When Words Hurt: The Bane of Cyber-Bullying

Bullies, once the muscle-flexing jocks, have become the common student in the digital age

“Get a life.”

“Stop acting like a goody-two-shoes.”

“You’re such a poser.”


These are only a few of the many nasty things people say to each other online which make up the technological phenomenon known as cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying, according to stopcyberbullying,org, is when a minor is tormented, threatened, harassed or otherwise targeted by someone else using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

Cyber-bullying can take on many different shapes and forms, such as websites, messages, e-mails and other forms of communication. However, in all cases, the intention is the same: to hurt whoever is on the other side.

Cyber-bullying has no real benefits, whether that be for the instigator or victim, and only serves as further proof of one’s own insecurities and issues.

However, this unfortunate trend has taken the Internet by storm. This can be mainly attributed to the fact that the Internet allows a sort of anonymous bullying, where the instigator is allowed a cloak of invisibility against repercussions, which is the driving force behind why many people involve themselves in this kind of thing online.

Popular targets are AIM and blogs. There have even been some reported cases of “bash sites” directed at a specific person.

“Anyone can make up an AIM screen name and cyber-bully someone,” sophomore Angela Tang said. “It gives the a sense of security knowing the fact that the victim will never find out who they are.”

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace are also not exempt from these online antics. In fact, with the recent popularity of these sites, there are even more bullies that abuse them.

On Facebook, there is an application called “Honesty Box.” According to the developer, “Honesty Box lets users send each other anonymous messages, removing any inhibitions and letting people be completely honest with you.”

And while that may sound like a good way to help friends while not putting one’s self in an awkward situation, more often than not, “Honesty Box wars” have erupted from actions like this.

“I have been harassed online through anonymous postings in my Honesty Box,” junior Skylar Bence said. “At first I didn’t react, I just let the messages keep coming, and then at some point I decided I had had enough, and published a not calmly, in a sense, attacking the poster. However, I used no foul language, no threats, and the poster, surprisingly, stopped.”

Confronting the attacker like Skylar did is usually the recommended tactic for dealing with cyber-bullies. But there are still many victims who tend to shy away from conflict and instead start to place the blame on themselves, an unfortunate consequence to cyber-bullying.

“There are some who never forget it, who obsess and ask everyone they know about it,” junior Alisa Raynor said. “It’s a huge psychological blow to my insecure friends.”

English and psychology teacher Allison Cuevas, who has a Facebook account, also warns her students about the use of the “Honesty Box” application.

“A lot of students come in really upset about comments [left about them],” Cuevas said. “Close that box up! Don’t open yourself to anonymous messaging.”

Facebook isn’t the only place on the internet plagued by cyber-bullying. Skylar remembers when some girls created a bash site for her friend in the sixth grade.

“It made her feel pretty awful, and I’m sure mad, because she had been a new student the year before,” Skylar said. “And a couple of the girls doing it had been her friends.”

The issue was later resolved by the victim contacting the principal, resulting in the suspension of the website creator.

But while there may be efforts to stop this self-deprecating cycle, the end of cyber-bullying in the future doesn’t look very promising.

Anyone, though, can help stop cyber-bullying. One shouldn’t be a cyber-bully and take things out on others, but instead should resolve one’s conflicts in a mature, dignified manner. The victims of cyber-bullying should not allow further encouragement and supply them with that satisfaction.

“Cyber-bullying isn’t just dumb, it’s shallow,” Angela said. “There’s a fine line between letting your opinions out about someone and cyber-bullying someone.”