Defining Cyberbullying takes place in a digital environment

Defining the issue:

Bullying refers to the repeated occurrences of terrorizing and frightening victims through physically injuring them or psychologically discomforting them. Bullying is a social issue as it can lead to long or short-term harassment and abuse of a victim. Bullying comes in two main forms, Physical and Cyber. Physical bullying is physically injuring or verbally putting down victims to help the bully carry out their tasks. These tasks usually involve school work. Physical bullying is a lack of power, the bullies are bigger and stronger compared to the defenseless victim. Cyberbullying takes place in a digital environment and not in face to face confrontations. The bully anonymously harasses the victim through the internet and social media websites.

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There are two main types of victims, the passive victims, and the reactive victims. Passive victims avoid encounters with the bully, they do not speak out about their bullying experiences and do not fight back to the bully. This is due to the difference in power and height of the victim in comparison to the bully. These victims are quite common because bullies usually harass others that they consider easy targets. Reactive victims are limited in numbers compared to the passive victims. Unlike the passive victims, these victims counter their bullies with aggression and fight back when bullied. Reactive victims are difficult to determine as they, “straddle the fence of being a bully and/or a victim.”(Kuther). They are a target of the bullies, but they regularly taunt the bullies and other children. Reactive victims are also considered bullies because they redirect their rage of getting bullied towards others that are physically smaller and lack the power to fight back.

            There are two main ways to identify bullies. The first way is when they show concrete bullying behaviours. These behaviours include name calling, rumor spreading, picking on other children, making threats to other children and trying to manipulate other children into doing what they want. The second way is when they display bullying related attitudes. These attitudes include finding joy in fighting, having a low tolerance for frustration, having little empathy for others, and engaging in behaviours considered anti-social like vandalism and stealing.

History of the issue:

Bullying had been present since the beginning of school and was considered nothing more than a rite of passage that all children had to undergo. This changed when the 1999 massacre of Columbine high school in Colorado occurred. This school shooting had a direct correlation to bullying and resulted in the staff and community members paying more attention to bullying.  The years that followed this event saw a change in how society viewed bullying. Bullying became a big social issue and over time improvements were made to help combat bullying. It became such a big issue that laws had to be passed to keep the problem from getting out of control and people had to be properly educated about the issue. Schools became more responsible in teaching the children about bullying as well as teaching their staff on how to handle situations that involved bullying. In the present time, there are proper punishments for the bullies as well as various ways for a victim to seek help and speak out about their bullying experiences.

Here are some examples of how society has adapted to bullying over the years. On June 2002, The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates adopted a report that recommended doctors to be on alert for signs and symptoms as a result of bullying due to the long-term mental consequences of bullying. On March 2004, Tommy Thompson the secretary of health and human services declared a new campaign called, “Take A Stand. Lend A Hand. Stop Bullying Now!” This was created to educate Americans on youth violence and How to stop bullying. In 2007, 7 states had passed laws for cyberbullying. (Staff).

Here are a few examples of steps society has taken to prevent bullying over the last 7 years. On August 2010, The U.S Department of Education hosted the first school bullying summit which was used to educate victims on how to end the bullying. On March 10, 2011, President Barack Obama assembled the white house members for a conference on bullying prevention. In 2016, multiple social media websites including Instagram had implemented defensive measures to fight the cyberbullying that was occurring on those sites. In July 2017, a new anti-bullying law in Mississippi took effect stating that schools were required to train and update their staff yearly on the prevention of bullying and suicide. (Staff).

Psychological Factors:

            Bullying has many negative impacts on the victim. Bullying leaves permanent physical and psychological scars on the victim. Victims report greater fear and anxiety, they feel less accepted, and they suffer from more health problems. Victims also have lower scores on academic achievement and self-esteem compared to the students who are not bullied. Victims take the rage of being bullied out on themselves because they feel can’t talk to anyone else and don’t have enough courage to stand against the bully. This Results in the victims developing mental health problems like depression and anxiety and can even lead to the victim committing suicide. Bullying can also result in the victim having a reduced connection between the brain and the adolescent hormones, and this destroys the growth of new neurons.

