Cyberbullying has characteristics that make it more cruel and perverse than traditional bullying.
It is a reality that people begin to use technologies (mobile, internet, etc.) at an increasingly early age. Whenever I think about this I remember the video of that baby trying to enlarge a photo on paper with the only power of his fingers.
Having premature contact with this infinite virtual world full of possibilities does not come together with maturity, also necessary, to know the risks of the network and the appropriate tools to protect oneself, as well as the criteria to discriminate moderately reliable information from what it is not.
When technological means such as the internet, mobile phones or online video games are used to exercise psychological harassment between equals, we speak of a phenomenon called cyberbullying or cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying?
It is a particular type of harassment that occurs between colleagues, friends and people of a similar age group and that can have different manifestations within the ICT environment (offenses, threats, blackmail, humiliation, insults …).
Cyber goes a step beyond traditional bullying or harassment. They are two forms of aggression between equals that share many characteristics. However, the first has certain peculiarities that make it even more harmful for the victim.
Anonymous on the networks
In the first place, the fact that the aggression is carried out through a virtual space favors the anonymity of the aggressor. This status gives the individual greater freedom to act, since he is less exposed to being caught. In other words, compared to what happens in traditional bullying, in cyberbullying the attacker gets “more for less”.
Constant and almost uncontrollable attacks
Second, the victim of cyberbullying becomes, once chosen, an “easy target” for the aggressor. It is available 24 hours a day, while in bullying, attacks are usually limited to those moments and spaces where both parties coexist (for example, school), leaving the child “released” from pressure when he returns to the safety of your home.
In addition, it must be added that contacts are always initiated at the will of the aggressor, without the victim having any control over them.
It is accessible at all times and cannot avoid, as would happen in bullying, traveling certain sites that it knows are dangerous, since the network, in this sense, keeps them continuously connected. This causes the victim to develop a feeling of unpredictability and uncontrollability that generates anxiety and fear.
Lack of empathy in cyberbullying
Another differentiating aspect of this type of harassment has to do with the distance from the victim and the absence of social codes. Failure to see the face and suffering of the person who is being insulted, humiliated, threatened, etc. facilitates the development of these behaviors.
This distance hinders empathy, that is, the ability to put yourself in the victim’s shoes and know how they are feeling, which could act as a brake on aggression.
Regarding the social keys, in cyberbullying there are no direct bystanders who give negative feedback to the aggressor (disagreement, bad faces, defense of the victim and other elements used in initiatives such as the KiVa method ) that allow him to regulate his own behavior. He is alone and free of all feedback to act.
The massive use – and in some cases exclusive – of virtual environments for the development of social relationships has some risks such as the tendency to depersonalization (“me in the network vs. me in reality”), fantasy-reality confusion (forgetting that this insult is just as real as if I say it in person) or the construction of erroneous moral judgments.
Two last characteristics make the effect of cyberbullying more powerful. First, thanks to technologies, the stalker can reach a much wider audience, for example, by spreading a hoax about the person on one of their social networks. Second, surely you have ever heard that “what hangs on the network, stays on the network”.
Due to this, the effect that aggression has through the environment of technologies and the Internet is much more permanent. It is not limited to the moment in which the person is insulted, but it is kept for a long time in that virtual cloud.
Cyberbullying cases are growing in a worrying way. The introduction into the world of technologies should come with an “instruction manual”, administered by educators, parents, etc., which will include a section aimed at raising awareness about the risks and the real impact that cyberbullying can have on the lives of a person and train in adequate self-protection measures.