Growing up, the arrival of the internet constituted a life changer for me. I still remember the day when my parents got us an internet subscription and how excited we all were. While the technology was quite limited in comparison to what we have today, we could already see its potential.
Pretty quickly, the Internet became a safe haven for me. As an introvert, I felt very isolated as a teenager. The arrival of the internet allowed me to build my own world beyond my walls and within the comfort of my own space. This means I was less afraid of being myself! For the teenagers who grew up with and on the Internet, it plays an even bigger role in shaping their lives and identity. While we are now all aware of its possibilities, we are starting to also notice that there is another side to the coin, which can be filled with dangers.
As the technology developed with the rise of social media, cyberbullying became very common. In fact, most teens nowadays have been bullied or harassed online. While this number is estimated at 59% in the USA, it is also said that cyberbullying affects girls more often. According to a study published last year, girls report 3 times more cyberbullying than boys. The study also reveals that cyberbullying mainly comes from other girls.
Like with emotions or self-expression, gender has an impact on violence and how we inflict it. In a study by Patricia A. Snell, the author explains that boys tend to express violence ‘physically’ whereas girls express their violence ‘relationally’. That includes gossiping or friendship threats. For this reason, the internet where information can spread quickly and anonymously make it an appropriate ground for girls to perpetrate violence.
While many platforms are taking active measures to fight it, it is still a taboo and most teens still don’t dare reporting instances of cyberbullying. This is due to the fact that it is not regarded as seriously as other types of as other forms of violence. However, the emergence of victims’ stories is helping u to realise that it has very real-life consequences. A survey carried out online by several British initiatives a few years ago revealed that bullying is the first reason that leads teenagers to hurt themselves. As a result, cyberbullying is starting to get recognised as an offence in many countries. It can even lead to forms of sanction but as always, it will take a bit longer before being recognised as such in the eyes of the public.
This is why it is so important to start talking about it. This can be done at school and with your family and friends! Not only, this will teach us to recognise instances of cyberbullying, its impact but it will help us put a stop to it. While controlling internet devices can seem like an easy solution, it ignores the roots behind the issues. This is the reason why communication and developing empathy remain the best tools.
Volunteer, Girl Museum