By Anna Harman
According to stopbullying.gov, “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets.” Cyberbullying can affect your reputation for things such as college admissions, employment and other social environments. Nearly everyone has a little computer in their pocket, so it is easy to access all social media platforms at any moment.
Children as young as 9 years old have smartphones. Cyberbullying can be a result of an person’s boredom, insecurities, desire for revenge, lack of empathy and many other attitudes.
“I think people cyberbully because they feel insecure about themselves and want to bring others down so they can exalt themselves,” Cedarville sophomore Seth Hering said.
When people are hidden behind their screens, they don’t have to face the person on the other side of it.
“I see people get cyberbullied almost every day,” sophomore Summer Gray said. “Society has gotten so used to using sarcasm and jokes as a coping mechanism for literally anything, and they have forgotten that words do hurt.”
People often don’t view others they see on Instagram, YouTube, Tik Tok and Snapchat as real people. They’re just a profile. They don’t have feelings, families or friends. They don’t have struggles to empathize with, only mistakes to be criticized, judged and mocked.
This is a common misconception that many people, whether consciously or unconsciously, believe. Many major companies such as YouTube, Instagram and Tik Tok have taken steps to help prevent cyberbullying. YouTube has a series of harassment and cyberbullying policies.
The company states, “Content that threatens individuals is not allowed on YouTube. We also don’t allow content that targets an individual with prolonged or malicious insults based on intrinsic attributes. These attributes include their protected group status or physical traits.”
Viewers can report any content or channels that they find offensive, dangerous or threatening. Instagram also has taken measures to fight against cyberbullying. Users can block, report or unfollow other users any time if they feel threatened or targeted. Instagram added more features in recent years that went further.
The restrict feature automatically hides potentially offensive comments so only you and the bully can see their comments on your post unless you approve the comments. The bullies can still say unfriendly things, but they won’t know that no one can see their comments. This prevents other people from chiming in and piling on with their own insults.
On the other hand, the comment warning feature informs people that their comment might be deemed offensive before they post. Head of Instragram Adam Mosseri said this to users of the platform: “We’re focused on keeping you safe and building new features that fight bullying, improve equity, address fairness and help you feel supported. I’m excited about how these changes will help you create the next wave of culture, and I can’t wait to see how you inspire us next.”
Most social media platforms have features similar to these, yet cyberbullying persists. If people really want to say something to hurt or tear someone down, they will find a way. They might make a new account if they’re blocked or restricted and continue making comments. They may never be caught or stopped.
What can be done about this? Companies such as YouTube and Instagram can continue to implement policies and restrictions on content that may be considered bullying or harassment. They can make it a higher priority to locate harmful content or speech and take it down immediately, instead of responding to reports five days later when, for example, kids from school have already seen and joined the hurtful comments on a classmate’s post.
If social media companies were quicker in addressing instances of cyberbullying, maybe the bullies could be stopped.
Many of these companies have been open about their intolerance for bullying on their platforms. It is likely that in the future, they will improve how quickly and effectively they handle offensive content. What we can do for now is report cyberbullying when we see it or when we are the target so that these people can be exposed and their bullying stopped in its tracks.
Anna Harman is a sophomore Biblical Studies major and also a reporter for Cedars. She appreciates writing, peppermint tea, flowers, and going to concerts.