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The Rise of Cyber-Bullying Crimes

Background of cyberbullying

The traditional bullying as widely known is the repeated and unwanted aggression between people which causes an imbalance in power and control of a scenario or situation. Bullying occurs in every community especially in schools, and it may take different forms including physical, social or verbal. Cyberbullying can be very dangerous as it leads to the loss of self-esteem and bullied person falls into depression. An example would be physical bullying involving being punched or hit; it may even be socially perpetrated where an individual is excluded from a social group setting, and verbal bullying may involve name calling or spreading slander or rumors about a person. Bullying behavior is always a result of aggressive behavior which may be caused by various factors such as lack of parental support or being exposed to a physical punishment in childhood. Bullying in itself may cause the victim to suffer from emotional and social development problems which are reflected in how such people find it hard to build lasting relationships with their peers due to fear of the bullying experience repeating in future.

Today, with the advancement of technology and the availability of devices that support technology at the disposal of almost everyone in the community, bullying no longer involves the exploits of the weak by the strong in the community. Even the smallest of the children can inflict harm and pain to the strongest by mostly targeting their weaknesses. This could be achieved through cyber bullying. Cyberbullying is the use of the technology especially through the internet to deliberately take on an individual or a group with repeated hostility. It involves sending mean text messages, slander through email or social media platforms, and embarrassing contents including videos and picture (StopBullying, n.d.). Unlike the traditional bullying, cyberbullying is a bigger monster which takes the form of twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. It can also be perpetrated everywhere in the world which makes it hard to stay away from. Also, cyber bullies are hard to track since they can perpetrate the crime anonymously. For this reason, therefore, many cyber bullying crimes remain unresolved since the perpetrators are never captured. There are many forms of cyberbullying including online harassment, impersonation, outing, and cyberstalking (Notar, Padgett, & Roden, 2013).

In this community cyberbullying has been on the rise especially in our schools. Police records show numerous cyberbullying complaints, but few arrests have been made to the same. This community has embraced technology and its young school going people have become sophisticated in using modern technologies. The young people are also the category that leads in adapting new technologies as technology advances day in day out. For this reason, therefore, these cyber-bullying crimes are more rampant amongst the youth than any other categories in the community. It is also worth noting that cyberbullying is caused by various factors. First, cyberbullying is marred by anonymity which allows the bullies to attack the victims without facing them – this anonymity creates an illusion that the bully will not be caught. Second, the bullies are ignorant of the consequences of cyberbullying. Most perpetrators of cyberbullying believe and think that it is funny and because they do not see the reaction of the victim they do not realize the damage it causes. Thirdly, social pressure causes people to cyber-bully. Most cyberbullies think that cyber-bullying is normal and cool making it socially acceptable, especially where peer pressure comes into play. Lastly, perpetrators have their own issues with self-esteem. They, therefore, engage in cyberbullying thinking that they will better fit into their peers’ circles.

The consequences of cyberbullying on the victim cannot be underestimated. The victims of cyberbullying may fall into deep depression. They experience low self-esteem and have feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt. When the cyberbullying continues they begin to think that they may deserve all the harsh words thrown to them and this makes them start withdrawing from the public in order to avoid more suffering. They feel dissatisfied with themselves and strive to change their current situation – for example, if someone is called fat they start starving themselves to be skinny so as to fit in the society. The extremes are some of the victims feel angry and vengeful leading to self-harm, and at other times when they cannot take any more, they commit suicide (Wattpad, n.d.). For instance, 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick committed suicide by jumping off a building in Lakeland, Florida due to constant cyberbullying which involved being threatened and taunted online (Alvarez, 2013).

The influence of the state/city legislature and the judicial system

Cyber-bullying is a crime and carries just as much weight as other crimes such as homicide. It causes disorder in the community – disorder which the government is required to protect its citizens against (Rushefsky, 2014). For this reason, therefore, the state legislature and the judicial system have a wide influence on the implementation of the policies on how to curb cyberbullying in the community. The state legislature is responsible for making the laws that govern the states; however, the judicial system is responsible for ensuring that these laws are followed to the letter and that violation of them leads to punishment. The state legislature will influence the formulation and the implementation of the cyberbullying policy through three legislative functions of representation, lawmaking, and oversight (Saiegh, 2005). The state legislature will be the public representatives to ensure that the rights of citizens are not violated in curbing cyberbullying especially the freedom of speech. The legislature also will have to study the cyberbullying issues to implement the remedies that will solve this problem. The oversight function is the key point for both the state legislature and the judicial system. The legislature has to oversee the implementation of the policies while the judicial system through the courts has to oversee the implementation of the same policy by the legislature to ensure that the right legal procedures were followed. The judicial system is also responsible for the interpretation of law. This function will influence the formulation and implementation of the policy by ensuring that the policy follows and meet the constitution provisions pertinent to criminal justice. For instance, the courts will be responsible for determining whether a cyberbullying offender was within the boundaries of his freedom of speech or not.

