Cyber Bullying Is Growing Rapidly Psychology Essay

Although bullying has been around for centuries, it has only been in the past twenty years that researchers have tried systematically to measure bullying (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008). In 2001, the first study of bullying in the United States was conducted with more than 15,000 students in grades 6 through 10 (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008; Nansel, et al., 2001). Tanya Nansel and her fellow researchers found that, within a single school term, 17% of children and youth said they had been bullied “sometimes” or more often, and 19% had bullied others “sometimes” or more frequently and 6% said they had been bullied and had bullied others “sometimes” or more often. In 2005, David Finkelhor and his colleagues conducted telephone interviews with children and parents, and found that 25% had been teased or emotionally bullied during the previous year (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008; Finkelhor, Ormrod, Turner, & Hamby, 2005). The researchers estimated that 13.7 million children and youth were physically bullied and 15.7 million were teased or emotionally bullied each year in the U.S.(Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008). The massacre at Columbine High School in 1999 seems to have been pivotal in focusing attention on bullying in the United States. Although the specific motivations for this (or other school shootings) may never be fully understood, retrospective accounts in the popular press and in the research literature pointed to bullying as a contributing factor in many of these crimes (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008; Limber, 2006; Fein, et al., 2002). A search of the Lexis/Nexis database using the search terms “bullying” and “schools” demonstrates how much school attention to school bullying has changed in recent years within the United States. In 1998, the year prior to the Columbine shootings, school bullying was in the headlines of American newspapers, magazines, and other popular press periodicals 145 times. The following year, the number of articles on school bullying doubled, and, in 2001, shot to more than 750. There has also been an increase in attention to bullying among researchers since that time. In a search of the Psych Info database using “bully” or “bullying” as search terms, there were only five publications in 1990. By 2000, the number increased to 94. In 2004, there were nearly 250 such publications. Cyber bullying wasn’t even an issue in the 1990’s. However, with advances in technology, children are now exposed to a new form of bullying – cyber bullying (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008). Cyber bullying occurs only between minors. If an adult is involved, the behavior is labeled cyber harassment or cyber stalking (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008).

Much of the attention in the popular press and professional literature has focused on sexual predators that seek out their victims through online venues such as Facebook and Myspace. The same cannot be said of cyber bullying. Significantly less attention – popular, academic, and/or legal – has been devoted to the topic of cyber or electronic bullying. The reality, however, is that the majority of children are more likely to be targeted by a person who cyber bullies than by a stranger they have met on the Internet who is trying to arrange an offline meeting(Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008).

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In 2005, it was estimated that 17 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 use the internet, and 74 percent of teens IM (Lisante, 2005; TEXAS STUDY, 2009). Today, 87% of U.S. teens use email and 93% use the internet (Jacobs, 2010).


Although traditional bullying is still more common, cyber bullying is increasing rapidly. Cyber bullying may occur through phone calls, text messaging, email, picture and video clips, instant messaging, web sites, and chat rooms. The number of people who own a cell phone is on the rise. There are a number of ways that cell phones can be used in bullying. Cell phones are a popular device used to cyber bully because unlike computers, cell phones are typically left on when not in use. When someone is done using a computer, they generally shut it off. Cell phones, however, are left on all hours of the day. The fact that cell phones are portable allows the bully to make contact with the victim throughout the day. Cyber bullies may use text messaging to attack their victim or they may use digital photos. Many bullies will call and leave abusive messages for the victim also. Since most cell phones have a built in camera, it is easy for the bully to use photos as another form of bullying. Bullies may capture their victims changing in a locker room or using the bathroom. They can then disseminate these photos to others to embarrass their victim. Another form of bullying is called “happy slapping.” Happy slapping typically occurs when embarrassing images of someone are caught on a camera or on a camera phone. Many times, the person is not aware that they are being recorded. In many instances, these recordings may be set up and planned out. In April 2008, the beating of a 16-year-old girl was videotaped by other female students. The incident sparked outrage after the bullies posted the video on MySpace and YouTube. The victim suffered a concussion, damage to her eye and ear, and numerous bruises. Eight girls faced charges of felony battery and false imprisonment for the attack on a fellow teen. This event sparked national outrage brought to light the importance of educating youth on teen bullying. Cyber bullying also occurs regularly in chat rooms. Most victims of cyber bullying say abuse occurs in chat rooms, where people who are in the room send and receive messages, called “chatting.” People inside chat rooms generally use screen names, or nicknames, and all the screen names of people in the chat room are listed on each user’s screen. A person can read messages from others in the chat room, and type and send his or her message as a reply. What someone types instantly appears on the screen as part of the chat (Breguet, 2010). Another form of cyber bullying that can occur is by exclusion. If a person is intentionally left off of a “buddy list,” in order to have their feelings hurt, then they have been cyber bullied. These chat rooms not only exist on the computer, but in video gaming as well. It can be difficult for adolescents to separate their character from themselves. Bullies who cheat and gang up on other gamers are called griefers (Bailey, 2010). Like traditional bullying, minor forms of cyber bullying include being ignored, disrespected, picked on, or otherwise hassled. The more debasing forms involve the spreading of rumors about someone, stalking or physically threatening another person through some medium or method of electronic communications (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). More indirect forms of cyber bullying include disseminating denigrating materials or sensitive personal information or impersonating someone to cause harm (Willard, 2007).

