The current digital era has provided humanity with limitless possibilities through the availability and use of the internet. Social media use is one of the many blessings that have come with the utilization of internet and any other social networking activity conducted through the web. The world has become a global village bridging the physical continental bridges as the flow of information topnotch. For this reason, the use of social media has been on the rise. Some of the commonly used social media platforms are Twitter, Facebook, Snap Chat, WhatsApp, and Tumblers among others. Because of the quick propagation of the internet and the evolution of smartphones and phone applications, there is a claim doing rounds that there is no life without social media. According to Social Media Statistics and Facts 2017, there are 2.46 billion social media users globally. When projected up to 2020, the number is expected to hit 2.95 billion or more. In the same line of thought, arguably, social media can be said to be the reason for some of the worlds problems and solutions. The rise of social media sites has resulted in increased online activities as well as the messaging and sharing of videos, music, pictures among others. This has led to the exposure of the users private information and social life among other delicate information. With the increased freedom of speech and anonymity that social media users are accorded by technology, people are free to say whatever thing they want about anyone or anything without fear of being punished. Similarly, cyberbullying has been found serious psychological effects, which, if no action is taken to remedy the situation would be and has been very damaging.
The Wireless Report 2014 indicates that 47 percent of young people using social media have faced have faced some form of social media abuse. According to the same source, 62 percent of social media users have reported having sent some nasty comments about other people through the various Smartphone applications, and the numbers keep on increasing. The incidents of cyberbullying have been heterogeneous and non-discriminatory as far as age is concerned. The beginning and exposure of young people to social media engagements is through the age of 13. Users ranging between 13 and 15 years are arguably vulnerable to cyber abuse because of their relatively low development and maturity levels. The verily acclaimed notion of the need for freedom of speech and expression has given more room for others to fiercely, aggressively, and shamelessly subject other people to online abuse as few laws are addressing such abuses (Deschamps and McNutt 45-71).
Tactics Used By Cyber Bullies to Torment Their Victims
There are greater probabilities that victims of social media cyberbullying would log in to their online accounts through the computers, tablets or phones. The portability of some technological gadgets like phone and tablets make the victims to be accessible to their bullies 24 hours a day at school, home or anywhere with internet connectivity.
Email threats are some of the methods in which cyber bullies find their victims. These threats are the most common aggressive measures in which the victims of social media bullying are intimidated to comply with some demands failure to which actual physical harm would befall them. Emails are a sure way in which threat recipients are found as the chances that they will receive the messages are very high so long as the bullies have their targets email address. This form of bullying is rated third in the overall means of cyberbullying, and the act can be done in some ways. Apart from sending numerous threats, the cyberbully can attach viruses to the emails aimed and frustrating the life of those they harass. Additionally, these people can incorporate or reveal some private information about their targets and send them to other hundreds of people. While the intentions of cyberbullies are not clear-cut, some psychologists have found that various reasons result in harassments through emails. Some scholars have revealed that these people suffer from jealousy, envy, frustrations, or just the need to feel powerful and dominant over their victims ("Bullying On Social Networks").
Another method that online bullying takes place is a method known as exclusion. Social exclusion mostly targets young children and involves the ostracism of young children from certain social online groups. The cyberbullies who use this technique are normally aware that teens and young children are fixated developmentally to be recognized in some social groups especially peer groups, and that excluding them from such groups often end in feelings of depression, low self-worth, and devaluation. Social exclusion can be conducted in the form of not inviting teens to some social media page, platform or chatroom and informing others about it or trolling them online for it. Other means of this technique include a repeated deletion of ones comments, opinions or views of others to deliberately silence them from or prevent them from being heard by some social group online. This is a realization that social media usage can result in worthless feelings which have driven people to the edge including suicide or contemplation of the same (Woda 2017).
Exposure is highly ranked as one of the tactics that social media bullies use to harass and threaten other people online. As the social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp are highly associated with sharing of videos, pictures, public and private messages; online bullies tend to get their hands on private message, picture or video with which they use to threaten their victims. Exposure technique applies to both children and adults in the social network platforms. The tension and the potential damage that can be caused by an exposed controversial message, picture or video to the public domain is always insurmountable especially if the media are sexual. This tactic has become more prevalent whereby anyone can post, share or forward another persons private communication with the wrong audience. The reasons behind online harassment with this common style include the desire to injure an individuals self-esteem, worth and public perception (Woda 2017).
