Bully – a small word most people can somehow relate to. This age long battle is nothing new, but now it is evolving.
Most teachers recall bullying as physical, person-to-person fights, not conflicts battled through a computer screen. English teacher Elizabeth Gleeson recalls the hurt from when she was bullied in elementary. “I was a bigger kid. By third grade, I was probably 5’10” and heavier set. A group of boys used to harass me because of my weight; they would call me names like earthquake and fall to the ground when I walked by,” Gleeson said.
History teacher Kendra Gish can also relate and was even bullied to the extent of considering suicide. “In seventh grade, a rumor was spread about me, and a group of both boys and girls began to pick on me. The bullying eventually got to the point where I believed that the only way to stop the bullying was to kill myself. Luckily, I had a friend who helped me realize all the good qualities I possessed and all the potential I had to bring to the world,” Gish said.
Ten years ago, bullying had to be dealt with in person, but it now seems bullying has transferred online via social media and the web. Sophomore Sam Gilbert has witnessed the
bullying firsthand and believes “bullying has gone digital. You don’t need to be face-to-face to bully now.”
With both the benefits and consequences of the web in mind, Gilbert accredits the Internet to developing Americans as “the most informed society, yet at the same time, the most vulnerable. The internet carries momentous amounts of information, but it also brings repeated attacks and risks upon those who use it,” Gilbert said.
Freshman Makaela Olson would agree, having personally endured the cruelty of online bullying. “My experience with cyber bullying has definitely influenced the way I look at the Internet. I monitor what I post online, but also what I say or do in person because it can still come back to get you on the web,” Olson said.
Both Olson and Gilbert agree bullying has progressed to online harassment due to the somewhat painless and consequence-free nature of the web.
“It is so much easier to say hurtful comments to a scroll of text rather than a living, breathing person. Plus, it is difficult to track people over the Internet, and you can even bully anonymously now on certain sites,” Gilbert said.
Gleeson believes this painless, consequence-free nature is largely due to the fact that “cyber bullying takes the emotion away from bullying. You never have the opportunity to see the person being bullied breakdown in front of you. When you take the humanity away from bullying, it makes it easier to do.”
While rates in physical bullying may be retrogressing, rates in cyber bullying are not just escalating, but skyrocketing. Olson speculates the main reason for this dramatic increase is largely due to the fact that “ it is so much easier to target people online by creating fake accounts or in the case of ask.fm, hiding your identity completely and bullying anonymously,” Olson said.
Gleeson believes cyber bullying rates have grown so dramatically largely due to the fact that “modern day kids are just more ruthless. There are fewer boundaries that kids are not willing to cross. More kids are willing to participate in bullying, especially cyber bullying.”
Cyber bullying does not just affect high school students. As Gish pointed out, “with the Miami Dolphins incident, player Jonathan Marin claims to have been harassed online by fellow player Richie Incognito. You see cyber bullying in the news every day, and part of it is that society is becoming more aware that a problem exists,” Gish said.
Gish hopes to solve the problem and recognizes the steps that need to be taken. “Present day kids are forced to bottle up their emotions inside. We need to find both a way to control the bully and help the child being bullied cope. We, as parents, need to teach our kids the proper way to use social media and help kids understand social filters when it comes to the Internet. Parents need to take responsibility, take ownership, and realize cyber bullying is not just natural,” Gish said.
Many students and teachers consider now the time to end the vicious cycle or else severe consequences will follow. “Cyber bullying is not a natural course, and it is about to explode,” Gish said.