Rethinking a Solution for Cyberbullying

The experiences endured during high school and college are very crucial stages in the development of character in any individual. The experiences students participate in during this time will mold them into the person they will eventually become in the future. Through these experiences teenargers and young adults go through a very meticulous time period, in which even one experience can change the course of their life. One of the greatest problems in our society of teenagers and young adult is bullying and peer-pressure. However, in today’s time, in today’s digital world, most of our physical life usually manifests over to our digital life and bullying online is ubiquitous. A study done is China even showed that there is a significant amount of correlation between a  student’s satisfaction with their life in relation to their behavior online (Cyberbullying in Hong Kong Chinese students: Life satisfaction, and the moderating role of friendship qualities on cyberbullying victimization and perpetration”). Bullying online is also known as cyberbullying, which can be an extremely difficult term to define just to begin with. Simply put, cyberbullying is bullying that happens over electronic devices, but according to Ira-Katharina Peter who conducted a study on presenting the current state of the definition, among other things, still was only able to able to agree with three different scholarly definitions (“Cyberbullying: A concept analysis of defining attributes and additional influencing factors”). Furthermore, cyberbullying is a silent plague ravaging through the minds and actions of teenagers and young adults, but by further educating students on the implications of cyberbullying perhaps they will be more cautious in the future.

People’s ignorance towards cyberbullying is very worrisome for the future generations, if this problem keeps growing without intervention at this pace, we might eventually be too late to stop its consequences. Cyberbullying happens much more frequently than bullying and is much more dangerous. Schools and agencies have and currently are trying to tackle the problem regarding bullying, but they are simply ignoring cyberbullying because it is not happening in their property. The danger of cyberbullying is the fact these bullies can literally target anyone on the internet and can have complete anonymity. These bullies are basically dumping their insecurity on innocent bystanders who are just sharing their opinions online, and what is truly horrifying is that these bystanders may not be mature enough to know how to handle this kind of abuses which can potentially lead to depression and even suicide. What compliments the cyberbullies’ behavior is the fact that they are protected by the screen in front of them, and they are in the comfort of their homes or somewhere safe, which means they do not have confront the person they are mistreating and therefore feel no sense of guilt or empathy.
According to a Canadian study, there have been 41 cases of suicide associated with cyberbullying in North America, Great Britain, and Australia between 2003 and 2012. Although this study might be a bit dated it just proves how the numbers that will be shown will have most likely be increased once we conduct a research in today’s time. According to the research, 78% of the teenagers who committed suicide experienced bullying and cyberbullying, the victims were 24 females and 17 males, social networking sites were used in 48 per cent of all the suicide cases, and the most used social media platform was Facebook. Interestingly, more recent research is showing that actually men are more likely to be both bullied and to be the bully. Nevertheless, why is this happening and where is this going?

Earlier this year a mysterious app called “The Blue-Whale Challenge” began to gain recognition all around the world. Andrew Rossow, wrote an article describing this horrible “challenge” in Forbes Magazines, and described it as a “challenge” that is hidden in a world that can not be found, except to those who can find it, and that world lasts for 50 days, ending with you taking your life. Andrew is not being metaphorical here, everything he says here is literal, “The Blue-Whale Challenge” is cyberbullying taken to a whole new level. “The Blue-Whale Challenge” is today’s newest suicide game, with the title being influenced by the fact that whales often beach themselves causing them to die. However, the main contributor to this horrifying challenge are actually social media websites, due to the fact that the game spreads by people reaching out to potential users and manipulating them into accepting the invitation and eventually killing themselves. The administrators, the people who are actually telling the victims the challenges they have to complete in order to move on to the next stage are simultaneously torturing and exploiting these victims. The administrator surveys and learns about their victim. They go through their digital identity and completely violate their privacy by going through their status updates, their post, likes, shares and even more personal information they have available in their profiles. When the victim starts the challenge, whichever platform or device that they are using, is supposedly infected with malware and viruses that the administrator places on there. The victims, in their last attempt to protect their privacy, are assuming that now the administrators have even more information about them and therefore the victims have even a greater motivation to complete their challenge in order to protect themselves. Once the victim makes the decision to accept the challenge, they are actively making their last decision, because from that moment on the administrator controls them. So, how does the “Blue Whale Challenge” relate to cyberbullying? Surprisingly this challenge is the next step that cyberbullying is taking, the actual reason behind the creation of this game was to basically shed a light on people who were prone to suicide and actually persuade them into taking their life; the creator of the challenge believed he was doing the world a favor, by purifying the weak. The challenge was created in 2013 by a Russian psychology student who was later charged and convicted of inciting suicide of a minor. Unfortunately, the challenge still gained popularity, predominantly in Russia and India, and reports indicate that over 100 lives have already been taken because of this challenge and it is making its way towards the United States.

