Kindness Starts with You by Camden Elkund
Cyberbullying, the form of harassment that occurs across electronic devices, is becoming increasingly prevalent in our modern American society that seems to run on Dunkin Donuts and social media. In fact, a 2014 report from Counseling Service reported that 80% of teens regularly use a cellular device. In accordance with the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of teens estimated to regularly use a cell phone is 33,384,986. This means only 12,519,369 young adults, who use a cellular device regularly, have never been cyberbullied. Now, I’ve clearly defined what cyberbullying is and how prevalent it can be, but the question stands, “Why does it matter?”
Most people, growing up, learn that face to face bullying and lead to many negative actions and can even affect a person later in life. But what can cyberbullying do? After all, it’s all just on a screen, and the text isn’t even tangible. While this may be true, the harm that can come from cyberbullying is all the same. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, be depressed, and consider suicide according to many reports from any number of psychologists and therapists everywhere. According to StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying can have the same effects on a person that regular bullying does, the only difference is, the internet is everywhere; whereas, a bully probably isn’t. The internet is everywhere, all the time, and avoiding a rumor started on the internet is nearly impossible.
Around two and a half years ago, a teenage from Frisco, Texas learned firsthand just how powerful and fast the internet is. Alex Lee, the then sixteen-year-old Target employee, became a superstar in under a day. According to Nick Bilton of the New York Times, a teenage girl from Britain found him attractive, snapped his photo, and posted it to Twitter. That single photo spread fast, so fast that before his 10:00am-6:00pm day ended, teenage girls were rushing the store just to get a glimpse of Alex from Target. In this instance the internet’s power was innocent enough. The popularity he gained from the incident was overwhelmingly positive and was similar to the popularity that a celebrity would receive from a fangirl or fanboy. He’s a handsome young man and the world was made known of this in a matter of hours. But, what it the matter being spread was of a less innocent and more harmful manner.
Once something is on the internet, it’s there forever, and potentially accessible to anyone and everyone. A column on puresight.com tells the story of Amanda Todd, another famous teenage, but for a much worse reason, who is now dead because of oversharing online with someone she was not acquainted with well enough. Amanda, after being blackmailed with inappropriate pictures of herself, was bullied and harassed through three different schools, until finally she could handle no more. On the 10th of October, 2012, Amanda Todd was found dead in her home. These stories show the best and worst case scenario a person can experience when becoming famous on the internet, and unfortunately it seems the latter is more common.
To protect oneself from the dangers of the internet, social media should be set to private settings if available, and it not, then the site should not be used at all. Also, chats, instant messages, and emails from unknown users should be blocked and deleted immediately as you never know how much information can be taken until it is. Another way to stay safe on the internet is to never share personal information, as this information can spread like wildfire to people and places you may not want it. Finally, make sure all passwords are safe and secure. A duplicate password or simple password can lead to accounts being hacked and information being leaked.
The internet is a powerful and useful tool that can be used for research, entertainment, and staying connected with friends and family, but people need to stay safe and be responsible when using it, since with great power comes great responsibility.