            Bullying also negatively impacts the bully. Without proper help, “bullies suffer stunted emotional growth and fail to develop empathy.”(Kuther). With repeated acts of bullying, the bully can lose control of their emotions and will not learn to properly control as well as manage their emotions. Learning to control your emotions is very crucial as you grow up and not being able to do so can lead the bully to be unsuccessful in the future as an adult. Bullies accomplish their tasks by manipulating others and this can result in the failure to form genuine relationships with others. This can affect the bully in a work environment, as he will have a hard time in forming relationships with their coworkers and boss. This can also affect the bully in their personal life as they struggle to form a relationship with a lover, friend, or family member. Adults that don’t change their bullying habits have an increased likelihood of criminal troubles, abusing their spouse. Physically abusing someone is a felony and can result in a verdict of imprisonment for more than one year. These people also have children that will bully others continuing the cycle of bullying.

Sociological Factors:

            Society has a negative perception of bullying and is against bullying and bullies. Society has been negatively affected by bullying and this is primarily due to bullied students missing classes and/or dropping out of school entirely. Bullying is so severe in some cases that the victim might try to skip classes or even drop out of school. These victims don’t contribute to society and it which hurts the economy and overall money flow of a country. To combat this, society has released laws to keep the bullying from getting out of hand. The quintessential example of this is the house bill 306 Senate bill 179 also known as David’s Law. This Law covers cyberbullying on and off of school property and it reports the parents of the bullied child within a day of the incident as well as creates new ways of report bullying. This also calls for the immediate suspension of the bully.

            Over time Bullying has become a very prominent issue and society has invented and incorporated stricter laws to fight against it. This is evident with the passing of William’s bill passed in Ohio. This bill declares bullies as criminals and charges them for third-degree misdemeanor for the bullying. The first incident of bullying results in a warning for the bully and next couple of incidents will result in peer meditation, parent meeting, and in or out of school suspension for the bully. For the sixth incident, the bully will be charged with aggravated bullying with a fine of up to $150. For those above eighteen, they could face up to 60 days along with the fine. This bill is to show the importance and seriousness of bullying.

Nature vs Nurture:

Nature vs nurture is a debate that looks to see if nature or nurture is more dominant in producing various aspects of human behaviour, culture, and personality. Nature looks at genetic DNA of a person received from their parents and nurture looks at the environmental factors like peers, social status, and how they were brought up. Bullying is a mix of both nurture as well as nature. Bullies are influenced by their peers and the school environment. This means if there is a negative and bullying environment then the students will are more likely to become bullies as well. This also works with the relationship between the bully and the victim as continuous acts of bullying can turn a victim into bullies as well. This is apparent as kids who get bullied are more likely to cyberbully other people as a result of the bullying.

Bullies are also influenced by natural and heredity factors. Natural factors include the need for the teenage brain to seek status in a group of peers as well as increase attractiveness towards the opposite sex. These factors affect both males as well as females. Females bully other females and attack their beauty as well as their sexual fidelity and these traits are most desired by males. Likewise, males bully other males and attack their strength and wealth, the most desired traits by females. This is proven true by a study that shows that boys who bully other boys gain status with girls who view the boys as more dominant. Likewise, girls who bully other girls gain more positive attention from boys. (Kay).

