When I first started counseling clients, I never thought that cyberbullying, friending or tweeting would come up in therapy sessions on a regular basis. However, since the advent of social media, a new crop of concerns are being presented in therapy sessions.
One of the most common issues presented by children and adolescents is cyberbulling. Back in the days before the Internet, a vicious rumor would be spread in school via students talking to each other. In most cases, the rumor would die down after a few days, the source of the gossip would be identified, and the student body would continue on like usual. However, the insidious rumor mill would leave a distraught teen in its wake. Harrassment would more than likely be limited to phone contact, letter writing or in-person contact.
Today, rumors can be spread within seconds via text, email, chat, and social media updates. These type of rumors never go away. Anything posted online stays there forever, even if it is deleted. Online harrassment is conducted swiftly and anonymously. Now you have the increased potential for harm combined with anonymity and lightning quick speed. Welcome to the world of cyberbulling. Not only do your schoolmates have access to the rumor or harrassment you are receiving, it has the potential to spread worldwide in a matter of hours.
Those that cyberbully anonymously have personal responsibility and consequences removed from the equation. They post things that they otherwise would never say directly to someone's face (or to any of their friends, for that matter). And one of the most unsettling facets to cyberbullying is that the victim may never really be sure of their attacker's identity. A tech-savvy bully knows how to mask their location. Add the victim's stress from being harrassed to their fear of the unknown, and you have a recipe for lifelong trauma.
Anti-cyberbulling organizations have been formed, and, in some cases, charges have been filed against cyberbully perpetrators. We still have a long way to go to protect our kids from cyberbullying. One solution is to block anonymity on social networking sites, but then the First Amendment comes into play. And in some situations, such as reporting news from dangerous locations, anonymity may be necessary. But where do we draw the line? When is enough enough?
Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC