Abuse refers to the extreme behaviour of violating and hurting others by coercive means. Cyberbullying refers to the damaging behaviour of online users, which is the extension of social violence in the network society. Cyberbullying is different from physical conflicts and verbal insults in real life but uses language and words to attack people behind the technology and social media platforms. Olwehs mentioned that cyberbullying is similar to traditional physical and social bullying, the difference is that cyberbullying is carried out by the online network as a medium (Olwehs, 2013, cited in Egeberg et al., 2016, p.185). Online networks can exacerbate the harm caused by bullying, regarding the features of repetition and duration towards the norm of the virtual world (Egeberg et al., 2016, p.185).
The most prominent characteristic of cyberbullying is that perpetrator is dominated by groups of people rather than individuals in real society. The power of abuse is constructed by the quantality of perpetrators, hence the apparent authority has always been strengthened regarding their opinions and perspectives. The bandwagon effect or head behaviour brings an enormous influence on how people think, especially in the age group of youth (teenagers). Adolescents’ immature cognitive development can lead them to be more easily influenced by group identity. The empirical work has shown that adolescents who bully are perceived as more popular (Bleize et al., 2022). In this case, most of them are unaware that their behaviours as a ballier may cause great harm to the victims in order to gain admiration and approval from their peers.
TV series Mr Hiiragi’s Homeroom: against cyberbullying
Mr Hiiragi’s Homeroom is a serial drama directed by Naoko Komuro, Yuma Suzuki, and Itaru Mizuno, released in Japan in 2019, talking about the serious consequences of cyberbullying. A seemingly frail art teacher kidnapped 29 third-year students in Class A of high school 10 days before graduation, with the purpose of uncovering the truth about the suicide of a female student. In the process of tracking the “murderer”, the head teacher deliberately fabricated and disseminated false news to guide their perspectives, trying to make the students realize a simple truth about the language can sometimes become a murder weapon through this special “last lesson”, and it is powerful as a sharp knife, insert your heart deeply.
“Let’s think” is the point that the head teacher keeps emphasizing to the students in this film. He mentioned that when you attempt to express opinions against others or make comments about somebody, you must consider them thoughtfully before taking action.
This drama pointed out cyberbullying in the school environment. Psychological thoughts like “she is too fragile, we are just joking, it’s not our fault, we didn’t do anything” is the culprit of cyberbullying.
The famous scholar Hannah Arendt (1963) once put forward the concept of “banality of evil”, which means not stopping or even participating in the obvious evil as well as being accustomed to sin. Cyberbullying is the banal evil of the Internet age. When we look at a specific cyberbullying participant alone, he or she may not intend to hurt a person, but when the language is superimposed, it will show great destructiveness. Most cyberbullying participants may not have actual malice. Almost no one will have rational expectations of verbal consequences when venting their emotions. From their perspective, the victim is not a real person but a digital symbol that won’t hurt.
In the age of social media, opinions trump emotions and positions trump facts. Most people may not directly participate in cyberbullying, but they involuntarily participate in it under the framework of self-media design. As I mentioned above, the immature thoughts of teenagers make them easier to be influenced by emotions, particularly in the virtual environment on the Internet, they will carry out maliciousness from their minds. Festl and Quandt (2013, cited in K.Watts, 2017) reported that 52% of children between the age of 12-19 in the research had cyberbullied others via social media and about 20% via Internet chat rooms bullying. Most of the time they think they are not committing cyberbullying, even after it has resulted in serious consequences.
Case study: Rebecca Sedwick 2013
Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old junior high school girl in Lakeland, Florida, USA, was being tortured via social media on the internet in her last year. And the culprit was her classmate. There are several malicious messages like “Go kill yourself” and “Why are you still alive” were posted on her personal social media platform. Those messages kept on attacking her heart. It is reported that most of these rumours came from her two female classmates aged 12 and 14, and as many as 15 classmates participated in the bullying.
On September 10, 2013, Rebecca Sedwick cannot bear the enormous mental pressure, and choose to commit suicide. After the incident, two girls who bullied Rebecca online were detained by the local police. But they didn’t apologize at all. Even though Rebecca has passed away, the 14-year-old girl who verbally bullied her still did not show any guilt but sent such a merciless message on her social media platform: Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed herself but IDGAF (O ‘Mara, 2013).” Although they lead to such serious consequences, there is no relevant law to punish them. The local police stated that there is no specific punishment for cyberbullying in Florida, even Rebecca’s mother tried to sue their parents and was told there are no “obvious charges”.
