Bullying in America: how can we help?
Bullying and cyberbullying has been a problem for not only the U.S, but for people around the globe. We live in a day where one post on a forum or tweet could get people bearing down on them with zero remorse. Bullying can lead to depression and suicide, not just for kids but adults also. Whether it be bullying in schools, online, or in person. Problems like low self-esteem, depression, attachment issues, and suicidal thoughts or even committing suicide are some of the effects of bullying. These are just a few of the emotional problems that victims of bullying face. Fortunately, there are people in our government who advocate for change. One of the solutions that could possibly help is giving a large fine to those who are caught bullying, or to get even more radical, jail time.
Depression is one of the common feelings among people who are bullied. Depression can frequently, but not always, lead to suicidal thoughts which is another problem itself. In a study by Anand Argwal and others, they talk about how cyberbullying and depression go hand in hand. They also say that “Cyberbullying has been found to increase the likelihood of depressive symptomatology in victims both in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.” (Anand). The quote and article basically explains that there is a positive correlation between bullying and depression in victims. With this bit of information, we see that bullying in general is linked to the victims suffering depression. Even though its a study and it doesn’t represent everyone that’s bullied is a given, we can work harder to make things better for the victims.
For some, bullying doesn’t end when the victim, for example, leaves school for the day. the bullying continues online for some victims, and its not as easy as one would think to escape. In an article by Utzu Beyazit, they talk about how easy it is to access the net and how easy it is to bully someone in this form. They continue by saying “This freedom of use, coupled with a lack of defined limits, increases the risk of adolescents being exposed to experiencing others’ negative attitudes, such as aggression, harassment, and bullying.” (Beyazit). Utzu is saying that since adolescents have so much access to the internet, they’re subject to a lot more negativity and bullying than a normal person would be. These days we have a lot of our lives embedded into our phones, contacts, information, family and friends, jobs even. Its not as easy as It used to be to walk away from the computer and just shut it off. Although this article is about teens, it applies to most adults too. Its too easy for people to be on the end of harassment, and sure one could just turn off their phone and ignore social media, but that’s still not addressing the problem. Its akin to putting a band aid over a knife or bullet wound, sure it stops bleeding for a bit, but you’re going to have to address it at some point.
Self-esteem, loneliness, and depression all play a role together for victims of bullying. Bullying has such a negative effect on victims, and unfortunately the offenders get away with it. In research journal by Mary Varghese, she mentions how depression, loneliness and self-esteem are strongly related to each other when it comes to bullying. She says that “college students who are low in self-esteem may be depressed because they also feel lonely. If so, students may use online networks to increase social connectedness. In doing so, they may use communication strategies that put them at risk for being CB (Cyber Bullying) victims or offenders. Therefore, self-esteem may be negatively related” (Varghese). this research tells us that victims of bullying are subject to a plethora of problems, whether it be depression, or low self-esteem. With the internet being a sort of gateway for people to get away and use social media to talk to other people, cyber bullying poisons that getaway for some people. Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping people from harassing and saying deplorable things to anyone. Ultimately, that propels us to another problem with the internet, anonymity. People can send death threats, threaten to leak home addresses, or photos all anonymously.
Due to the anonymity of the internet and how easy it is to find someone and harass them, it can make cyber bullying unavoidable at times. In an article by Lindsay Nash, she talks about one of New Jerseys strict laws to prevent bullying and cyber bullying. One of the situations she sites is about a college freshman named Tyler Clementi and how he committed suicide due to online bullying. She says that “A few nights before the suicide, his roommate had posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”.” Something like this is all it takes to hurt someone. Unfortunately for Tyler, that’s all it took. Our words can have such a powerful impact on people and sometimes we forget that. If only there was something to discourage behavior like this before something like this happened, fortunately, there is.
The state of New Jersey started something in 2011. They started working on creating a better, safer place for students by passing bullying laws. The stop bullying website has a plethora of information on how New Jersey implemented bullying laws and how well its doing today. Teachers can report online harassment and in person bullying to school faculties. Those offenders can then receive some sort of punishment. But they can go a little further. What if they started fining people for bullying, or even suspending or expelling students from high school or college or doing so? Teachers could follow students on there social media to see there out of school activity to get them in trouble also. Although that is very invasive of privacy and could see a lot a complication. Is it worth it to keep people safe? fining people for online harassment could see problems also, what is defined by online harassment or bullying? Bullying is defined by unwanted, aggressive behavior. Making a light-hearted jab at someone on twitter is different than calling someone a racial slur or homophobic comment. Maybe a joke could be misconstrued as a malicious attack, and the “offender” could be wrongly accused for just making a joke. The same thing goes for bullying or harassment in person. Is expelling someone too extreme? It could potentially ruin someone’s life by removing them from school. Should we give those bullies the benefit of the doubt and hope they’ll change? There is a lot of gray areas with something like this. Ultimately, I think there should be more consequences than a slap on the wrist for bullying and harassment.
Bullying in general is a difficult subject to deal with, being that there’s so many forms and different ways people can be harassed. Whether its online, or in person, the laws put in place only extend to schools. What do we do about social media in general? Do we hunt people down by IP address for making a snarky comment and harassing someone for a political opinion? That would be extreme and would probably encourage some to never speak up. There are a lot of ideas we can talk about or come up with, or even put it into law. The problem is the internet anonymity itself and people never suffering the consequences of what they say. We can force more rules and consequences for bullying, like fines or suspension from schools.
Nash, Lindsay. “New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Fix: A Solution or the Creation of an Even Greater First Amendment Problem?” Brigham Young University Law Review, vol. 2012, no. 3, Apr. 2012, pp. 1039-1070. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=83176200&site=ehost-live.
The article talks about the problems of bullying in our society in general and New jerseys solution to bullying. They input a law to for preventative measures to help alleviate bullying. Most people thought it was too harsh a law, being that it invades on student’s privacy and allows for teachers to report them and eventually get in trouble with the law.
Agarwal, Anand Kr, et al. “Internet Victimization and Depression among Adolescents.” Pediatric Oncall Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, Jul-Sep2018, pp. 60-62. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7199/ped.oncall.2017.47.
BEYAZIT, UTKU, et al. “An Examination of the Predictive Factors of Cyberbullying in Adolescents.” Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, vol. 45, no. 9, Oct. 2017, pp. 1511-1522. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2224/sbp.6267.
Varghese M, Pistole M. College Student Cyberbullying: Self-Esteem, Depression, Loneliness, and Attachment. Journal Of College Counseling [serial online]. April 2017;20(1):7-21. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 19, 2018.
“New Jersey Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies.” StopBullying.gov, Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/new-jersey/index.html.