Differing Viewpoints:

            Society, as well as experts, have different viewpoints on bullying. The three main viewpoints include bystanders are the bully’s accomplice, bullies are criminals, and bullying and other conflicts between children are positive and healthy. Bystanders are the bully’s accomplice is a viewpoint believed by both the society as well as experts. Usually, the blame is put on the bully and not the bystanders, but they believe that bystanders aid in the bullying of the victim and are crucial to making or breaking the bullying episode. Society believes this because they have laws that could have bystanders facing criminal charges. This is evident as in Glenbrook North High School, 14-21 students faced criminal prosecution for being bystanders and the high school stripped bystanders of their innocence. Experts believe this viewpoint because they have conducted studies about bystanders and given their opinion on bystanders in relation to the bully. This is evident as a Canadian bystander students study was conducted by Margaret Sagarese and Charlene C. Giannetti. This study showed that 43% of respondents said they tried to help the victim and 57% just watched and did nothing. 33% of these people said they should have helped and 24% said it was none of their business. (Sagarese). These experts believed that the bullying situation was under the control of the bystander. If the bystanders left instead of crowding around the victim and the bully, the bully would no longer be the center of attention and would not receive as much satisfaction from bullying. This could help stop the bullying. Bystanders can also verbally defend the victim to get the bully to stop instead of just standing by watching which can prompt the bully to continue bullying.

            Bullies as criminals is a viewpoint believed by society. This is evident through the various laws that make the bullies appear as criminals and charge them with criminal offenses. This is also evident because all around the U.S society is treating bullying as a criminal activity. In 32 states, the schools have procedures for investigating bullying incidents, in 17 states, the schools have to report the bullying to a supervisor just like any other cases of abuse. In 9 states, schools are required to report bullying to the police. (Toppo).

            Bullying and other conflicts between children are positive and healthy is a viewpoint believed by experts. Most bullying is not very serious for a minority of the children, not all things that are considered bullying are bullying. Children need to resolve their own disputes and anti-bullying campaigns are counterintuitive as they introduce an authority figure which includes teachers into children’s conflicts to stop bullying. These campaigns preach the importance of the victim sharing his bullying experiences and telling someone. This can result in reducing a child’s ability to resolve their conflicts as they just run to an authority figure instead. Letting a child handle his own problems helps them acquire key skills like co-operation and help them grow up and become independent-minded people. Without the opportunity to engage with each other without extreme adult intervention, the child will not learn the consequences of their actions and behaviours. Letting children work out their disputes among themselves can lead to healthy emotional and social development.

Experts Opinion:

There are multiple experts in psychology, sociology, or other fields that have conducted studies and given their opinions on the issue of bullying based on their research. These experts include Karen A. Matthews, Martin Teicher, and Robert W. Faris. Karen A. Matthews is a psychology researcher in the University of Pittsburgh and his opinion on bullying was that men who were bullies as kids had closer ties to smoking cigarettes and use marijuana and to be aggressive for 20 years to come. Also, those people who were bullied had greater financial difficulties. He proved these opinions in a study he conducted on 500 boys that attended Pittsburgh public schools in 1987 and 1988. He assessed these children as well as collect data from people who were close to the children which included teachers and parents. Matthews managed to recruit 300 plus original study participants and took them into a lab to run tests on them. There he proved his opinion and found that bullies were more likely to smoke and use marijuana due to the increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease. He also proved that the victims had more financial difficulties due to the outcome being related to risk for cardiovascular disease. He concluded that both the bullies and the victims had lots of stress in adulthood and that the effects of childhood bullying lasted a long time. (Childhood).

Martin Teicher is a neuroscientist at McLean Hospital in Belmont and his opinion on bullying was that verbal abuse did equivalent damage to psychological functioning as physical abuse. His study included over 1000 young adults who had been verbally abused by their peers. He proved that his opinion was correct and he was shocked after he scanned 63 young adult brains. Teicher saw noticeable abnormalities on the corpus callosum which played a crucial role in visual processing, memory and more. (Anthes).

Robert W. Faris is an assistant sociology professor at the University of California, Davis and his opinion on bullying was that kids in the middle of the social hierarchies at their schools were more likely to bully. He conducted surveys with students and with this information he was able to determine which kids were in the middle of the school’s social web. Then he further surveyed the students asking them about the classmate that treated them with aggression. Through this process, he proved his opinion as true and he further explained, “I think there’s kind of a simple explanation: These kids view aggression as one tactic for gaining or maintaining their social status,” about the results. (Shah).