How has society allowed this kind of behavior go on unsupervised, but more importantly how haven’t social media platforms taken actions to prevent this kind of harassment from happening under their watch. Enough time has gone by, and this problem is still out there affecting the lives of teenagers and young adults, but it is time we take matters into our own hands. On December 2017, a young social entrepreneur in India called Trisha Prabhu, presented the TED Talks, “Rethink to stop Cyberbullying.” TED Talks is a revered is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form videos or speeches. Trisha explained her experience with cyberbullying and how she became aware of how prevalent this horrible behavior was on most schools online communities. She was so bewildered by the reality of the situation that she decided to make a difference herself by developing an app called ReThink. Trisha believes that conventional solutions address bullying after the damage is done. The app she created, ReThink, empowers adolescents by giving them a second chance to rethink before posting anything hurtful online. The ideology behind this app is to make sure students who are about to post something that could potentially hurt someone get the opportunity to rethink what they are about to post before posting. The app forces the user to read a message which could state, for instance, “ Please stop, do you really want to post this? ” According to Trisha, that small interference has caused most of the teenagers to change their mind and not post the message. Rethink is not a technology, but a movement.

Cyberbullying is a problem which is slowly ravaging through the minds of teenagers and young adults. Too many suicide related deaths have been caused by this problem but nobody is taking the stance to do something about it. Our technological advanced society started this problem, so we should start to minimize this problem the best way we can. Teenagers and young adults need to be informed of the dangerous statistics that are correlated to cyberbullying, and every single one of them should be aware of the potential consequences. Students who are not part of the solution to this problem, are part of the problem. Society needs to stop treating victims of bullying after the damage is done, but rather prevent it from happening at all. By simply treating the symptoms, we are simply ignoring the problem at hand. We need to rethink a way of combating cyberbullying.

Becoming Technology

Over the past decade technology has slowly creeped into almost every aspect of our lives. As a society, we have accepted technology and are now beginning to embrace it due to its practicality and effectiveness. Moreover, we are now reaching the stage of wearing technology, such as products like the Google glasses and Apple Watch, but what is this taking us? Implantable technology, according to several experts is the next “big thing”, presently in society, accessories such as pacemakers, cochlear implants, and insulin pumps are vital for the survival of millions of people around the world which are considered implantable technologies. Society has taken these accessories for granted, meanwhile they are saving lives and improving people’s lives one person at a time. Implantable technology is the future and it actually is significantly closer than we may think.

There are several ways in which implantable technology is being used that could potentially help humans specifically.The EMB’s (Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society) main area of research at the moment is in implantable technology. They have published an article which explains how they believe implantable technology is the future of medicine and many products already in the market today. Implantable technology is already being used in dogs and rhino’s horns in case they are stolen or lost, and it has proven to be an extremely effective type of monitoring. This could also be a potential solution for newborns or children who eventually get lost in countries with a lot of poverty. However, having chips monitoring children and potentially adults may be a violation of their privacy, but the benefit outweighs the risk in this case; besides, this is a problem already happening with technology today so hopefully we will have reached some solutions by the point we begin to implement this kind of technology.

A very interesting forum which discussed several ways technology could potentially evolve into in the future had several things to say regarding implantable technology. Aside from stating what has been previously mentioned, they believe smart tattoos and other unique chips that could be implanted onto the top layer of our skin could help with identification and accessibility. Implanted devices are likely to even help us communicate by connecting our thoughts to the internet, and could potentially identify unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brainwaves and other signals.

Implanted technologies are predominantly focused on improving our health, some suggests that by using these kind of technologies we could further prolong human life expectancy. Bio-hacking is something that is extremely relevant when discussing implanted technologies, it is a way of making us healthier by using the help of outside sources. This is a field that requires much more investment in because of the health implications it may cause in several generations.

