Cyberbullying Crisis – Take Action to Protect Loved Ones

This article is about cyberbullying and what you can do to protect against it. After defining cyberbullying and crisis, we outline the present crisis, its consequences, and constructive responses, and conclude with advice to parents from our CEO. We include links to resources. They contain an abundance of information so you can better understand and counteract cyberbullying.

Contents

What is the Cyberbullying Crisis?

Why Does Cyberbullying Concern Me?

The Persistent Hurt from Cyberbullying

Know the Signs of Cyberbullying

What to Do & How to Help

Advice from Presence CEO Mukul Kumar

Resources

General Resources About Cyberbullying

Resources for the “Audrie & Daisy” Story

Transatlantic Cyberstalking: Canadian Amanda Todd Victimized by a Dutch Man in 2012, but Justice is Coming

The Peril of Psychological Isolation

What is the Cyberbullying Crisis?

Cyberbullying is bullying inflicted through communications technology. Cyberbullying has layers that, working together, constitute a serious and unacceptable situation. Cyberbullying has been a crisis for far too many people:

  • The hardware of cyberbullying is cell phones or computers, the servers that host software that gets abused for cyberbullying, and the worldwide communications networks that link them all.
  • The software of Cyberbullying can be anything from the underlying communications software to apps for globe-spanning social media, to short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS), or text, which people use in online social media, forums, and online gaming—wherever people can view, participate in, or share words or visuals.
  • The acts of Cyberbullying include targeting, posting, or sharing harmful, humiliating, false, hateful, or threatening content about a person or group of people. Legally defined cyberbullying is unlawful and can cause the bully’s account to be terminated or lead to criminal prosecution.
  • A crisis is a situation or moment that is so negative or dangerous that it necessitates immediate, courageous decisions. A poor decision in a crisis can result in tragedy.

At a personal, national, or global level, cyberbullying is now a crisis.  If you doubt this, consider that it is common in America for people who share scientific and medical facts or studies, historical facts, or U.S. law, to receive death threats by phone or the internet from strangers.


cyberbullying statistics for teens

Why Does Cyberbullying Concern Me? 

Cyberbullying happens in different demographics, not just teenagers.

  • According to Broadband Search, 37% of internet users have experienced cyberbullying. 
  • A staggering 87% of young people have observed online cyberbullying.  
  • Bullyingstatistics.org states that over 50% of teenagers have been cyberbullied online.  

Keeping in mind the definition the cyberbullying crisis, also understand that its effects can be long-lasting.  The website Stopbullying.gov names and defines the concerns about cyberbullying that differ from the historical, face-to-face bullying:

  • Persistent: Digital devices offer an ability to communicate 24 hours a day. This availability can make it difficult for children and teens who experience cyberbullying to find relief. Ideally, adults have the abilities and boundaries to find relief, but this is not always the case.
  • Permanent: Most information communicated electronically remains public if it is not reported and removed. A negative online reputation (including the bully’s reputation) can impact college admission, employment, and other aspects of life.

    When hurtful comments are posted, they can affect a person’s reputation; an online persona might falsely be thought to represent the actual person and become be very problematic when he or she applies to college or for a job.

    The consequences of bullying also can haunt the cyberbullies. For example, a National Hockey League team, the Arizona Coyotes, recently renounced their draft pick Mitchell Miller after reports about his bullying behavior in the past were verified.
  • Easy to Overlook: Cyberbullying does not usually happen in front of employers, parents, teachers, or other members of school staff. The hidden nature of cyberbullying is the reason that the adults in charge fail to see it and for cyberbullies to feel emboldened.


What to Do & How to Help 

Blocking, unfollowing in social media, and muting the accounts that launch cyberbullying are productive ways for the victim to disengage from a cyberbully, but sometimes these steps are not enough.  To slow down or stop cyberbullying, we need to involve more friends and family early as online observers so they can quickly defend those they care about—no more standing by—to stop the cyberbullying or reduce the harm. If you observe or suspect someone is being harassed, stalked, or bullied online, reach out to that person, offer help, and assure them they are not alone.  Likewise, if you suspect someone is the bully, reach out to that person, initially in a non-hostile way until you determine whether they are being honest or evasive.

The Hive feature from Global Presence enables you to participate in a network of mutual support and protection.  When a member of a hive network begins to receive or to post negativity, all members in their hive gets an alert. They are given contact options to call, text, WhatsApp-message or better yet the Signal app because of its assured privacy (www.signal.org), or otherwise reach out to the poster for support. For a description of Hive, see the article titled “Our Hive Feature for Supporting Each Other in Times of Conflict.”

Talking about mental health is a great place to start, but initiating the dialogue can be difficult in certain situations. Fortunately, guidance is available. An organization called Seize the  Awkward (https://seizetheawkward.org) provides conversation starters and tips and has a section with encouragement from public figures widely known to young people.

girl that has been cyberbullied
Image sourced from pixabay.com

The Persistent Hurt from Cyberbullying 

After the initial humiliation, despair, anger, or depression that is the intention of a cyberbully, the victim’s trauma continues.  Victims often feel very alone, isolated, and insecure, and these feelings intensify the initial pain. Many cases of anxiety, depression, and suicide can be traced to cyberbullying.