Public opinion pressure is unimaginable, maybe a little malice in your mind leads to a person’s death. What’s crueller is that you are hurt by someone around you. Studies have shown that when you find those who abuse you online are those who live around you, the power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator will be more serious. According to Slonge’s survey, the perpetrators are usually for their schools or local people, which will cause victims to be afraid of receiving real bullying and further damage. (Slonge et al., 2013)
In 2012, a survey of an online behaviour survey of a global adolescent (8 to 17 years old) carried out by Microsoft in 25 countries showed that an average of 37%of children have experienced cyberbullying, and more than half of them (54%) are worried that they will be bullied online, and only 5% of parents and schools have discussed online bullying with their children (Microsoft, 2012). We all know that any words that people have said on social media cannot be recovered just like the launched bullets and this sometimes even poses a threat to life. So, before you choose to send a message, before you participate in an online discussion, you need to rethink, do you really want to forward or comment.
Rethink: give you a second chance
In 2013, in the same year when the Rebecca Sedwick incident occurred, the 13 -year -old Indian American girl Trisha Prabhu saw this news and felt heartbroken and angry. Prabhu also encountered cyberbullying in his childhood and received a downfall comment on her dress. She felt sorrowful when she noticed this case. Her heart was completely hit. She found that the impact of this aggressive information, especially when cyberbullying is repeated will lead to terrible consequences. Victims silently suffer pain and injuries, and in the new digital era, this phenomenon is rapidly spreading. What is even more ironic is that many people feel upset and heartbroken about this, but only a few people think about how to save those victims from the abuse online.
Therefore, Prabhu used her own knowledge of programming to create an application named Rethink. This app is committed to detecting the vocabulary of harmful significance in speaking on the network and gives a prompt before sending: This message might be hurtful to others, are you sure you want to post this message? This Application prevents online communication from hate by warning quotes.
Prabhu recruited 300 teenagers 12 to 18 to organize a survey. After receiving some of the offending information, participants can choose whether to publish it on social media. After receiving the prompts from Rethink, more than 93% of teenagers choose to stop sending. Overall, 71% of the teenagers were planning to send bad words, but after seeing the reminder sent to them by Rethink, only 4.6% of them chose to send it anyway (TEDx Talks, 2014).
“Rethink before you type, rethink before the damage is done.” Prabhu said, “The adolescent brain is like to a car with no brakes” (TEDx Talks, 2014). She firmly believes that most teenagers do not intend to engage in cyberbullying, but they do not consider the consequences of their actions at the moment, it can all be improved if they are given time to think.
By launching the Rethink application, Trisha was nominated for the Google Global Science Fair, and was also awarded the MIT INSPIRE 2016-Aristotle Award and the Daily points of light Rewards created by Bush as well as other awards. Trisha was also invited by President Obama to participate in the White House Science Fair and Stanford Global Entrepreneur Summit to showcase the great creation of Rethink.
Powerful weapon: Law
However, an app alone is not enough, cyberbullying still needs to be restrained by law. The British government released Online Harm White Paper on April 8, 2019, proposing legislation to strengthen the self-regulation of online communication environments such as social media platforms. This could protect users from harmful content such as online sexual harassment, cyberbullying, extremism and terrorist attacks, etc.
Long before the release of the online harm white paper, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had appealed through the media that the government and regulators need to play a more active role on the Internet in order to deal with the widespread dangers caused by free expression in cyberspace (Zuckerberg, 2019), and this is not the first time Zuckerberg has made similar remarks.
British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement, emphasizing that while the Internet helps people communicate, platforms such as social media fail to adequately protect users, especially teenagers and children. She said that we listened to the voices of activists and parents, and now we must hold Internet companies to bear legal responsibility to protect the safety of the people (GOV.UK, 2019).
To sum up, the Internet itself is not terrible, what’s terrible is that the perpetrators use advanced technology to convey their malice. Cyberbullying is a serious problem and the damage it causes to victims is immeasurable. The anonymity and distance afforded by the Internet to some extent encourage individuals to carry out harmful actions that they might not engage in real life. This type of abuse can take many forms, including harassment, intimidation, and even threats of physical harm. Studies have shown that cyberbullying can lead to a range of negative outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, and that the psychological problems that result from cyberbullying stay with victims for a long time. (Patchin & Hinduja, 2021).
To address cyberbullying, it is important to raise awareness among young people about the risks and consequences of engaging in harmful online behaviour. Parents, schools and governments should work together to create a culture of digital citizenship that emphasizes respect, empathy and responsible online behaviour. Additionally, social media platforms and other online spaces should be regulated to ensure they are safe and inclusive for all users (Flew, 2021). We need a brake, before we press send.
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