Cyber bullying is most certainly as harmful as harassment, considering that cyber bullying is not a separate entity from harassment, but a form of harassment. Harassment is defined by the Encarta English Dictionary as “threatening or tormenting behavior; behavior that threatens or torments somebody, especially persistently”. No one can argue that cyber bullying does not fit under that description. Therefore, the actual question is not whether cyber bullying is as harmful as harassment; it is exactly how harmful cyber bullying is. Many people are vastly undereducated as to the severity of cyber bullying in today’s world.
We live in a modern age where nearly every teenager has access to a computer of some sort, whether it is solely computers at public libraries and his or her school, or the teen’s own laptop computer. From these computers, most can access the Internet. And with the Internet access comes the threat of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can range from mildly annoying to severe and life threatening. It is not an issue that only teenagers face, though teenagers and high schoolers are most commonly associated with the term.
Cyber bullying is, as its name implies, bullying over the Internet. This can occur through social networking sites, emails, instant messages, etc. It can take the form of rude comments on statuses and blog updates, emails and privates messages filled with hatred (which can be done anonymously on some websites), through repeated rude instant messages, and even more ways. People are getting smarter about how to cyber bully every day. Unfortunately, victims of cyber bullying are often not taken seriously. Instead, when they seek help, they are told to simply log off of the website, to block the harasser, or something similar. There are several flaws with this approach.
First of all, it is an incorrect response in that it expects the victim to compromise his habits, rather than the bully being punished for his bullying. Just as it would be considered horrible to tell someone who was being stalked “in real life” to move away to solve his or her problems, it is inconsiderate to expect the victim of cyber bullying to be the one adjusting his or her lifestyle. Many victims of cyber bullying are also bullied at school or the workplace and turn to the Internet for support, only to find themselves attacked there as well.
Secondly, even if the victim were to do as he was told and change internet habits, this would not stop the bullying in most cases. Not all cyber bullying is done directly from the bully to the victim. Just as commonly, a group of people will publicly post their harassment of the victim on social networking websites. The victim cannot stop this by logging off of the website; the bullies will just continue to trash talk the victim, often suggesting that the victim is such a horrible person or so pathetic that the victim should take his own life.
There is a high risk of suicide in those who are cyber bullied. The adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is far from the truth. For victims of cyber bullying, there seems nowhere safe to go. What is posted on the Internet is soon read by those the victim knows in real life, leading to his or her daily life being interrupted by people snickering at what the bully had posted online the other day. Cyber bullying is not something that stays within the Internet. It expands outward into “real life” as soon as someone sees the bullying being done.
If there were a “type” of person to be cyber bullied, it would be a teenager who is also bullied at school and goes to the Internet to seek solace. Instead, he or she finds that either the bullies have found him or her online, or that there are more bullies to be struggled against. Repeatedly, the victim is told that they are worthless, ugly, stupid, need to be dead, and more. Some of the things I have heard cyber bullies say, I refuse to repeat. The victim eventually begins to believe these words. After all, no one considers cyber bullying to be extremely harmful, mostly because it is an area in which the population remains at least partially ignorant. The victim feels helpless and attacked and may harm himself routinely, become depressed, or commit suicide.
Many argue that there is no physical harm in cyber bullying, but this is obviously not true. Perhaps the bully is not directly injuring the victim. But is the bully not responsible for the nightly self-harm the victim inflicts upon him or herself? Is the bully not the one responsible for the alarming rate of suicides due to cyber bullying?
I cannot possibly understand how one could see cyber bullying as any less harmful than harassment. Cyber bullying has already taken too many young lives. How many more does it need to take before people realize it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed?