The image of a bully is often depicted on a playground or in school hallways. The bully is big and strong, while the victim being picked on is nerdy, weird or simply different.
Now bullying has evolved and the image has changed.
Since social media sites and cell phones have become so integrated into our everyday lives, bullies have a new platform to torment their victims with a few strokes of a keyboard and clicks of a mouse.
Prior to these tools designed to network yourself among friends and to send text messages, being a bully required you to say harsh and hurtful words directly to the victim.
With today’s technology, bullies can cower behind a keyboard leaving harsh comment after comment.
Cyberbullying has become a hot topic in the United States and internationally. Its effects are reaching children, teenagers, college students and even adults.
In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide after the mother of one of her friends created a fake profile. The mother became friends with Meier posing as a young boy, gained her trust and then turned on her, sending cruel messages.
In Florida, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide in September after being bullied online by two of her peers. The two girls were arrested and charged with aggravated stalking.
On Feb. 12, Italian lawmakers called for legislation that would prevent cyberbullying. The lawmakers’ action was in response to the suicide of a 14-year-old girl, who jumped from a building after being bullied on the site ask.fm. The site allows users to post anonymous questions and interact with other users.
There have been numerous other cases of teens who committed suicide being bullied on the site.
According to stopbullying.gov, bullying isn’t often the direct cause of suicide among teens but can be a contributing factor. The website also said 12 out of 15 school shootings in the 1990s were committed by bully victims.
Though mass shootings and suicides may be the extreme in the case of bullying, there is no denying that such incidents are happening around the world.
The potential of cyberbullying anonymity is particularly alarming. It allows the bully to believe that they can act without consequence.
If the victim has no idea who you are, there are ultimately no boundaries. Whoever can make or break the rules will come out on top.
The question still remains, what can we do to stop it?
It is a simple question with a complicated answer.