The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800 273 8155.

In 2016, Netflix released a documentary named Audrie & Daisy (still available for streaming from Netflix and YouTube as of this writing).  It is about a sexual assault on two girls in two different towns. Both were in their mid-teens when assaulted. Daisy Coleman lived in Maryville, Missouri. Audrie Pott lived in Los Altos, California. Audrie Pott endured cyberbullying for eight days before committing suicide. Daisy Coleman endured shaming and cyberbullying for eight years before committing suicide. Their story is highly educational. Resources with additional details and updates to their stories are in Resources for the “Audrie & Daisy” Story at the end of this article. Other valuable resources in the Resources section are, for example, an example of cyberstalking between Europe and North America and an example of the general peril of psychological isolation that can drive a person to suicide.

Although these were violated girls on the night of their assault and treated cruelly by schoolmates afterwards, this picture would not be complete unless we made clear that they were much too young to be drinking; alcohol was very key to their vulnerability, which the boys of course knew very well. A sad truth is that if these 14- and 15-year-old girls had not drunk alcohol, most likely they would not have been assaulted and would not have killed themselves. This fact does not absolve the boys of their crimes, but we must ask: Did the parents of the perps and victims fail to teach them about the dangers of addictive intoxicants in an unmatured brain? What about respect, and not just from the boys but also the girls at school?

The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800 273 8155.

Know the Signs of Cyberbullying

Complicating our wish to help is that the target of cyberbullying or the bully might try to hide the bullying. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know the signs of cyberbullying.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) lists the behaviors that indicate someone is being cyberbullied, that is, if he or she: 

  • Becomes sad or angry after using their phone
  • Withdraws from family and friends
  • Lacks desire or shows reluctance to engage in previously enjoyable activities
  • Has a mysterious decline in grades
  • Hesitates to go to school or to a specific class
  • Starts self-reporting illnesses and expressing a wish to stay home
  • Shows prolonged signs of depression or sadness

Check in when someone acts uncharacteristically negative. Victims should not be ashamed to discuss their traumas, so it is important for family or friends to have a welcoming, non-threatening conversation about cyberbullying. Keep in mind the conversation skills and encouragement that Seize the Awkward offers.

Similarly, know the signs of someone who is cyberbullying others. According to Broadband Search, cyberbullies will:h, people engaged in cyberbullying will:

  • Stop using their computer or phone when someone comes near them
  • Look nervous or jumpy when online
  • Be secretive about what they are doing online
  • Spend an excessive amount of time on the computer
  • Become angry or upset when access is taken away Internet (truer for minros than adults)

What to Do & How to Help

Blocking, unfollowing in social media, and muting the accounts that launch cyberbullying are helpful ways for the victim to disengage from a cyberbully, but these steps might not suffice.  To mitigate or stop cyberbullying, we need to involve more friends and family early as online observers so they can quickly defend those they care about—no more standing by—to stop the bullying or reduce the harm. If you observe or suspect someone is being harassed, stalked, or bullied online, contact that person, offer help, and say they are not alone.  Likewise, if you suspect someone is the bully, reach out to that person, initially in a non-hostile way, until you see whether they are being honest or evasive.

Our Hive feature enables you to participate in a network of mutual support and protection.  When a member of a hive network begins to receive or post negativity, other members in the hive get an alert and receive options to call, text, WhatsApp-message (or better yet the Signal app because of its assured privacy [www.signal.org]), or otherwise reach out. For a description of Hive, see the “Our Hive Feature for Supporting Each Other in Times of Conflict” post.

Talking about mental health is a great place to start, but initiating the dialogue can be difficult in certain situations. Fortunately, guidance is available. An organization called Seize the  Awkward (https://seizetheawkward.org) provides conversation starters and tips and has a section with encouragement from public figures widely known to young people.

Advice from Presence CEO Mukul Kumar

Presence CEO Mukul Kumar says the internet can be destructive if used recklessly. He says that it’s prudent to examine patterns of internet use and to decide whether a child should use the internet at all. (As with a driver’s license, he reasons that a practicing alcoholic or addict should not drive.)

“Many young people experience an extreme form of cyberbullying every day, which in some cases has pushed them to take their own lives. Technology companies have a responsibility to protect their users, especially children, and need to do more. Protecting users’ privacy and fighting cyberbullying is why Presence is here.”

To protect children from cyberbullying, Mr. Kumar offers the following advice to parents: “If your child experiences cyberbullying, you may want to delete the associated apps and keep the child offline to recover and heal. Unfortunately, getting off the internet is not a long-term solution. We need to strive for a healthy symbiotic relationship with the Internet. This one of the reasons we created Presence Global—we are doing our part to end cyberbullying.”

Mr. Kumar has worked in cybersecurity for 20+ years and amassed an impressive stock of knowledge. He’s the closest thing to a cyber superhero that a business could have. He’s also my boss. (Kidding aside, he is super cool.) If you have questions, contact us. We are happy to help. If the Privacy app is your data privacy companion, think of us as your data privacy trainers.

