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.

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