“The Internet Doesn’t Create Bullies”

Bullying has always been a problem amongst young people, especially within the school environment. But since the invention of the smart phone, with communication now being accessed 24/7, bullying has become much more than a schoolyard issue.

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) cyber bullying began emerging in the early 2000s, around the same time as social networking websites, and with the growth of mobile devices, instances of cyber bullying have also grown (Nicol, 2012).

In Sarah Nicols article ‘Cyber Bullying and Trolling’ published in Youth Studies Australia in 2012, she explains what cyber bullying is and how it uses technology, especially new mobile technologies. The article states that cyber bullying is similar to face to face bullying, only behind a screen. It suggests that online bullies are also bullies offline, and online victims, victims offline as well. “The internet doesn’t create bullies”, it states.

So is the internet at fault at all for cyber bullying? Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have procedures in place to protect its users, like reporting options and the like, but is that enough and do people actually use them? In Nicols’ article, she suggests that victims of cyber bullying are often hesitant to report their bullies because they think it will result in them not being able to use social networking for the purposes it was created, socialising with genuine friends. This is where the idea of social media just being a platform comes in. If cyber bullying occurs over a text message, who should have some responsibility? Is it Telstra’s fault? Apple’s fault?

Nicols’ article also suggests that victims of cyber bullying tend to let it go on for longer than it should, by not reporting or telling anyone about it.

“Bullies can attack anyone online; however, some people will yell back at them, some will ignore them and some will report them.  Victims however, engage in ongoing communication with the bully, allowing themselves to play the role of victim”

The article states that the way to stop cyber bullying occurring is to empower the victim. Victims don’t have to play the role of a victim, they can report, they can ignore, they can block.

In my opinion, cyber-bullying is just another platform for bullying. Whilst I do agree that cyber bullying is bad, just like any bullying, I think that there is too much emphasis placed on the role of the ‘platform’ (Facebook, Twitter) and not enough placed on the bullies and victims themselves. As I stated above, bullies aren’t created online. If they’re a bully online, there is a high chance they are are bully offline. Bullies need to be dealt with offline and victims need to be empowered online so they know that they can just as easily do something about it, while still enjoying the good things social media and the online world has to offer.

Nicol, Sarah. Cyber-bullying and trolling [online]. Youth Studies Australia, Vol. 31, No. 4, Dec 2012: 3-4. Availability:<http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=961674521346309;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 1038-2569. [cited 12 May 14].

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