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The immersion of technology in everyday life has exploded. With that explosion, society has also seen an increase in negative behaviors that are directly correlated to new technologies. This paper will explore how technology is used to enhance and/or replace traditional bullying methods. It will discuss the anonymity and virtual freedom of bullies, and it will also discuss the relative helplessness of the victims and offer suggestions to counter bullying with technology.
The word “technology” generally evokes a positive image in most people. Touch screens, bells, whistles, widgets, icons, 4 GB, and applications are all terms that excite the “techie”. Although society will admit that problems do arise from the use of technology, few will declare that society is not well prepared to address the ills of technology.
One such ill of modern technology is a new take on an old problem – bullying. In the technological world, bullying has taken on a new face. Rather, it is now becoming a nameless face that is difficult to identify and more difficult to resolve. Anderson and Sturm (2007) state “cyberbullying is the newest form of bullying, emerging as children become more adept at using computers and cell phones for communication and socialization” (p. 1). The authors cite Belsey (p. 1, 2004), “cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies, such as e-mail, cell phone, and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others.”
The use of technology facilitates bullying because it can be continuous; it is not easily tracked; access to technology is prevalent. The media increasingly is reporting suicide cases among teens that are linked to bullying. The effects of traditional bullying are being highlighted through anti-bullying programs in schools, and society is moving away from the attitude that bullying is okay and just a part of growing up (Anderson & Sturm, 2007). Armed with that knowledge, it is easy to see how destructive technological aids can be to bullying events.
The availability of technology devices is a major issue in cyberbullying. It is common in this society to see children as young as 6 or 7 years old texting, surfing the Internet, and chatting online and usually without any parental supervision. Teens cannot be protected from it at school, church, or home. Teens have become more reliant on cell phones and computers for social networking and communication. The tools used to bully, cell phones, instant messaging, or Internet, are literally in action 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cyberbullying can happen to anyone at anytime, and most adults in the children’s lives are not aware of its occurrence (Anderson & Strum, 2007).
Traditional bullying requires some type of physical confrontation. The victim knows his or her adversary. With technology and cyberbullying, the enemy is not always so easy to identify. According to Anderson and Strum, the anonymity of cyberbullying is damaging because kids do not know if the bully is a best friend or a complete stranger, or if more than one person is involved. This often leaves the victim confused and paranoid and more afraid of the faceless threat than the identified threat with traditional bullying (2007). The authors stress the point that “cyberbullying is harder to escape or avoid than face-to-face bullying” (p.2).
Daily existence relies heavily on the use technology. It is virtually impossible to live in this digital age without using technical aids. How then should the problem of bullying with technology be addressed? Is it a reasonable request to tell teens to put away their gadgets? Anderson & Strum (2007) state that is not. The authors say “teens should continue to use these technologies but should not respond to the bully’s advances, and they should take the time to document all communication made by the bully” (p. 2). They also offer suggestions to change mobile numbers, contact service providers to block incoming messages and calls, and contact Internet Service Providers and police when warranted (2007). One critical action that must be implemented is parental supervision and monitoring when kids are “wired”.
In this age of newer faster technology, society demands that its citizens are responsible users of such aids. While it is impractical to think that technology will only be used for positive purposes, it has to be admitted that some of its unintended uses, like cyberbullying, can lead to a myriad of lifetime psychological problems for the victims. Modern technologies serve to advance to mankind in all arenas; it should be monitored carefully so that it does not destroy the teen victims of cyberbullying.