IF by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
– Rudyard Kipling
Although this is an extremely extensive quote, it is hidden gem among a sea of words. Personally my favorite quote, with WordArt you are able to express it in different ways and forms whilst keeping its integrity intact. Even though words are open to interpretation, art and shapes are even more likely to be open to interpretation because of its loose construct and lack of direct meaning. However, with WordArt you are able to implement both expressions of art by creating a picture while keeping its main objective explicit to the viewer.

Technology, our Friend or Foe?

On June 21, 2018 PBS aired a debate in their program Point Taken, discussing if technology is making us smarter or dumber. In the debate, Emily Dreyfuss and Kathryn Finney advocated that technology is making us smarter, and Daniel Levitin and Jeff Glasse advocated that technology is making us dumber. This debate is highly recommended for someone to watch if you are just interested on the subject; aside from learning several compelling points from both sides, it is a good way to see how a scholarly debates unravel and it’s quite witty as well. Nevertheless, which side is correct? Is technology making us dumber or smarter? Annoyingly so, the truth of the matter is that both sides are correct. Even though advancements in technology might be causing us to gain weight, be less interactive, and addicting us to information it is also making our lives better and easier. However, humans tend to focus on the bad part of things as an evolutionary defense mechanism, but sometimes we try to avoid thinking about the negative side effects when we are comforted in a lie, which is what’s happening with technology.

According to the Marist Poll, the data they gathered showed that 49% of Americans reported that technology makes people dumber while 46% say technology makes individuals smarter, but 51% of Americans believe the benefits technology has to society outweigh the risks it may cause society. The article tagged above shows several other interesting charts and information regarding society’s opinions about this matter. Generally, 50% of Generation X reported that the risks outweigh the benefits while the Silent-Greatest generation is the least likely to stress the potential privacy implications of technology. Surprisingly this means that even though Generation X uses technology significantly more than the Silent-Greatest Generation, Generation X is aware of the fact that technology might be causing more harm than good but still using it more frequently.

It is obvious that technology is a tool that helps us progress in all matters of life, but what if that in the same way that is it helping us it is also harming us too. We are in the era of information, constantly going through ocean’s of data on an hourly basis. According to research, we might have a significant amount of information out there, but most of that information is either misleading or completely wrong. Due to society’s addiction to information people have come to the conclusion that it is more important being the fastest person to put the information out there rather than checking for its credibility and authenticity.

At the end of the day, you can not come with a concrete decision regarding this topic because of its compelling arguments coming from both sides. However, we need to begin acknowledging the negative side effects of technology and start to take precautions.


Searching for the Impacts of Technology on Children

Over the past weeks on the Who Controls your Digital World First-Year-Seminar, the classroom has been discussing about the side effects of technology in our society. The class even went through a proper debate, arguing rather technology has done more good to us than bad. Due to the fact that this is such a relevant and complicated topic we were still were not able to come up with a concrete, unanimous decision. Both sides have very compelling arguments, but I believe we sometimes focus too much on the positive impacts of technology and forget about the negative implications.

People should be more concerned with technologies’ impact on toddlers and children, because they are going through a critical stage in developing their brain. Will Technology Ruin Your Children’s Development? and How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus were two extremely enlightening articles which deeply analyzed the effects of technology on the mind’s of toddlers and children. Both articles, which included several credible researches as resources and written by two doctors, explicitly go through the side of effects of technology and explain how it is happening and how to manage it.

Ignorance is Bliss

Whenever we step into a theater we can always notice who is in the audience along with you watching the film or performance, and by assessing the situation you can depict if the people accompanying you makes you uncomfortable. The same ideology applies to a friend gathering in a party or restaurant, by analyzing the topics discussed and knowing the people involved you can make a decision to step in and participate or keep your thoughts to yourself. In these scenarios there are no breaches in privacy because everybody can see each other, but that is not usually the case in the digital world. Before the conspiracy theory of Big Brother watching over us was actually proved to be true, everybody roamed the internet happily and freely and assumed nobody would take advantage of them, after all ignorance is bliss, but they were clearly mistaken. We have now reached a point in which everybody is extremely cautious and suspicious over their actions in the internet and only assume people are inherently bad therefore they can not trust anybody online.

