Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the United Kingdom, along with worldwide experts in the field of psychology, have revealed that 20 percent of-that’s one out of every five-children become the victims of cyber-bullying, and these numbers are on the rise. Being on the receiving end of threatening text messages, hateful emails or having embarrassing images posted on social media venues such as Facebook can result in greater psychological damage than the more traditional, non-technological forms of bullying. Nearly twice as many girls as boys become the target of cyber-bullying.
The consequences of cyber-bullying can be devastating. Cyber-bullies have the ability to hide their identities while spreading hateful messages and humiliating images around the world in no time. The problem with cyber-bullying, versus traditional bullying, is that there’s no escape. Victims cannot come home, close their doors and be left in peace, and they are at-risk for suffering through any of these consequences.
- Recurrent Absenteeism. Nearly 160,000 kids in the US stay home from school each day due to the threat of bullying. Children who are bullied eventually become afraid to leave the house to go to school or even hang out with friends. Older kids start calling into work to stay home. The fear of cyber-bullying threats slowly reduces the victim’s world, leaving them feeling alone and isolated.
- Mental Health Issues. Repeated bullying is linked to increased mental health issues amongst victims. When 500 children aged 10 to 19 years old were surveyed about the effects of cyber-bullying, more than 50 percent reported that they experienced depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
- Loss of Safe Spaces. Although no form of bullying is okay, victims can eventually get away from traditional bullying. But with cyber-bullying there is no safe space. Technology helps bullies reach their victims at home, school and anywhere else they might be.
- Physical Effects. One 15-year-old girl interviewed by ARU was the victim of cyber-bullying via hateful and hurtful messages left on various social media networks stating that she was fat and ugly. Eventually the girl stopped eating and started withdrawing from both family and friends. When her parents found a detailed note in which the teen talked about hanging herself they were alerted to get help.
- Death. Bullying victims are up to nine times more likely to commit suicide than kids who are not bullied. Teens, such as Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts and Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi cut their lives short because they see no other option for getting away from cyber-bullying except for suicide. After Prince was taunted endlessly and told to go hang herself, at the age of 15, she eventually did.
Cyber-bullies often have no idea the depth of pain they cause their victims.Organizations such as BeatBullying and The Internet Safety Project are amongst several groups that have formed in the past few years to help educate kids on the effects of cyber-bullying, as well as how to handle it. Fifty-eight percent of children who are victimized by cyber-bullying do not say anything to an adult that can help them. The educational efforts of parents, teachers and other influential organizations must continue in order to help victims break free of the situation instead of succumbing to it.