Let's Talk About Cyberbullying
May 02, 2015 at 9:20 PM
The issue of Trolling and Cyberbullying is nothing new, in fact, it has been a thing almost since the inception of the public Internet. However, as time goes on and we have more social networks, MMOs, and online communities, there are more and more opportunities for such things to take place.
First, if you're not already familiar with these terms, here is a brief description of each:
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. -Wikipedia
Cyberbullying is the use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, "cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them". -Wikipedia
Why are we talking about this? Well, it's relevant to almost everyone. You have probably been trolled or cyberbullied, seen it happen, or even done it yourself. It's also important. There have been a disturbing number of suicides, and cases of depression and self harm due to cyberbullying.
For people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death (source: SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, 2014).
There is 1 completed suicide for every 15 attempted suicides, and specifically among young adults ages 15 to 24, there are approximately 100-200 attempts of every 1 completed suicide (source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control [CDC], 2012).
Cyberbullying & Trolling may not be the leading type of bullying/harrassment, but it is certainly a leading source.
Even when Cyberbullying and Trolling does not lead to Depression, Self Harm, Suicide, etc, doesn't mean it should be ignored or that it's any less important. Ultimately, even in a best-case scenario it hurts peoples feelings, self confidence, and causes other emotional harm.
Cyberbullying is most prevalent among students, so most available statistics are over-representative of that demographic. However, let's take a look at the reported gender of Cyberbullies, according to Anti-Bullying Watchdog, Stop A Bully:
These statistics may be skewed differently if they were to only tally adult / non-student cases.
Because the 'National Crime Victimization Survey' data is weighted to represent the entire enrolled 9th-12th grade student population, it is estimated that about 2.2 million students experienced cyberbullying in 2011. Of the 9% of students that reported being cyber-bullied in the National Crime Victimization Survey compared to 6.2% in 2009 (source: NCES, 2013):
- 71.9% reported being cyber-bullied once or twice in the school year
- 19.6% reported once or twice a month
- 5.3% reported once or twice a week
- 3.1% reported almost everyday
So, by now we can see that cyberbullying is a prevalent issue, it's serious, and that it happens to a majority of students. Now we must ask, what's the difference between a troll and a cyberbully?
To find the answer to this, we can look at the aims and goals of each. This data comes to us via science.opposingviews.com:
"Troll Aims: Internet trolls seek attention. They want to shift attention from the author's content and conversations about the content onto themselves. They want responses to their inflammatory comments from the original author as well as other commenters. The more attention they get, in the form of comments directed at them, the happier the troll is. The more attention they get from a website and its readers, the more likely they are to troll that website again."
Cyberbullying Goals: While trolls try to attract attention to themselves, cyberbullies want to demean and hurt their victims. Trolls are indifferent to the harm their comments may cause. They do not care if their comments cause people emotional distress or not. All they want is a reaction from the community they are trolling. Cyberbullies do not want attention for themselves, but negative attention on their victim. All they want is to cause distress for their victims.
When people discuss both Trolling and Cyberbullying, there tends to be three main points of focus:
- How could someone be so hurtful / What a bad person this troll must be / Shame on that bully
- The victim did the wrong thing / Don't feed the trolls / Blame the Victim
- The Website/Forum/Network/Etc should do a better job of banning/censoring bullies, harrassers, and trolls
So, what I will suggest, is let's talk about what isn't being talked about. Trolls almost always want an audience. Cyberbullies often do as well. Here are some statistics on this:
The actions of the people who witness Trolling or Cyberbullying are what can really make a diffference, what really matters. Currently, we have a culture of victim-blaming. If someone is attacked and they defend themselves, or if witnesses help to defend the victim, other observers often lump the attacker, victim, and defenders all as one group. They might say things like "Wow you are all so mature arguing like that" or "I'm really disappointed in all of you behaving like this", etc. These kinds of comments only make things worse.
If observers & witnesses of Trolling and Cyberbullying presented a united front of non-tolerance, we would create a culture where this type of behaviour is not accepted, and is unsuccessful. The victims would receive so much more support and positive feedback that it would greatly help to counter the damage any would-be troll or cyberbully could hope to cause.
We are all a part of this planet, we are in this thing together, let's act like it.
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