disorders over the course of school program compared to those students who were not bullied.
Cyber victimization disrupts adolescent’s relationships interfering with personal self-esteem. Those harassed online appear to be lonely and isolate from parents and peers, with an increased sense of helplessness. They have fewer friendships, and more relationship and emotional problems, reduced school commitment, and more empathy. Victims hardly trust others and experience increased social anxiety and lowered self-worth.
The emotional and social development of children is important in shaping their personalities. Expansion of social circles requires dealing with unfamiliar situations and developing awareness of the social environment by improving cognitive and social skills. Social difficulties created by cyber bulling at this stage affects the experience in the physical world.
According to Hinduja & Patchin (2017), youths that have been bullied online are more likely to get involved in drugs and substance abuse and tend to carry weapons to school. They are also related to increased levels of other problematic behaviors such as physical aggression and stealing.
Cyber bullied individuals display emotional distress, inability to concentrate, sleep interruptions, and fear of safety. Substance abuse occurs when the victims use alcohol and drugs to escape the symptoms, and those who alternative coping skills and support end up being drug addicts.
Law Enforcement prevention of Cyber Bullying among Students
There is an urgent need for effective prevention and interventions of all cyber bullying stages, and this will require parents, teachers, and students learn its dangers to help the victims (Shultz, Heilman & Hart, 2014). Anti-bullying policies in schools should include cyber bullying to fight the vice effectively. The program will help in suicide prevention by implementing bullying preventions and create awareness on safe internet use. Online peer support programs for victims should be put in place to help those who fear to talk about their problems. The government should also set policies that allow contacting mobile phone companies and internet service providers to help identify, educate, and block users. Teachers should equip their students with strategies that increase their self-control, and empathy towards their peers. Training for perpetrators needs to be restorative in nature rather than punitive; punishing perpetrators create isolation which is against establishing and maintaining meaningful connections with others.
Schools should incorporate clinicians working with young people in assessing mental health issues routinely on students to deal with experiences of cyber bullying. Students should be encouraged to talk about any form of bullying they encounter and get them professional help. Victims should be treated with love and support, without judging their involvement in the bullying.
Cyber bullying impacts should be included in students’ mental health professionals (Sittichai, 2014). Victim students should be screened for common disorders regularly to prevent self-harm. All threats of suicide should be taken seriously, with immediate medical help. All weapons and medications should be kept away from everyone at risk of suicide. Healthcare providers and educators should organize ways of helping students and their parents establish monitoring programs.
Students are encouraged to include their parents and teachers in their friend’s social networking sites to monitor the availability of victimization. All communications should be kept as open as possible, to create a room for detecting whether students are behaving abnormally and know the root of the cause.
Cyber victimization has detrimental impacts on children’s health and is an emerging international public health concern. Healthcare professionals, educators, and parents have significant role in helping the victims by assessing physical and psychological health concerns. Education on cyber victimization should be integrated into academic systems and the general community by relating students to online legislations, accountability, and character.
Alavi, N., Reshetukha, T., & Prost, E. (2015). Bullying Including Cyber Bullying Increases the Risk of Suicidal Behaviour. European Psychiatry, 30, 209. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0924-9338(15)30169-3
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2017). Cultivating youth resilience to prevent bullying and cyberbullying victimization. Child Abuse & Neglect, 73, 51-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.010
Lindert, J. (2017). Cyber-bullying and it its impact on mental health. European Journal Of Public Health, 27(suppl_3). http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckx187.581
Sittichai, R. (2014). Information Technology Behavior Cyberbullying in Thailand: Incidence and Predictors of Victimization and Cyber-Victimization. Asian Social Science, 10(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ass.v10n11p132