|Why Do Children and Teens Commit Online Bullying?|
As parents, we often cry foul when other people harm our children, but when it comes to cyber bullying, it’s never easy finding out who’s making your kid’s life miserable. Cyber bullying has been around for more than a decade and yet we aren’t making much progress in curbing it. Before going on trying to solve this issue, we do need to answer this question: why do children or teens cyber bully others?
Online or cyber bullying is a result of an attitude problem of a child or teen that has gone horribly wrong. While a lot of cases involve anger and revenge motivations, still there are a lot of parents who believe that those who do it may perhaps have a deeper emotional or behavioral issue. There are some established factors that research has linked to the occurrence of cyber bullying. For instance, school climate and the victim’s self esteem clearly correlate to the amount of bullying experienced.[i] It’s unclear if one factor affects the other, but there is a clear link.
Online bullying happens for many distinct reasons. First it’s about entertainment. Children or teens that are bored and lack attention from parents have the tendency to become cyber bullies. If those qualities are coupled with the freedom to use the internet virtually the entire day, it makes the child or teen very much dependent on it – it becomes his outlet for boredom or frustration from getting no attention. As such, he tries to curb boredom by entertaining himself. And part of the entertainment may be the harassment of other children and teens who he knows from either the neighborhood or from school. Seeing someone’s reaction to the harassment may bring laughter or fun for the bully.
Another reason for online bullying is the hunger for power and control. Some young people have a kind of dysfunctional behavior that makes them long for power and control. They do this by tormenting others by means of harassment, instilling fear through threats, and making up of humiliating lies. Though it seems to be a glorification for a bully to do what he does, the bullied on the other hand becomes emotionally hurt, embarrassed, and sometimes suicidal.
Furthermore, cyber bullying may also spring out of revenge. There is a tendency for the bullied to become bullies themselves later on. After being harassed and tormented online, children or teens that have been bullied realize that it’s time for them to play the role this time. By bullying others, they seem to feel relieved and happy by falsely creating an imagery of revenge to those who bullied them before. But then again, this isn’t quite as rational since the ones they’re bullying may not actually be those who bullied them.
Lastly, the most common reason for bullying, at least in the American setting, is the expressive manifestation of social status. Popular students at school or in the neighborhood poke fun at those “less” popular who in turn show fear and respect for the bullies. Schoolyard bullying isn’t enough for these mean kids so when they get home, they go straight to the internet and continue making fun and threats to the “losers” through social networking sites, file sharing communities, chat rooms, and other web communication tools.
Finally, because there are several reasons why children and teens enjoy bullying others, there should also be distinct and unique approaches in solving this problem. What’s obvious though is that it is very difficult to prevent this problem from spreading if awareness isn’t placed on the priority list for parents, authorities, and other concerned groups. Parents need to realize that if their children are being bullied, they need emotional support and protection. It may mean doing something drastic like changing schools or calling a meeting with the school board. It could mean getting rid of the internet in your house for a while. It may mean that you get on social media sites with them to monitor when and if others start to bully them. That is one advantage - you can’t be with them in the school yard, but you can be with them on the computer.
[i] Hinduja, S. and Patchin, J.W. “Cyberbullying Research” Cyberbullying Research Center. (www.cyber bullying,.us). (Accessed 02/20/11)