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Five signs that indicate a student is being cyber bullied are as follows:

Changes in mood or demeanor after being online

Avoids talking about school, friends, or what they do online

Has crying, anxiety, or depression episodes, especially after using the computer or cell phone

Makes excuses not to go to school

Withdraws from friends or usual activities (Tiano, 2008; Borgia & Myers, 2010).

The highest numbers of incidences of bullying occur at the middle school level. Bullying can start with children in elementary school. By the time students reach middle school, the bullying becomes more physical. Boys and girls typically bully in different ways. Boys usually push, shove, and hit. Girls on the other hand, usually start rumors or exclude girls from being a part of their social network of friends.

A series of studies found that the chance of being a victim of cyber bullying increases as youngsters grow older (Kowalski and Limber, 2007; Patchin and Hinduja, 2006). Other studies found lower cyber bullying rates for students 15-18 years old than for students 12-15 years old (Slonje & Smith, 2007). Still other studies found no relationship between age and being the victim of cyber bullying (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009; Smith et al., 2006).

Cyber bullying is occurring less frequently than traditional bullying and most cyber bullying is occurring outside of the school environment (Smith, Mahdavi, Carvalho, Fisher, Russell, & Tippett, 2008). However, it is the responsibility of the school district to provide a learning environment that is in a safe environment. Studies show that 85% of high school students spend at least an hour a day on the internet. Many of the shows that teenagers are watching on television at night are reality shows. There is a lot of fighting and verbal confrontations that occur during these shows. It is believed that confrontations keep the audience entertained and wanting more.


Researchers who investigate online behavior recognized that people engage in activities online that they would not be as inclined to engage in if they were in the “real world.” Researchers use the term disinhibition to describe this phenomenon (Willard, 2007).

There are several reasons why a bully may choose the internet to torment a victim. Cyber bullying can be done anonymously, with little effort, and the bullying can be carried out repeatedly and at a convenient time for the bully. One of the most important reasons a bully torments online is because there is a constant, captive audience to witness his or her handiwork and the victim’s humiliation (Breguet, 2010).

Males are more likely to be traditional face to face bullies. Females, on the other hand, are more involved with cyber bullying. This could be due to the indirectness that cyber bullying plays a role in. Since females generally do not like confrontation, they are more like to participate in a form of bullying in which they do not have to face their victim. Cyber bullying allows the female students the opportunity to bully without confronting their victim. In accordance with the relationship between age and being a cyber bully, no clear tendencies could be discarded. Since cyber bullying can be anonymous, a bully can victimize someone much older or much younger than themselves. In 2006, Megan Meier committed suicide at the age of thirteen. Megan killed herself after receiving cruel messages on MySpace from who she believed was a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. Josh’s identity was actually created by Lori Drew. Drew was the mother of a former friend of Megan’saˆ¦..aˆ¦.

Many individuals who bully have issues controlling their anger, come from violent homes or neighborhoods, have overly authoritarian parents, or may be acting out because of other problems at home (Goodstein, 2007). Some bullies may have poor social skills and trouble adapting to new or overwhelming situations (Goodstein, 2007). As a result of being bullied, many victims in turn begin to bully individuals who are younger or weaker than themselves.

Many kids try to be funny as an attempt to be “cool” while at school. Making fun or ridiculing others is sometimes considered funny. So as an attempt to be cool, bullying may occur.

Bullies are not always the friendless, mean loners many people assume them to be. Bullies actually can be quite popular. Many times, they are very connected to school life through athletics, academics, or other extracurricular activities. Bullies generally are strong, confident, and aggressive, much more so than their victims, who, by comparison, tend to be weak, timid, and nonassertive (Bolton & Graeve, 20). Some cyber bullies are angry loners or misfits, sometimes seeking revenge for having been bullied themselves. Experts say it is common for online abusers to be popular students with plenty of self-esteem who are trying to strengthen their place in the social hierarchy. They do it by intimidating those they perceive to have less status (Billitteri, 2008). “It’s not really the schoolyard thug character. It’s the in-crowd kids bullying those who don’t rank high enough,” says Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (Billitteri, 2008). Mark Weiss, education director of Operation Respect, says, “I think the culture is angrier.” He went on to say, “The things on TV, the laugh tracks of situation comedies, it’s all about making fun of each other and putting each other down, and reality TV is all about humiliation(Billitteri, 2008).”


