Bullying is a by-product of the capitalist society that advocates for personal
advancement over any other goals. From a young age, children are encouraged to be the best
they can be. Instincts push people to achieve these results at any cost. The overriding instinct
in most instances is personal survival and the need to dominate others. If an individual does
not have the right values, they devise ways to intimidate others out of the competition. In the
past incidents of bullying were limited to the relatively few cases of face-to-face bullying. All
this has changed in the information age. Proliferation of communication devices combined
with the internet provides fertile ground for bullying. One reason that could explain the rise in
Cyberbullying is the anonymity that the internet affords. People know that they do not have
to account for their actions online and therefore tend to be more belligerent than usual. In the
past the threat of physical confrontation in bullying was always present, however, the internet
has largely diminished that threat.
Forms of cyber bullying
Cyberbullying refers to a range of activities done online that are harmful to the well-
being of the victim (NoBullying.com). These may take the form of flaming where an
argument between two people quickly spreads to include more people each taking one side of
the argument and hurling insults to people on the other side. Another form is harassment,
where a bully humiliates the victim by sending hurtful images, text messages, or emails about
the victim. This form of bullying has grown with the recent trend of making memes. Memes
are images containing a message meant to ridicule the victim. Denigration is another form of
Cyberbullying; the bully attacks and tarnishes the victims through spreading false
information about them.
Impersonation is another form of Cyberbullying. The bully assumes the identity of
another person with malicious intent. Closely related to this is outing where someone gains
personal information about the victim using dishonest means such as impersonation. The
bully then publicizes that information with the aim of humiliating the victim. We also have
stalking which involves following the victim online in an unjustified way. As illustrated,
Cyberbullying involves a myriad of activities taking place in the online space. These
activities involve both passive and active participation by victims and bullies (InDirect)
Causes of online bullying
Online bullying may happen for several reasons. First, bullying by popular kids
happens because they want to maintain their popularity (Donegan 35). Such people use
bullying to validate their popularity. Often, this requires the support of backers and henchmen
who remain on the sidelines cheering actively and passively as the bully brings down the
victim. This kind of bullying is likely to target famous people since attacking them provides
the bully with potential for attracting more attention. In addition to popularity, hurting others
makes such people feel powerful. The more people they bully the more powerful they
become. Taking on famous figures boosts the power of such bullies to even greater heights
The other group of online bullies is people who are less socially successful. This group forms
the bulk of cyber bullies. They find solace in bullying as it helps them cope with their low
self-esteem. Their objective is to fit in with their peers and bullying provides a chance to help
them achieve this goal (InDirect). Cyberbullying requires even less courage than traditional
forms of bullying. The internet with its anonymity helps people show their true colours.
Cyber bullies might not be bullies in real life but since the internet provides them with
anonymity, they take advantage of that to bully others (Donegan 37).
Effects of Cyberbullying
Studies have shown that bullying causes emotional damage to its victims though most
of these victims find it difficult to admit it. In a study involving over 3000 students,
researchers learnt that out of all bullying victims, 38% felt vengeful, 37% were angry, while
24% felt helpless. Another study conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Centre using a
sample size of 468 students drew almost similar conclusions. They found that out of all the
female victims 39% felt frustrated, 36% felt angry and 25% felt sad about it, the males
figures were 27%, 36% and 17% for each of those respective categories. Females seem to
show high susceptibility to bullying than males. However, this is hardly surprising since
males tend to admit emotional weakness less readily than their female counterparts do
(Hinduja & Patchin 1).
Sociologist Robert Agnew developed the Great Strain Theory, which hypothesizes
that victims of bullying can develop problematic emotions, which cause deviant behaviour.
The victim goes through a vicious cycle and this can result to the victim developing antisocial
behaviour as they try to process their emotions and find an outlet for their anger and
frustration (Hinduja and Patchin 5).
