Bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour geared toward intimidation and forceful influence on an individual or group to do or feel as the bully wants. It may also be used to establish one’s rank in a social hierarchy. Bullying spans all ages; but, it is better perceived among children and teenagers.
School has been one of the most common venues for bullying. In the last decade, however, the wired world has emerged to be the channel of choice for intimidation, demoralization, and harassment among pre-teens and adolescents. Hence, the term: cyberbullying.
Given the vast improvement of communications technology over the last ten or so years, cyberbullying is a fairly recent phenomenon but a rapidly growing one.
What Constitutes Cyberbullying?
Portable multimedia gadgets, the internet, social media, and digital communication have paved the way for a new form of social menace called cyberbullying. This form of intimidation uses SMS messages, videos, photos, and written attacks posted on social apps such as Snapchat, Twitter, Yik Yak, and Ask.fm. to embarrass, coerce, denigrate, or demean individuals.
Cyberbullying takes many forms. Some of these are:
Outing refers to the act of deliberately shedding public light on an individual or group’s secret information. A cyberbully that outs someone takes private messages, photos, and videos without the knowledge and consent of the victim and releases these as public information or as fodder for humiliation to a certain audience within a social media circle. Outing is done to shame the victim. Even reading personal messages out loud from a person’s cellphone without his permission is considered cyberbullying.
Cyber bullies can make their victim feel ignored, excluded, and unwanted. By simply ignoring comments; tagging the victim’s friends in conversations and invites but never the victim; and consistently giving no reactions to posts, invites, and friend requests by the victim, cyberostracism is as effective as real-world social exclusion in destroying a teenager’s confidence and sense of belongingness.
This old-fashioned style of bullying takes to the digital path with the same purpose: to cause fear and facilitate coercion. This is a dangerous form of intimidation because teenagers or pre-adolescents are constantly subjected to the feelings of fear, helplessness, and low self-worth by a consistent barrage of hate messages, threats, blackmail, and the like through their cellphones or social media accounts. Cyber harassment can engender clinical depression and suicidal thoughts in teenaged and pre-adolescent victims.
The term fraping comes from the combination of two words: Facebook and rape. A frape occurs when the cyberbully gains access to the victim’s social media account and rapes their online persona by changing personal information and posting or commenting inappropriately. Although seen as a prank by many, fraping is bullying especially if its purpose is to embarrass the victim. As his social media friends or contacts may not be aware of the frape, the victim is perceived to be in control of his account and everything he posts on it.
There are many other forms of cyberbullying, all equally depreciatory of a person’s social value. What is alarming is that the cyberbullying trend has been on the rise for several years.