We explain the different manifestations of harassment via the internet.
The adolescence is a time of change and evolution. In this stage, in which both physical and mental maturation occurs, adolescents begin to move away from the family and authority figures to begin to give increasing importance to the peer group, people who like them are in search of his identity.
However, this approach to their peers does not always result in a positive interaction, but it is possible that an abusive relationship is established at times, the result being bullying or, if new technologies are used for this, cyberbullying.
Related article: “The KiVa method: an idea that is ending bullying”
“After the diffusion of that image in which he appeared naked, Fran found that they did not stop reaching messages laughing at his physical appearance. The situation was not only due to virtual level, but in class the teasing and harassment were constant, even to find the photograph hooked on poles both inside and outside the school. Her parents filed several complaints in order to stop the situation, but despite all the damage had already been done. One day, after two months of continuous teasing, Fran he did not return home. He would be found a day later, hanged from a tree in a nearby field, leaving behind a farewell letter. “
The description of the above events belongs to a fictitious case, but at the same time it has a very real resemblance to the reality experienced by many bullied youth. In fact, its elaboration has been based on several real cases. To better understand the situation, it is essential to better understand what cyberbullying is.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying or cyberbullying is a subtype of indirect bullying that takes place through social networks and new technologies. As in all types of bullying, this type of interaction is based on the emission of a behavior intentionally with the aim of damaging or harassing another person, establishing a relationship of inequality between both subjects (that is, the person having dominance aggressor over the victim) and being stable over time.
However, the fact of applying new technologies makes these characteristics of harassment look nuanced. While the existence of an unequal relationship does always occur, it must be taken into account that the triggering stimulus can be a photo, a comment or content that has been published or broadcast without the intention of harming anyone, being harassment derived from misuse of this publication (the intention to harm being placed in this third person).
For example, that a friend or the same individual hangs or sends someone a photo in which a partner goes wrong may not imply that he wants to humiliate him, but a third person can make a different use than intended. In the case of cyberbullying, it must be taken into account that what is published on the Internet can be seen by many people (many of them unknown) and at any time, so that a single situation of bullying can have repercussions in numerous time intervals .
In addition, the victim has a greater sense of defenselessness than in other types of aggressions, since because of the networks the attack can reach them at any time and place, and they also do not know when they are going to witness or by whom. to occur. Finally, unlike in cases of traditional bullying, in cyberbullying the harasser can be anonymous.
Types of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is not a unitary phenomenon that occurs in a single way; There are a wide variety of forms, ranging from victim harassment and social exclusion to manipulating data to harm a person on their own behalf. The Internet is an environment known for the wide variety of technological possibilities it offers, and unfortunately this also applies when using this medium as a tool to harass others.
In the case of cyberbullying, strategies to harm someone can use all the potentialities of the network, from stored and easily disseminated photographs to the use of voice recordings or photomontages.
Clear examples are photos and videos made and published without consent in order to blackmail or humiliate, direct threats through various platforms or web pages created specifically to ridicule the victim. In addition, depending on the objective of the harassment, we can find cases such as sextortion , in which the victim is blackmailed in exchange for not publishing or extending photographs or videos of a sexual nature.
On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the most common cyberbullying, carried out by children and adolescents, can exploit all imaginable resources, given that people belonging to the generation of digital natives already learn to use all these tools from his early years.
The difference with grooming
It is important to note that cyberbullying occurs among minors or at least among peer groups. It is thus distinguished from grooming, in that an adult harasses a minor through the internet (usually for sexual purposes). In this second case, harassment through the internet is often associated with crimes.
What happens to the victim of cyberbullying?
It is common to observe in cyberbullying victims a marked decrease in the level of self-esteem and self-concept, sometimes even going so far as to blame themselves for the situation. The insecurity, feelings of lack of competition and the shame of not being able to make the situation right elements are frequently found in cases of cyberbullying.
Furthermore, many of the victims are coerced into maintaining the law of silence for fear of the consequences of reporting. This causes a decline in school performance, which in turn feeds back the decline in self-esteem. Victims of continuous cyberbullying also perceive less social support, and in the long run the future affective bonding with third parties becomes difficult, inhibiting social development.
Likewise, when cyberbullying is very intense and lasts for months, it is possible that victims end up presenting personality or mood pathologies , such as severe depression or social phobia, even reaching (as in the fictitious case recreated above) to lead to the suicide of the victim.
In order to detect cases of cyberbullying, some indications that may be useful would be the monitoring and surveillance of changes in habits and the use of devices with Internet access (including concealment when they are used), absences from class, abandonment of favorite activities, drastic reduction in school performance, changes in the way of eating, weight changes, vomiting and diarrhea for no apparent reason, absence of eye contact, fear of recess, excessive closeness to adults, apathy, or lack of defense against jokes that may seem innocuous.
What to do if cyberbullying is detected?
In the case of detecting a situation of this type, it is necessary to establish fluid communication with the student and his family, making him see that he is living an undeserved situation for which the minor is not to blame, helping to report the case and making them feel continued support. It is essential to teach and help collect evidence of bullying (such as screenshots or use of programs that record conversations), in order to prove its existence.
To remedy the existence of cyberbullying, the establishment of preventive measures is essential. Different methodologies, such as the KiVa method, have proven the usefulness of working with the entire class group and especially with those students who witness the aggression, so that the aggressor perceives rejection of their actions and does not see their behavior reinforced .
In the same way, it is essential to work with the attacked student and the aggressor student, in order to show support and improve the self-esteem of the first and awaken the empathy of the second by making them see the possible damage that their behavior can cause both to the victim and to others ( including himself).
Cyberbullying, at the legal level in Spain
Virtual harassment is a series of serious crimes that can lead to jail terms of several years. However, it must be considered that in Spain only from the age of 14 can a criminal charge be imputed, so that most of the prison sentences are not applied.
Despite this, the legal system has a series of disciplinary measures that can be implemented in these cases. In addition, although the legal responsibility lies with the minor aggressor in the first place, the legal persons responsible for the minor and the school where the harassed and the harasser are related also possess it. They will be responsible for assuming the compensation to the harassed as well as the sanctions that may correspond to them themselves.
In a case of cyberbullying , the crimes of induction to suicide, injuries (physical or moral), threats, coercion, torture or crime against moral integrity, crimes against privacy, insults, violation of the right to self-image and the inviolability of the home, discovery and disclosure of secrets (including the processing of personal data), computer damage and identity theft.
The corrective measures proposed for the aggressor include weekend stays, performance of socio-educational tasks, benefits for the community, probation and restraining order.
A final thought
The current study of the cyberbullying phenomenon makes it clear that there is still much work to be done, especially considering the constant evolution of technology and networks (new trends and applications appear). Furthermore, taking into account that new generations are born in an increasingly virtualized environment, the preventive policies that are currently applied should be advanced, going from being carried out in Secondary Education to providing basic notions in Primary Education.
In the same way, more training in this regard is necessary in the professional sectors that deal with this type of case. Research in this regard is relatively scarce and very recent, requiring the creation of increasingly effective measures and protocols that can help end this scourge and improve the safety and quality of life of youth.
A psychosocial approach is necessary to end the problem of cyberbullying. This is a task that can be accomplished if a series of social and cultural changes take place, among which are the development of awareness on the subject and the development of policies and methods of school intervention that prevent this phenomenon. The KiVa method, for example, points in this direction, and has proven to be very effective. What it is about is not to intervene only in victims and abusers, but in the entire social fabric that surrounds both.
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