However, there are things that ensures users that the digital world might be safer than we think. For example, GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) is an encryption program which enables authenticity and grants confidentially and trust through emails. Social media platforms such as Facebook, are notoriously known to ignore our privacy; In fact, Facebook sold information about users to other companies and made millions of dollars over the past years. The article Social Network Platforms is a guide which shows extensively and precisely how to make platforms such as a Facebook less insecure. The guide goes through the privacy and settings in Facebook explaining how they are recording private information about user’s accounts, and the guide also demonstrates how users can make it harder for Facebook to acquire private information.

Lastly, there are ways we can protect our privacy online by installing add-ons into our browsers. Similarly to Facebook, browsers have also been able to retain some of our private information and taking advantage of it. However, there are ways to protect yourself from that breach of privacy as well. For instance, for Firefox users an add-on known as TrackMeNot has been known to be very effective. According to its creators Daniel Howe, Hellen Nissenbaum, and Janoss, “An artware browser add-on to protect privacy in web-search. By issuing randomized queries to common search-engines, TrackMeNot obfuscates your search profile and registers your discontent with surreptitious tracking.”

It is abundantly clear that the digital world is a dangerous place, in which usually the selfish and opportunistic side of people and companies shines through. Luckily, there are also people in the digital world who are looking out for the public, either by trying to educate us on the topic or actually creating software which battles these algorithms that gathers our information.

Cyberbullying in Social Media

The most prominent type of bullying in today’s society is cyberbullying, due to the exponential technological opportunities being created at every second because of the internet. As Bahati Rusell reminds us, words can hurt, and in his blog post Cyberbullying and Social Media he attempts to address this issue by sharing his opinion on the subject and what he believes might be a solution. The danger of cyberbullying is the fact these bullies can literally target anyone on the internet and can have complete anonymity. These bullies are basically dumping their insecurity on innocent bystanders who are just sharing their opinions online, and what is truly horrifying is that these bystanders may not be mature enough to know how to handle this kind of abuse which can lead to depression and even suicide. According to , the study shows that over half of adolescents and teens have either suffered or have seen cyberbullying, and that most of these teens have also been a part of cyberbullying. Of that huge percentage that were cyberbullied, there are about 4,400 cases of individuals that have committed suicide. This kind of constant and ubiquitous behavior is unacceptable, and social media platforms need to either monitor this problem or raise awareness of this abuse.

In many cases of cyberbullying, the bullies usually know the victims and are usually in the same environment when it comes to teenagers, but among adults it usually happens online with anonymity. Nevertheless, where is the cyberbullying happening? According to research it lies most within social media platforms, with the most common battlegrounds being Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. What’s truly ironic is that these platforms’ goals is to make the world a better, positive, and connected community. So, why do they let this abuse happen on the platforms and let the abusers have no consequences, while the bullied suffer by being mocked in front of the whole world. Teenagers are most worried about people in their community seeing them being mocked online.

In his article, Bahatti Rusell makes an effective argument about why these huge companies should be taking matters into their own hands. Most of the cyberbullying is happening under their watch, but they refuse to do anything about it because of the controversy that may come with it. First, they know that a lot of their customers are those bullies, so that may cause a decrease in revenue. Most importantly, companies are afraid that if they  hire people to monitor these harmful comments and be able to erase them at their will, it might cause people to believe their violating their privacy and their freedom of speech. The arguments are faulty because first these companies are already monitoring you without you knowing, and second these bullies should be considered murderers if they lead someone to suicide. A more realistic solution could be to to raise awareness of cyberbullying in general, which means to tell all users about deleting comments that may be interpreted as cyberbullying. Besides, users of the original post already have the power to delete comments in their post, so why not use that power to do something good.

But, I agree with Bahati Rusell, companies should take matters into their own hands and start creating a more friendly and positive environment in which they promised us in the first place, because now social media is only creating  a hostile environment.

Information is Power

We are in the era of Information, we literally have the access of almost all collective human knowledge by the touch of buttons and a screen. The common saying, “Information is power,” is a testament for our addiction with technology, because we aware that with technology we can access a lot of information. Nevertheless, we assume the technology is a extremely successful business because people are beginning to the depend it, however, there is another even more lucrative business in technology a lot of people are not aware about, us. Yes, we are business for a lot of social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Instagram. We are not necessarily the lucrative part, but the information we give about ourselves and people like us is.

