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“If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it on the Internet,” tweeted Mike Birbiglia, a well-known standup comic and author. In less than a 140 characters, truer words could not have been tweeted.
Cyber-bullying, sometimes called “trolling,” is the dark art of anonymously or openly insulting, harassing and psychologically assaulting another person online. This modern phenomenon has been linked to teen suicides, drug abuse, low self-esteem and depression.
This practice has sadly become commonplace on most social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. A vast majority of Internet users, however, either don’t notice it, have never been victims of it, or simply turn a blind eye toward it. Not everyone can block it out, though.
On March 1st of this year, cyber-bullying received quite a bit of attention after a famous father defended his daughter, and outed two online “trolls” in the process.
Curt Schilling, former major league baseball pitcher announced to the world, via Twitter, news of his 17-year-old daughter’s college acceptance. Shortly after, an onslaught of truly insulting and degrading tweets, directed at his daughter poured in.
Not one to take it on the chin, Schilling tracked down the real identities of two of the “trolls,” and posted that information, as well as a stern lecture, on his 38 Pitches Blog. “If I had been a deranged protective dad,” Schilling wrote, “I could have been face to face with any of these people in less than [four] hours. I had to do almost nothing to get any of that information because it is all public.”
Schilling’s post went viral, and both of the men he outed suffered consequences. One lost his job as a ticket taker for the New York Yankees and the other received a suspension from the community college he attended and worked at as a part-time DJ. While there might have been a type of justice in this instance because of Schilling’s notoriety, that’s not usually the case.
As recently as May 2015, a Colorado teenager attempted suicide after being the victim of cyber-bullying. Late last year, authorities in Florida arrested two teenage girls for aggravated stalking, a felony, after a 12-year-old girl jumped to her death after being harassed online. Many states are currently looking at legislation that will increase the punishment for cyber-bullying.
A study conducted at the University of Duesto, in Spain, concluded “…victims [of cyber-bullying] are at a higher risk for psychological and behavioral health problems, like substance abuse, after six months of bullying.”
- One out of every 6 parents are aware of the scope and intensity of cyber-bullying
- Cell phones, which a majority of American teens have, are the most common form of technology used to cyber-bully
- Victims, in an attempt to fight back, can often shift roles and become the aggressor which can escalate the situation even more
- About half of all young people have experienced some form of cyber-bullying
- Cyber-Bullying victims are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, depression and to consider suicide
Cyber-Bullying is not limited to teenagers. A recent story on “This American Life,” a show on National Public Radio, highlighted the story of writer, Lindy West, and her experience dealing with Internet “trolls.”
Individuals dealing with depression, anxiety disorders and addiction issues can be vulnerable. In the digital age, many people who need help first reach out online. One nasty comment, insult or accusation might be enough to push them over the edge. However, a kind word or an offer to help could make a positive difference or even save a life.
While there has been a considerable amount of conversation about cyber-bullying in schools and the media for the past few years, it will hopefully garner more attention now that a famous father has stepped up and brought more attention to it. It never should have escalated to this point in the first place. Now that it has, it’s time to see some real change take place.