Cyberbullying: analyzing the characteristics of virtual bullying
Adolescence is a time of change and evolution. In this stage, in which both physical and mental maturation occurs, adolescents begin to move away from the family and authority figures to begin to give increasing importance to the group of peers, people who like them are searching for his identity.
However, this approach to their peers does not always result in a positive interaction, but it is possible that sometimes an abusive relationship is established, the result being bullying or, if the new technologies, cyberbullying, are used for it.Related article: "The KiVa method: an idea that is ending bullying"
The invisible violence
"After the diffusion of that image in which he appeared nude, Fran found that they kept getting messages laughing at his physique, the situation is not only due to the virtual level, but in the class the mockery and humiliation were constant, reaching even to find the picture hooked on poles both inside and outside the school, his parents filed several complaints in order to stop the situation, but in spite of all the damage was already done.One day, after two months of continuous mockery, Fran he did not return home, he would be found a day later, hanging a tree in a nearby field, leaving behind him a farewell letter. "
The description of the previous events belongs to a fictitious case, but at the same time it has a very real similarity with the reality that many young people are harassed. In fact, its elaboration has been based on several real cases. To better understand the situation, it is essential to better understand what cyberbullying is .
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying or cyberbullying is a subtype of indirect bullying that is carried out through social networks and new technologies . As in all types of bullying, this type of interaction is based on the intentional emission of a behavior with the objective of damaging or harassing another person, establishing a relationship of inequality between both subjects (that is, having the person dominate). aggressor on the victim) and being stable in time.
However, the fact of applying new technologies means that these characteristics of harassment are nuanced. While the existence of a relationship of inequality always occurs, we must bear in mind that the trigger can be a photo, a comment or a content that has been published or issued without the intention of harming anyone, being the harassment derived from a bad use of this publication (being located in this third person the intention to harm).
For example, if a friend or the same individual hangs up or sends someone a photo in which a partner goes wrong, it may not imply that he or she wants to humiliate him or her, but a third person may use it differently than intended. In the case of cyberbullying, Keep in mind that what is published on the Internet can be seen by many people (many of them unknown) and at any time, so that a single situation of harassment can have repercussions in numerous time intervals.
Further, the victim has a feeling of helplessness greater than in other types of aggressions , because because of the networks the attack can arrive at any time and place, and also does not know when it will be seen or by whom it will occur. Finally, unlike in cases of traditional bullying, in cyberbullying the harasser can be anonymous.
Types of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is not a unitary phenomenon that occurs in a single way; There is a wide variety of forms that range from harassment of the victim and their social exclusion to the manipulation of data to harm a person in their own name. Internet is an environment known for the great variety of technological possibilities it offers, and unfortunately this also applies when using this medium as a tool to harass others ..
In the case of cyberbullying, strategies to harm someone can use all the potentialities of the network, from stored and easily disseminated photographs to the use of voice recordings or photomontages.
Clear examples are photographs and videos made and published without consent in order to blackmail or humiliate, direct threats through various platforms or websites created specifically to ridicule the victim. In addition, depending on the objective of the harassment, we can find cases like sextorssion, in which the victim is blackmailed in exchange for not publishing or extending photographs or videos of a sexual nature.
On the other hand, we must bear in mind that the most common cyberbullying, carried out by children and adolescents, can exploit all imaginable resources, given that the people belonging to the generation of digital natives They already learn to use all these tools from their early years.
The difference with grooming
It is important to note that cyberbullying occurs between minors or at least between peer groups. It is thus distinguished from grooming, in which an adult harasses a minor through the internet (usually for sexual purposes). In this second case, harassment through the Internet is frequent go associated with crimes .
What happens to the victim of cyberbullying?
It is common to see in the victims of cyberbullying a marked decrease in the level of self-esteem and self-concept, sometimes even to self-blame the situation. Insecurity, feelings of lack of competence and the shame of not being able to make the situation go away are frequently encountered in cases of cyberbullying.
In addition, many of the victims are coerced to maintain the law of silence for fear of the consequences of reporting. This causes a drop in school performance, which in turn feeds the decline in self-esteem. The victims of continued cyberbullying also perceive less social support, and in the long run the future affective bonding with third parties is hindered, inhibiting social development.
Also, when cyberbullying is very intense and lasts for months it is possible that victims end up presenting pathologies of personality or mood, such as severe depression or social phobia, even arriving (as in the fictitious case previously recreated) to lead to the suicide of the victim.
In order to detect cases of cyberbullying, some indications that could be useful would be the monitoring and surveillance of changes in habits and the use of devices with Internet access (including concealment when used), lack of class attendance, abandonment of favorite activities, drastic reduction of school performance, changes in eating habits, weight variations, vomiting and diarrhea for no apparent reason, absence of eye contact, fear of recess, excessive closeness to adults, apathy, or lack of defense against jokes that may seem innocuous.
What to do if cyberbullying is detected?
In the case of detecting a situation of this type, it is necessary to establish a fluent communication with the student and his family, making him see that he is living an undeserved situation of which the minor is not at fault, helping to denounce the case and making him feel continued support. It is essential to teach and contribute to collect evidence of harassment (such as screen captures or use of programs that record conversations), in order to prove their existence.
In order to remedy the existence of cyberbullying, the establishment of preventive measures is fundamental. Different methodologies, such as the KiVa method, have proven the usefulness of working with the whole class group and especially with those students who are witnesses of the aggression, in order that the aggressor perceives rejection of his actions and does not see his behavior reinforced .
In the same way, it is essential to work with the attacked student and the aggressor student, in order to show support and improve the self-esteem of the first one and awaken the second's empathy making him see the possible damages that his behavior can cause both to the aggressed and to others ( including himself).
Cyberbullying, at a legal level in Spain
The virtual harassment supposes a series of serious crimes that can cause jail sentences of several years of duration . However, it must be considered that in Spain only from the age of 14 a criminal charge can be imputed, which means that jail sentences are mostly not applied.
In spite of this, the legal system has a series of disciplinary measures that can be put into practice in these cases. In addition, although the legal responsibility is of the minor aggressor in the first place, the legal responsible of the minor and the school where they are related harassed and stalker also possess it. It will be up to them to assume the compensations to the harassed as well as the sanctions that could correspond to them by themselves.
Before a case of cyberbullying crimes of induction to suicide, injuries (physical or moral), threats, coercion, torture may occur or crime against moral integrity, crimes against privacy, insults, violation of the right to one's own image and the inviolability of the domicile, discovery and disclosure of secrets (including the processing of personal data), computer damage and identity theft.
The corrective measures proposed for the aggressor include weekends, conducting socio-educational tasks for the benefit of the community, supervised release and restraining order.
A final reflection
The current study of the phenomenon of cyberbullying makes clear that there is much to work on, especially taking into account the constant evolution of technology and networks (new trends and applications appear). In addition, taking into account that new generations are born in an increasingly virtualized environment, the preventive policies that are currently applied should be advanced, going from being done in Secondary Education to providing basic notions in Primary Education.
In the same way, more training is needed in this respect in the professional sectors that deal with this type of case . Research in this regard is relatively scarce and very recent, requiring the creation of increasingly effective measures and protocols that can help end this scourge and improve the safety and quality of life of youth.
A psychosocial approach is necessary to end the problem of cyberbullying. This is a task that can be fulfilled if there are a series of social and cultural changes, among which are the development of awareness on the subject and the development of policies and school intervention methods that prevent this phenomenon. The KiVa method, for example, points in this direction, and has proven to be very effective. What is involved is not to intervene only in victims and abusers, but in all the social fabric that surrounds both.
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