Huge technological business are using our information to learn about us and manipulate us, and they are also selling our information to other companies. For example, Snapchat the most used source of communication by most teenagers in America, technically owns all of the photos you send to friends, even after they disappear. Several of these business go through several loop holes in their Terms of Service trying to get the most information about you as they legally can. Everybody is beginning to hear about news about Facebook and how they might have influenced American voters in the past election, and now Facebook is getting a negative reputation for spying over us unknowingly.

The truth of the matter is that all these big companies are spying over us, but at first people didn’t mind because they were not even aware nor even was under any suspicion that companies were doing this. Now most people are worried because they fear they are being constantly monitored and that these companies are basically taking their freedom away from them. However, the most concerning fact about our information is that they are selling most of our information to advertising agencies. They use our information about our interests to make sure that the products they advertise online for you are some that they know you are interested in based on your past searches and even conversations!

Our technological identity is something that needs protection, not monitoring and companies monetizing it. We need to be aware of what companies already know about us, and we should have the right to withhold information if we do not want them knowing. It’s been long enough since the government has let this slide, its time for action.

Side Effects of Technology

A patient walks into a room and has symptoms consistent with boringness, sadness, and depression. The brilliant diagnostician discovers the patient’s illness and prescribes the medicine to help treat it, technology. Just like medicine, technology is treating our curiosity and boringness. However, like any other drug we can become addicted and it may also cause side effects.

This week’s topic in my FYS: Who Controls the Digital World surrounded around how technology is affecting our mind and body. Besides reading the prescribed articles for the week, I also found two extremely interesting articles talking about the negative side effects of technology The Four Negative Sides of Technology and The Surprising Effects from Using Technology .

The first article written by Pamela DeLoatch addresses that although technology is helpful in several ways, but it is affecting children severely. She states that it is changing the way children think, making them less emphatic, putting children safety and privacy in danger online, and increasing percentage in child obesity. Her goal with this article is to simply make sure parents are aware of these consequences and that there are several ways to prevent this effects from happening by moderation.

The latter article published by Harvard Health Letter is more concerned about the physical side effects of using technology rather than the psychological ones. They explain how the use of technology without moderation can cause pain in the hand, neck, back, wrist and other body parts. Even though we have mastered the art of texting, emailing, and typing it has caused poor posture and pain associated with every generation.

Prisoners to Technology

People have come to the assumption that technology is here for society, to ameliorate your lives, after all technology literally means applicating scientific knowledge into a practical purpose. However, the article How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist by Tristan Harris explains how technology is actually manipulating us to their benefit, not ours. It might look like technology is doing us a favor, but technology should actually be thanking us for our lack of independence without it. Tristan introduces himself by declaring his love for magic, and his previous employment as a Design Ethicist at Google. Throughout the article he goes through several ways in which technology is controlling us.

Technology controls the menu, in this case menu means the options presented to us, and we assume technology is not biased and just presenting the best options out there according to their algorithms and reviews. First of all, its their algorithm which means that the designers have total control on what shows up in the page when you request it. This is why the advertisement industry has exponentially increased in popularity over the last decade, and it is why websites like Google are making so much money of our information, opinions, and influences.

There is also another concept Tristan talks about which is known as the Slot Machine Reward System. He is implying that now our smartphones are subconsciously slot machines for us and that notifications throughout the day are equivalent to popularity and social acceptance in society, which consequently makes us happier and more addicted to technology. Surprisingly, Facebook and Instagram are as successful as they are today because of this system. #follow4follow and #like4like are another examples of the slot machine system, but it a system that is based more on social reciprocity by the amount of likes and comments we get on picture or if we get tagged in a picture.

Studies have also shown that with this overload of information, humans are becoming more addicted to information. A phenomena known as FOMSI (Fear of Missing Something Important) is making us even more susceptible to becoming addicted to technology. We have now reached an era in which we don’t want to only know information but be the first ones to hear about it as well. One of the most interesting ways in which technology is manipulating us by decision making. Websites such as Youtube and Netflix are controlling us in an extremely clever way, by not making us make any decisions. The creation of auto-play has allowed the viewer to basically not do anything but watch after only one simple click. This is a huge problem for addicts because if you want to continue you have no decision to make, however, if you want to stop you have to make that conscious decision and take action.

We have reached a point in time in which we have become way to dependent on technology for our own good. Consequently, designers are starting to take advantage of us by using technology because of our dependability towards it. So next time you open your computer or use your smartphone think about those simples decisions you take that will slowly accumulate and take your time.