Cyberbullying is an act with the potential to deeply hurt people. In fact, sufferers consequently develop symptoms of emotional suffering such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress. Moreover, it’s been observed that close to 60 percent of adolescents could be victims of cyberbullying. This increase in its prevalence has prompted scientists to investigate.
You might think that the concept of bullying is new. However, this term was first mentioned more than 50 years ago. It was described ‘a type of hostile and violent behavior that’s repeated over time and whose objective is to cause harm to a victim, who is perceived as less powerful and strong’ (Olweus, 1978).
“New online formats and platforms have given rise to new arenas where bullying is easier and more accessible.”
-Michelle F. Wright-
The fact that technical and technological advances have led to new ways of interacting on a social level is undeniable. It also means that traditional bullying (face-to-face) has undergone a transformation.
These new forms of harassment are known as cyberbullying. It takes place in the digital world and allows the harasser to hide behind the anonymity provided by social media. This tends to produce greater feelings of helplessness in the victims.
Cyberbullying is a new form of harassment and differs in some aspects from traditional bullying (Moleroa et al., 2020):
- Traditional bullying is clearly associated with the differences in status and power between the bully and their victim. On the other hand, cyberbullying tends to be linked to the morbidity of anonymity. In addition, the victim may have a harder time defending themselves.
- With traditional bullying, the victim can choose to leave the situation, or at least avoid it as much as possible. However, with cyberbullying it’s more difficult to do so because victims are constantly exposed to social media.
These two elements comprise the difference between traditional and digital bullying. They’ve prompted some researchers to delve into the phenomenon of cyberbullying. In fact, according to a Save The Children (2019) report, almost 80 percent of adolescents up to the age of 20 have suffered cyberbullying at some point in their lives.
“If you report a case of harassment, you are not a snitch, you are brave.”
The different types of cyberbullying
There are many types of cyberbullying (Álvarez-García et al., 2017):
- The kind exercised through the written word. For example, via profane expressions, insults, offenses, expletives, or anonymous calls whose objective is intimidation.
- The kind that exercised visually. For instance, via the theft of intimate photos or videos. These are later shared on social media and have a huge impact on the social life of the victims. It’s known, ironically, as happy slapping.
- The kind that occurs by default. For example, the cyberbully deliberately and maliciously excludes the victim from and within social gatherings. Moreover, they make fun of them in front of their peers.
- The kind that involves identity theft (Moleroa et al., 2022). This is extremely common in the field of the digital universe.
It seems that cyberbullying exercised through words and the kind that occurs due to omission or exclusion of the victim in social interactions are the two most common types.
Moreover, cases of visual cyberbullying are becoming increasingly common. They’re characterized by forcing the victim to view extremely humiliating scenes, videos, and photographs (Barragan et al., 2021).
“Digital victimization has been pointed out as a factor closely related to psychological damage among adolescents.”
Emotional suffering and cyberbullying in adolescents
The absence of a firm and consolidated self-esteem or emotional symptoms of suffering such as fear and shame are frequently reported among victims of cyberbullying. In addition, the victims feel intense anguish at the fact of opening up to the people around them. Consequently, they experience the kind of loneliness that paralyzes and freezes them.
Depression is one of the frequent consequences of cyberbullying. In fact, a growing number of cases of young victims of digital bullying suffering from this clinical entity have been discovered. Cyberbullying increases the risk of both depression and anxiety disorders. At the same time, it makes victims isolate themselves from their environment and feel intensely alone.
It’s been discovered that the consequences of cyberbullying depend on the skills the victim has when it comes to managing the negative impact of this behavior. For example, how victims perceive their self-efficacy or adaptive strategies for emotional regulation. Social support (how the victim makes use of their friends and family when it comes to releasing pressure) is a variable that helps reduce the emotional symptoms of cyberbullying.
“The psycho-emotional adjustment of adolescents is closely linked to digital victimization on the Internet.”
The loss of the meaning of life
Frequently, as a result of cyberbullying, adolescents lose the meaning of life. Indeed, thoughts about suicide are common. This is an aspect that has alarmed researchers. Moreover, specific emotions, such as anger, feeling confused, or feeling constantly tense, have been associated with a higher probability of being a victim of cyberbullying.
As a result, various experts have pointed out that we should be developing interventions focused on promoting better management of emotions among adolescents (Pasquale et al., 2021). Undoubtedly, these would benefit the mental health of the young people exposed to this type of digital harassment.
“Face-to-face social connections protect against negative mental health outcomes linked to cybervictimization.”
-Larisa T. McLouhlin-
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