Cyber harassment can also occur in the form of an aggressive online argument which involves profanity and usage of vulgar language. This style is called flaming and is intended to trigger a digital fight in certain platforms. Flaming is always associated with various people ganging against one with the rest as bystanders who cheer as the victim is being tormented in social media sites. This method often begins with a provoking message or flamebait meant to trigger a response from the target person after which other people cheer after the target has fallen into the trap. Just like other techniques, this style occurs in message boards, chat rooms, discussion panels, or newsgroups. In this sense, social media usage manifests itself as a source of hate and spreading insults which can result in violence especially if there are chances that the victim and the bully are within proximity of meeting or within the same social setup like a school. Flaming is mostly meant to lower someones social status, perception, make them appear weaker or inadequate (Woda 2017).
Social media usage is also associated with cyberstalking technique in which cyberbullies utilize technological means to intimidate, taunt or display a deliberate means of vilification. The results of this method of cyberbullying include the victims fearing for their security or their lives. Other forms include slut-shaming, which targets female victims and is related to sexuality. Impersonation involves masquerading as someone else so at o get information or conduct some questionable acts directed at painting the victim in a bad light.
Another relatively new style of bullying, known as happy slapping, involves provoking or embarrassing a victim while one of the bullys colleagues is recording the video live or taking a picture of the same. Afterwards, the picture or video is posted online or shared virally to reach other people who are meant to laugh at the victim. The use of social media is increasingly becoming a trend associated with social harassments and threats. There have been incidents in which victims have suffered serious psychological, physical and emotional harm and even death following such act of cyberbullying. In the view of Pfeffer, et al. (2014), young people are as twice vulnerable to cyberbullying on Facebook as their older counterparts. The hatred that is usually posted on a social media platform can be very harmful, harassing, and also embarrassing. To some extent, they are found to be life-threatening thus making the social media users feel very uncomfortable and hopeless.
Why Cyberbullies Often Go Unpunished
Various studies have shown that in many circumstances, the cyberbullies have often gone unpunished and the victims do not often get justices. People have died on following various incidences of cyberbullying, and the families of these victims have tried to achieve justice for their loved ones with limited success. CShar (2016) presents an account in which three school girls, who were reported to have bullied a little girl, were not punished. Despite being arrested by the Sebring Police, they were not charged as the head teacher claimed her hands were tied. Panahi (2015) also wrote about how the parents of a teen, Jessica Cleland, who was bullied to death, sought justice with no success. The number of individuals who have been punished for online harassments and threats has plummeted greatly since 2013. The cyberbullying cases are acted upon under Section 127 of the Communications Act. Threatening messages or offensive behavior through social media, internet or phone dropped plunged by 30 percent in 2013 (Philipson, 2014).
There are various reasons why cyberbullies go unpunished. Some of them have been cited as softer prosecution guidelines which control sharing of information through social media platforms. Campaigners against the effects of the dark side of cyberspace have claimed that the new prosecution guidelines given in late 2012 are out of touch with reality as they make it difficult for the Director of Public Prosecution to prosecute people for issuing death threats, trolling on twitter or sexist abuse (Philipson, 2014). It has also been realized that most cases of cyberbullying go without punishment because they are not easy to prove (Pinto, 2014). In some cases, it has been difficult to track down and prosecute cyberbullies as some victims fail to come out and speak against it or even report to the police. Some victims, possibly, have also been fear-stricken in a manner that they cannot gather the courage to overcome this kind of harassment making it difficult for the perpetrators to be found and punished.
There exist some strategies which can minimize cyberbullying overcome the effects or bring to book the perpetrators. Depending on the social medium that one uses, there are certain functions or privacy features which can be used to report cyber harassment and report abuse. It is important for social media users to take their time to learn extensively about the privacy features of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to protect themselves from potential cyber abuse. It is advisable that people report cases of online threats and harassments to the appropriate authorities. People should be cautious with the kind of information and media they share online to protect themselves from online bullies. It is prudent to seek to professional counseling if one happens to be a victim of cyber abuse (Schwartz).
To conclude, the usage of social media has increased tremendously as technology advance...
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