If the app is your data privacy companion, think of us as your data privacy trainers. We’ll see you in class! 

Presence is looking to partner with organizations to help raise awareness and support the fight against cyberbullying. If you’re interested in partnering with us, contact us

Resources

This section contains the links already cited and additional links for looking into the crisis of cyberbullying as well as one attempted suicide related to isolation (without cyberbullying).

General Resources About Cyberbullying

For more information on cyberbullying:

Help with a cyberbullying crisis from National Alliance on Mental Illness

Bullying Statistics 

Stopbullying.gov 

ADL Resources and Warning Signs

Resources for the “Audrie & Daisy” Story

The Audrie & Daisy documentary is available for streaming at www.netflix.com or for a small rental fee through YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=audrie+and+daisy+full+documentary+

Audrie Pott’s and Daisy Coleman’s stories are just two of many terribly important wakeup calls.  Daisy Coleman was raped at age 14 (in 2012) after she was plied with liquor (and possibly a date rape drug) to the point of blackout. After sneaking out to a party, she was discovered by her family on the frozen lawn outside her mother’s house, wearing little clothing and with her hair frozen to the ground. Initially, her family thought she was dead. Daisy Coleman later became a counselor and advocate for victims and made a living as a tattoo artist. She committed suicide in 2020, at age 23, after years of cyberbullying.

audrie daisy
Everyone Knows

When the documentary was released in 2016, Daisy was 18 in the interview available at the following link (16 minutes):

Daisy was subsequently interviewed in 2018. Her words show the need for real support after a person experiences a profound violation. As she indicates, the treatment she received after the assault was very detrimental.

Question: How did the negative attention have an impact on you at the time and do you think that it would have been different in a post-#MeToo world?

Daisy: The negative impact people had on me as only a teenage girl was really detrimental to my self-worth. Everyone goes through a point in questioning who they are when they’re entering high school; I feel like I had double that pressure because everyone had this image at the time of how a survivor should act and how they should be. It was really hard figuring out who I wanted to be while loving myself at that age. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I had supporters at the time. I had to grow a thick skin at a young age and stand up for myself, and I think that shaped who I am today. [-emphasis added]

Daisy Coleman died in 2020, hours after reporting her nightmare stalker to police:

Four months after Daisy committed suicide, her mother committed suicide:

Audrie Pott, age 15 in 2012, lived in the wealthy community of Los Altos, California, and attended Saratoga High School. At a house whose owners were away, Audrie drank enough alcohol to be in a blackout when she was sexually assaulted. She didn’t know afterwards what had happened to her and asked for information via social media (huge mistake). Audrie was devastated and hung herself 8 days after the assault and receiving demeaning text messages and posts with photos on a social platform.

As a result of the sexual violation of Audrie Pott, her suicide, and the online bullying from fellow students, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Audrie’s Law on September 30, 2014. Audrie’s Law “… increases penalties and decreases privacy protections for teens convicted of sex acts on someone who is passed out from drugs or alcohol or incapable of giving consent due to a disability.”

In addition to the documentary, the story of Audrie Pott and her last tormented days are documented in a Rolling Stone article.

Arrests in Audrie’s case:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/3-u-s-teens-arrested-for-sexual-battery-after-girl-s-suicide-1.1312171

The following article describes the basic history of events. Three boys, aged 16, were given extremely light punishment. Subsequently, the Audrie’s parents’ filed a civil lawsuit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Audrie_Pott

You would be justified to ask this rhetorical but very serious question: Why is this happening? Technology is a not a cause, rather, it’s a facilitator of human intentions and emotions, a transporter of thoughts. More than understanding causes, humans must act to change the causes that live in the human heart, starting with oneself.

This example demonstrates that having wealth is no barrier to assaults and that mob cyberbullying can be so cruel it drives the victim to suicide. A common factor in these cases is a complete lack of respect. In a video at Youtube, Daisy Coleman’s brother, Charlie, highlighted the point, thus:

“If there’s one thing in the world I think young men need to learn [and] to carry on through their lives is respect for another.”

So simple, so true, and yet how can people respect others if they have no respect for themselves? Charlie continues:

“. . . it is up to the parents, the role models, the older brothers, the older sisters, to start putting these ideas in kids’ heads that ‘this is not a thing that’s okay.’”

Charlie’s statement is here:

Transatlantic Cyberstalking: Canadian Amanda Todd Victimized by a Dutch Man in 2012, but Justice is Coming

There are just too many stories like this one, which involves trans-Atlantic cyberstalking and then bullying at school. The story from the CBC is here:

Amanda Todd killed herself weeks after videotaping a plea for help (warning: very hard to watch):

Eight years after Amanda’s suicide (2020), the accused (who had at least 75 targets of cyberstalking and bullying) has been extradited to Canada:

The Peril of Psychological Isolation

Psychological isolation can be more than dangerous; it can imperil one’s sanity or one’s life. Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott suffered isolation after their sexual assault. The following is an interview with a man whose bipolar disorder and sense of worthlessness and hopelessness drove him to attempt suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000.

The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800 273 8155

Jun 9, 2021 8:08:00 PM

Check Out These Related Posts

Share This