Bullying also takes a toll on the bully. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention report, over 60% of males with bullying tendencies between grade
six and nine were later convicted of at least one crime in their adult life. This is in
comparison to 23% of people who did not bully. Forty per cent of these former bullies got at
least three conviction by the time they were age 24 years; this is in comparison to 10% of
those who were not bullies (Donegan, 37). When bullies use bullying as a coping mechanism
it leads to development of a vicious cycle for both the victim and the bully (Oleus 8).
Evidently, bullying has a heavy toll on the society, the effects of this habit are long lasting,
and some individuals feel the repercussions throughout their life.
Cyberbullying and Legislation
Though the effects of Cyberbullying are evident, the legal situation is not as clear-cut
as the social situation. Freedom of speech receives such a high degree of importance that
even law enforcers prefer to err on the side of caution than be seen as curtailing this very
important right (Wiseman). The anonymity of the internet makes the situation even more
challenging. Prosecuting faceless people would prove to be a tall order for law enforcers.
Another challenge is lack of strong laws to address this situation. Even when cases of
Cyberbullying are reported, the legal repercussions do not match the severity of the crimes
committed (Donegan 38). Consider the case of New Jersey V Dharun Ravi, 2010 as narrated
by NoBullying.com. In the summer of that year, Tyler Clementi started sharing that he was
gay. Clementi’s roommate at Rutgers University was Dharun Ravi. One day Ravi used a
webcam to stream footage of Clementi kissing another man. Ravi uploaded this video link
online and instantly Clementi became the subject of ridicule within the campus. Due to this
embarrassment, he committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. Less than a week later Ravi
and Molly Wei, a hall mate whose computer Ravi had used, were charged with invasion of
privacy. Wei entered a plea bargain to testify against Ravi who got a conviction and a
sentence of 30 days in jail.
This case illustrates the typical Cyberbullying prosecution set-up. While the actions of
Ravi led to the death Clementi, the legal repercussions were nominal. After this case, the
Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment act was passed requiring colleges to
institute tough anti-harassment policies and expand their anti-bullying programs. This is
another typical feature of Cyberbullying laws; they are mostly made after a high profile case
has caught the attention of lawmakers (Donegan 39).
Solutions to Cyberbullying will come from solving the general problem of bullying
since Cyberbullying is only a subset of the wider problem of bullying. Wiseman reports a
study conducted in Nevada that identified six essential elements in dealing with bullying in
schools; availability of a reporting procedure, integration in the curriculum, student-centred
approach with students taking the initiative of stopping the practice, prevention rather than
punishment, effective punishment to deter the practice, and keeping up with technology. A
solution to bullying must incorporate all stakeholders involved in growth of a child starting
with parents and teachers (Wiseman).
Capitalism subconsciously fosters bullying by placing pressure on individuals to
succeed. However, this is not a reason to tolerate this vice. Competition is only good if it is
fair and productive. The rise in bullying should be viewed in the context of moral decay of
the society. Advances in information technology and emergence of social media have led to
the evolution of bullying with new forms of bullying occurring in this new space. The toll of
bullying in society is huge and steps must be taken to address this menace through legal and
Donegan, Richard. “Bullying and Cyberbullying: History, Statistics, Law, Prevention and
Analysis.’’ The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications
3.1(2012): 33-40. Web. 1 May 2014
Hinduja, Sameer and Patchin, Justin. “Safe and Responsible Social Networking Strategies
for keeping yourself safe online.” Cyberbullying Research Centre. (2009). Web. 1
InDirect. “Bullying on Social Networks.” (2013). Web. 1 May 2014
NoBullying.com. “six unforgettable Cyberbullying cases. Tyler Clementi: New Jersey vs.
Dharun Ravi, 2010”. (2014). Web. 1 May 2014.
Olweus, Dan. Peer harassment: a critical analysis and some important issues. New York:
Guilford Publications, 2001. Print.
Wiseman, Brian. Cyberbullying in schools: A research study on school policies and
procedures. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. 2011. Print.