Cyberbullying and its effect on victims

Cyberbullying has become common place with the rise of social media. A study found that 27 percent of bullied students in Jordan had skipped school, which was significantly higher than those who were not bullied (5.5 percent). (Photo: Freepik)
AMMAN — In the current age of information, children and teens are more exposed to technology and social media. Although the internet has many positives, such as giving anyone the ability to self-educate or to entertain, there is a growing problem affecting youth. اضافة اعلان

Bullying, especially in schools, has been a problem for children and teens for generations. Some may argue that bullying is good as it can build character, improve social skills, and be a drive for success. However, bullying has also evolved with the times and there has been a transition from physical and verbal bullying to online or cyber bullying. 

Although cyberbullying has fewer physical ramifications, it transcends the classroom and allows for bullies to continue attacking a victim even when they are in the safety of their own home. For victims, it might feel as though no where is safe, but bringing awareness to the issue and educating yourself may help.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying in the broadest sense is bullying that occurs through the medium of digital technology. This most commonly takes place on social media platforms but also includes messaging and gaming platforms. The perpetrator’s goal is to make their victims feel ashamed, angered, or scared by means of repeated, targeted behavior.

This can be done in a variety of ways and can take many different forms. Such behavior includes spreading lies, rumors, or embarrassing photos of victims on social media, sending hurtful or threatening messages to a victim, or impersonating a victim and sending mean, hurtful, or embarrassing messages to others on the a victim’s behalf.

How to identify cyberbullying

Children and teens joke and tease with one another. It is a normal part of growing up and it can be seen as a way of having fun, but there is a fine line between teasing and bullying. Sometimes, bullies will say something hurtful or mean and simply add that they were only kidding or joking at the end of their remarks.

Oftentimes, if you confront them about what they said they will tell you that you need to stop being soft or to not take it personally. This form of bullying may be hard to identify and can be difficult to process internally for the individual.

As a rule of thumb, if people are laughing at you instead of with you, it is bullying regardless of someone’s intentions, and if their remarks or comments make you feel negatively, you as a victim should not have to tolerate it. 

Additionally, there are more blatant and malicious forms of cyberbullying. If another person is posting comments, images, or videos of you directly that are insulting, threatening, derogatory, or embarrassing on their account or on your wall then it is a blatant form of bullying.

What are the ramifications of cyberbullying?

Many studies exist assessing the impact of cyberbullying on youth’s mental well-being. One study in Jordan found that nearly 13.5 percent of high schoolers were victims of cyberbullying and another nearly 10.5 percent of high schoolers were the perpetrator of cyberbullying. 

Furthermore, within this study, it was determined that boys were significantly more likely to be cyberbullied than girls. Similarly, a separate study sought to access the impact of bullying in Jordanian schools. They found that 27 percent of bullied students had skipped school, which was significantly higher than those who were not bullied (5.5 percent).

Similarly, 40 percent of bullied students believed bullying negatively affected their grades and 35 percent were bullied for having good grades. 

Generally speaking, the effects of cyberbullying affect almost every aspect of a person’s life. Mentally, victims are more likely to become depressed, anxious, or develop other stress-related conditions. One study even found that 93 percent of victims reported feelings of sadness, powerlessness, and hopelessness. 

Similarly, victims of bullying may develop low self-esteem. In the second study, it was found that 50 percent of reported victims were bullied for their teeth and 31 percent were bullied for their weight. 

Being bullied, especially for things out of the person’s control, may cause a person to become self-conscious and form a negative body image. More concerningly, cyberbullying and bullying in general increases the risk of victims developing suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Self-harming behavior may include cutting or burning and has been consistently linked with bullying.
Tormenting messages have also been linked with suicidal thoughts, which greatly increases the risk of suicide.

How to stop cyberbullying

Jordan has a problem with bullying as a whole. In the same study that focused on assessing the impact of bullying on students, it was determined that 44.2 percent of students reported being bullied.

This prevalence is higher than in other countries in the region such as Lebanon (33.6 percent), Oman (38.9 percent), and the United Arab Emirates (20.9 percent). Similarly, Jordan has a significantly higher rate of bullying compared to Western and European nations, such as the United Kingdom (15 percent), Holland (14 percent), and the United States (8.5 percent).

If you are a victim, the only way to make it stop is to speak out. Reaching out to a parent or trusted adult can help put an end to the bullying. Although speaking to adults about problems may be difficult, it can help make you feel safe. 

Alternatively, you can seek help through friends. Friends can defend, reassure, or protect you from other peers. On an individual level, almost every social media platform has reporting options that can help prevent bullies from attacking you online. Additionally, you can seek help through online communities and forums on platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, or Discord.

One such community can be found on Reddit called r/bullying, which has 6,000 members. Here people can tell their stories and seek support from other who are, or have gone through similar situations.

If you are a parent, look for the signs of cyberbullying and educate your child on how to stay safe while online. If you see your children using their devices less, withdrawing from social media, becoming reluctant to leave the house, or spot changes in emotions, communication, or behavior, speak to them and offer support. They may be reluctant to speak to you but reassure them that you are there to help them.

In 2015, Jordan enacted Law 27/2015, also known as the Cybercrime Law. It was designed in order to keep children safe while online and outline criminal punishments for offenders. This law covers sexual exploitation and physical abuse but also includes acts of bullying online as well as the consequences of distributing malicious rumors or committing blackmail.

If you feel as though legal action is warranted, you can report a crime through 911 services or file a report at a police station.

If you, a friend, or a loved one is a victim of bullying, reach out and discuss options to end the bullying. 

Read more Health