Cyberbullying: The Growing Need for Internet Safety

Sep 03, 2014

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In the early 1960’s, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT envisioned a globally connected network of computers by which people could quickly access data and programs, and he called his vision a “Galactic Network”.  Back then, the Internet was a wild idea that still seemed impossible; no one expected it to be a venue for fighting, conflict, and bullying. Yet, sadly it is.

Although parents may not want to deny their children the experience of connecting with others around the world, there is a strong need for parents to monitor their children’s online behavior. It’s not that you don’t trust your child, but more that you don’t trust what the Internet might lure them into. It’s easy to get caught up in a chat room conversation that later becomes harmful. There are too many opportunities on the Net for children to discover topics they might not be ready for or sites that contain images that are too graphic or too violent.

However, another danger found on the Internet is bullying. It is the overt behavior of an individual to belittle a child, teen, or adult and to make that person feel inadequate. It can include harassment, harm, demeaning speech and efforts to ostracize that person. The bully often expresses aggression because he or she feels jealous, insecure, out of control, or simply, not good enough. The target is the recipient of a bully’s aggression. Often, the target feels as though he or she deserves the harsh treatment, that it’s his or her fault, or that he or she feels powerless. When bullying happens through technological means or through the Internet, it is referred to as cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying happens when a child is harassed, embarrassed, threatened, or tormented using digital technology. As the Internet becomes more and more popular as a means of communication, the web and social media are becoming a venue for bullying.  It often happens more than once and includes the use of texting or cellular phones to post images or text on the web. For instance, an image and demeaning messages might be posted on Facebook (social bullying), uploading embarrassing images, or spreading gossip or rumors through instant or text messaging. There are a number of ways to cause humiliation for another person if someone had the intention to do so. (It should be noted that when adults are harassing children or teens, it is known as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking and has different legal consequences.)

When a child becomes the victim of cyberbullying, it can be detrimental to his or her self-esteem. It can contribute to depression and even suicide, which is the case of one young girl in Florida. Clearly, it’s essential that parents and caregivers protect their children from the words, images, and harmful conversations that happen on the Internet. Sadly, bullying continues to be a severe concern in the United States. As a result, there are a number of national endeavors that are aimed to prevent and reduce all types of bullying in this country. Alongside those endeavors, there are tools that parents can use to protect their children from the dangers found online.