The 21st century is fraught with new challenges for the human race. The name of the game in recent decades revolves around the Internet, smartphones and other digital devices that make up an integral part of our world and have an almost absolute influence on every possible field.
Along with the wonderful effects that have facilitated our lives in the new era, have you ever stopped to think about the negative consequences of the online revolution? What are the dangers lurking on the Internet and how do we deal with them? If you have, one of the most worrisome phenomena of the digital age (Web 2.0 in professional jargon) is cyberbullying. This is a relatively new phenomenon that uses digital means to intentionally hurt with the aim of defaming, harassing, intimidating, and generally harming an individual or a group of people.
The phenomenon is gaining momentum and is evident today in almost every possible aspect of our lives, from verbal shaming to offensive talkbacks, the distribution of intimate images and videos maliciously transmitted, sending threatening texts or that are sexual in nature, and countless other expressions that use the digital tools at our disposal to the detriment of others.
Many studies indicate that a significant proportion of the victims of cyberbullying are children and adolescents who are exposed to the Internet and smartphones for a longer period of time, and are harmed by the contents presented in them and/or by the harmful uses that are sometimes done in a harsh and extreme manner. For instance, the Internet makes anonymity possible and strengthens the norms of transmitting offensive messages without consideration or supervision, while shirking responsibility and hiding under a veil of “confidentiality.” Add to this the accessibility to the Internet and the digital means available to us 24/7, and you have the capacity for cyberbullying to take place anytime, anywhere.
While adults often know how to filter out offensive sites, ignore talkbacks and make intelligent use of the endless possibilities available on the Internet, for children and teenagers, digital devices in general and social networks in particular may blur the lines between reality and virtual life beyond the computer screen or smartphone.
In fact, the children of the 21st century are exposed to new risks and new influences that were unlikely to exist in their parents’ adolescence. For this reason, the adults among us must adapt to the changing times, to how social bullying blends into the Internet, and to how online mechanisms can lead to physical and mental harm.
So what is the solution you probably ask? It seems that this is the “million dollar question” that troubles expert minds, since the volume of these phenomena is only growing from year to year. It is clear that only active intervention by parents and taking responsibility for their children’s use of digital means can reduce the negative effects to which they may be exposed.