Social media. It’s that place in cyberspace where we can all come together as friends and share stories about how puppies are awesome and make comments like “Cool pic, bro” and “You look SO amazing in that dress” on everyone’s photos.
Or at least that’s how most people behave on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites most of the time. They build each other up, interact positively and maturely and get along.
However, there’s a growing problem with social media and how preteens and teens, and even young children, are interacting online. You’ve probably heard the term “cyberbullying.”
Cyberbullying.us defines cyberbullying as the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices.” The site makes it clear that the definition of general bullying usually involves an “element of intent” – namely, a power imbalance between the bully and the bullied.
Cyberbullying seems to take the “element of intent” a step further to incorporate putting on a show. The bullying doesn’t just involve two people; it makes the entire online community an audience.
And the bullying isn’t limited to a particular time and place. Cybervictims experience abuse whenever and wherever they get online on a smartphone, computer or tablet. That means the victim never has a chance to experience a relief from the bullying, since it can happen anywhere the victim gets online.
Repeated abuse can lead to short-term and long-term adverse effects that are difficult to overcome. Many of these seem typical of a young person going through the changes our teenage years bring. That’s why it may be difficult for parents or teachers to recognize a cyberbullying victim.
But, other adverse effects go deeper and last for years to come. Recognize these common effects and try to prevent lasting damage in your child, student or friend.
These two outcomes of cyberabuse upon the wellbeing of the victim are not the only ways the victim will be affected by his online tormenters. However, they are two that, if left unchecked, can lead to damaging situations and relationships later in life.
Chronic depression can result from repeated cyberbullying. According to Webmd.com, symptoms of chronic depression include:
• Sadness or negative mood that lasts throughout the day and on numerous days
• Lack of interest in things that the person once enjoyed
• Insomnia or too much sleeping
• Fatigue or lack of energy
• Hopelessness or worthlessness
One of the most serious and dangerous symptoms of chronic depression include suicidal tendencies like suicidal thoughts, suicide plan or even attempts. Sadly, depression associated with cyberbullying has led too many young people to end their lives to escape the abuse.
If someone repeatedly tells the victim online that he or she is worthless, useless, a waste of space or that he or she should kill themselves, soon the victim might – at least partially – begin to believe it.
According to Psychcentral.com, signs that someone is experience low self-esteem include:
• Self-critical or a negative opinion of themselves
• Sensitivity to even constructive criticism
• Fatigue, insomnia, headaches
• Poor performance at school or work due to lack of trying or lethargy
It is important for an individual to maintain a healthy self-esteem so that he or she can achieve in life. A cyberbullying victim may miss out on opportunities because the victim believes he or she is unworthy of achievement.
It’s important to realize that these two effects go well beyond being in a bad mood and not liking something about oneself.
Depression, Low Self-Esteem and Dating Abuse
Research is inconclusive, but most would agree that people who are victimized in abusive dating relationships often choose those relationships because of their depression or low self-esteem.
Findyouthinfo.gov states that past experience with stressful life events – cyberbullying, for example – can put someone at risk for entering an abusive dating relationship. This is especially true if the cyberabuse included abuse directed at a female victim’s sexuality, or lack thereof.
Feelings of worthlessness and a negative outlook on life can throw a previously-cyberbullied victim into yet another abusive relationship. However, instead of faceless strangers and bullies dolling out abuse, it would be the victim’s significant other.
Dating abuse can encompass many forms of abuse, including cyberabuse. According to Dosomething.com, other forms of abuse in dating relationships include:
• Physical abuse – in the form of “hitting, punching, slapping, biting” and anything that causes physical pain.
• Mental abuse – in the form of verbal putdowns and belittling. The abuser might call their victim names, “make threats, or accuse the other person of cheating.”
• Emotional abuse – in the form of control over the victim’s “behavior, personality, and life.”
• Sexual abuse – in the form of unwanted touching, pressuring the victim to have sex, or rape.
It’s getting harder to track cyberbullying since most people make their online profiles and social networking pages private. Also, apps like Snapchat would allow cyberbullies to attack their victim and have the evidence wiped away within seconds. According to this tech expert, “Users are drawn to the impermanence of the site’s uploads and the anonymity that impermanence provides.”
However impermanent the actual abusive message may be, the lasting effects of the abuse upon the psyche of the victim are anything but impermanent.