Although cyber bullying is occurring most frequently at home and not at school, it affects students at school. “Even when it’s off campus, the impact is coming to school in the form of young people who have been so tormented they are incapable of coming to school to study, which leads to dropouts ,fights, violent altercations and suicide,” said Nancy Willard, a former attorney and former teacher of at-risk children (Billitteri, 2008). Patchin and Hinduja (2006) found that 42.5 percent of the cyber bully victims were frustrated, almost 40 percent felt angry, and about 27 percent felt sad (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009).

One teenager said, “It makes me hurt both physically and mentally. It scares me and takes away all my confidence. It makes me feel sick and worthless (Hinduja & Patchin #1). Victims who experience cyber bullying also reveal that they were afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyber bullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic problems, school violence, and delinquent behavior. Cyber bullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts, and there have been a number of examples in the United States where youth who were victimized ended up taking their own lives (Hinduja & Patchin #1). Even though suicide rates have decreased 28.5 percent among young people in recent years, upward trends were identified in the 10- to 19-year-old age group (Hinduja & Patchin #2 plus others). Youth who are bullied, or bully others, are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides. The reality of these links has been strengthened through research showing how experience with peer harassment (most often as a target but also a perpetrator) contributes to depression, decreased self-worth, hopelessness, and loneliness-all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior (Hinduja & Patchin #2 plus others). In a research conducted by Hinduja & Patchin (2010), cyber bullying victims reported that they were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyber bullying. Traditional bullying and victimization have also been linked to loneliness, peer rejection, low self-esteem, poor mental health, and other psychological and physiological ailments among youthful populations (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Crick & Bigbee, 1998; Forero, McLellan, Rissel et al., 1999; Hershberger & D’Augelli, 1995; Mills, Guctin, Lynch et al., 2004; Prinstein, Boegers,, Spirito, Little et al., 2000; Prinstein, Boegers, & Vemberg, 2001; Rigby & Slee, 1993; Salmon, James, & Smith, 1998). After considering the extent research on bullying and suicidal ideation, it can be said with confidence that a strong relationship exists (Hinduja & Pachin, 2010; Balry & Winkel, 2003; Kim, Koh, & Leventhal, 2005; Mills, Guerin, Lynch, et al., 2004; Roland, 2002; Seals & Young, 2003).

The research on cyber bullying flourished following the school shooting at Columbine High School. Research from the Secret Service and the United States Department of Education on thirty-seven school shootings, including Columbine, found that almost 75 percent of the shooters felt “bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by other.” Several shooters also reported experiencing long-term and severe bullying and harassment from their peers (Goodstein, 2007).

According to Goodstein (2007), victims of bullying usually miss more school, have higher dropout rates, and have problems concentrating on their schoolwork. They also tend to “show higher levels of insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness, unhappiness, physical and mental symptoms and low self-esteem”. The consequences of being cyber bullied quickly creep into the classroom where the students eventually face the damage to their psyches or their reputations(Borgia & Myers, 2010).

Children have always been encouraged to not “tattle tell.” Once these children are bullied, many withhold the experience they are going through as a result of what they have been taught. Parry Aftab, of, says 45,000 students-85 percent to 97 percent of her audiences-reported having been victims of cyber bullying in 2007. Yet, “only 5 percent will tell a trusted parent or adult (Billitteri, 2008).” Another reason many victims do not report that they have been bullied is because they worry that the problem will escalate. An 11-year old from Michigan said, “She kept texting me so many mean things that I wanted to throw my phone against the wall. I told my mom and she called her. After that the mean girls texted me, wow you can’t fight your own battles (Billitteri, 2008)!”

Although online comments have the potential to spread at a much faster rate than conversations in a school hallway, dealing with it could possibly be easier. Teens have the capability of ignoring the comments online by merely turning off the computer and not reading them. Since comments were made online, the victim is able to print the comments to turn them over to the local police unit. Victims can also report incidences to their ISP. School districts and parents need to make themselves responsible for educating youth on cyber bullying. Since most cyber bullying occurs away from school, parents may attempt to protect the bully by arguing that they have the freedom of speech to express their thoughts aloud.

Conclusion: It is very important as parents to monitor children’s online activity. Parents should be aware of social networking sites that their children participate in. It is critical to educate children about the proper language that should be used online. Experts believe that cyber bullying is going to worsen because most bullies enjoy the idea that they have a large audience witnessing their attacks on the victims. As the price of computers continues to drop and as internet use gets faster, cheaper, and more far-reaching, it only makes experts believe that cyber bullying will continue to grow. Therefore, it is critical for parents to talk to their children about the impact of cyber bullying on youth. When kids are confronted about being a cyber bully, many of the kids respond that they didn’t know that they were actually hurting the other person. Since many cyber bullies do not face their victims, it is difficult to witness the effects that the bullying is having on the victims.

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