The influence that interest groups, political parties, and the media

The interest groups, political parties and the media all have one thing in common which is that they have a wide outreach and many people have a high level of trust in these bodies than in government agencies. They are tools that can be used to represent the interests of the common citizens. For this reason, therefore, these bodies will influence the policy on cyberbullying by creating awareness to general public and gaining support of different players in the policymaking process. The interest groups, for example, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) has been creating awareness about all forms of bullying all over the country. According to NCPC curbing cyberbullying is a collective action between the parents, the youth, community partners, government agencies such as law enforcers and schools (NCPC, n.d.). The political parties are also an integral part of policy formulation and implementation. The political leaders in the community will strive to implement a strategy that reflects the overall policy of the party they are loyal to. This influences the policy on cyberbullying in that the plan of action has to be formulated in ways that are not against the parties’ ideologies to receive the backing of these leaders. The political parties force their representatives to make choices between a legislature and what is embraced by the party. For this reason, therefore, the policy makers should ensure they have the full backing of the political parties both in the formulation and the implementation of the policy. The mass media is a tool for communication and influences the policymaking especially during the early stages of the formulation of a particular policy and sustains the public attention throughout the process to implementation. The media can restructure the nature, the source, and the impacts of a policy issue to not only change the attention paid to the issue but also the types of the solutions sought. Mass media can also influence the role of the players in the policy making process by aiding, abetting or hindering their cause and roles in the policymaking process. During the implementation stage, the media can also act as a conduit through which the government communicates the about the policy’s progress to the public, and in return, the government can receive feedback on the attitudes of public towards the whole process (Soroka, Farnsworth, Lawlor, & Young, 2014). Therefore the policymakers have to effectively use the mass media in ways that will ensure support for the cyberbullying policy by making it a highlight issue.

Options/solutions available

Efforts that have been put to fight cyberbullying in the community before have not been effective so far. The school’s policy of not carrying electronic devices such as mobile phones to schools are not in any way helping to ease the problem given that the crime is not limited within the school compound. The effectiveness of a fight on cyberbullying will be felt when the number of complaints filed with the law enforcers will equal the number of arrests made. For instance, 52% of young people report cases of cyberbullying, but the number of arrests made concerning these reports is way lower than the crime occurrence percentage, and in most of the time the perpetrators stay without punishment and continue their harmful internet activities (Cyber Bullying Statistics, 2014). There are two set of solutions that can be considered as good ways to effectively handle the problem of cyberbullying including civic education and applying evidence-based practice (EBP) system. Civic education will involve the use of the mass moving tools such as the interest groups, political parties through rallies and the mass media through advertisements, announcements, TV shows and print media (Katz, 2012). The advantage of this is that every player stakeholder affected by cyber-bullying either directly or indirectly will be reached, taught on the right use of technology especially the internet and guided on the steps to take after being exposed to cyberbullying. The disadvantage is that the tools used to create this awareness will not be permanent. Political views change and so does the interests of interest groups. The media too requires money an extra burned the state may not be willing to bear the expenses.

EBP system, on the other hand, will present the criminal justice agencies with up-to-date information which will enable them to make informed decisions in curbing this problem of cyberbullying (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2011). ERP system centralizes the crime analysis role in the process policy making which will enable the state to work with an open mind in evaluating each and every angle of cyberbullying as a crime from when it’s committed to the aftermath of the crime. The EBP system will be an effective tool in the articulation of how cyberbullying is perpetrated by analyzing the environmental and situational factors that attract this crime. A major advantage of an EBP system will be in its effectiveness in controlling cyberbullying since it takes advantage of the knowledge available to the public to simulate a real-life situation which leads to the prevention or reduction of cyberbullying in the community.

Another advantage is that the use of EBP system will also enable the state agencies to be proactive in handling and preventing cyberbullying in the community. This means that the state agencies be it schools or law enforcers will be able to have policies in place to deal with cyberbullying before it even happens. EBP systems focus on specific aspects of a crime. For instance in our case the cyberbullying problem, the EBP system will be people oriented, and through research, it will highlight the categories of persons who fall victims to cyberbullying. This will, therefore, help the government agencies to tailor and focus their available resources on the fight of cyberbullying.

The EBP system is science-based, and its major disadvantage will be the aspect of change. The use of this system is foreign to most government agencies including law enforcement agencies in this community. People always tend to dislike change and the fear of the unknown may work against the program. A lot of training will have to be made which adds a burden to the state.

Recommendation

No matter what solution the mayor decides to implement the problem will persist. The state should, therefore, work with the technology providers in a proactive manner. Such an alliance should also be based on educating the users on the right application of the technology. The alliance would also ensure proactive means of fighting cyberbullying including the sensitizing subscribers on the protocols that should monitor messages in social network sand be followed as soon as a person is cyberbullied such as ways to block the bully. These providers include social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. These providers should be used by the state as a weapon of combating cyberbullying since they have a moral duty to protect their subscribers from being hurt and humiliated.

 

References

Alvarez, L. (2013). Girl’s Suicide Points to Rise in Apps Used by Cyberbullies. Retrieved on March 9, 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/us/suicide-of-girl-after-bullying-raises-worries-on-web-sites.html

Cyber Bullying Statistics (2014). Retrieved on March 9, 2017 from https://nobullying.com/cyber-bullying-statistics-2014/

Katz, A. (2012). Cyberbullying and e-safety: What educators and other professionals need to know. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Kowalski, R. M., & Limber, S. P. (2007). Electronic Bullying Among Middle School Students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), S22-S30. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.08.017

NCPC. (n.d.). Cyberbullying — National Crime Prevention Council. Retrieved on March 9, 2017 from http://www.ncpc.org/topics/cyberbullying

Notar, C. E., Padgett, S., & Roden, J. (2013). Cyberbullying: A review of the literature. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 1(1), 1-9.

Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R. (2011). How Evidence-Based Management Pays Off – The New York Times. Retrieved on March 9, 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/jobs/04pre.html

Saiegh, S. M. (2005). The role of legislatures in the policymaking process. In trabajo preparado para Inter-American Development Bank Workshop on State Reform, Public Policies, and Policymaking Processes (Vol. 28).

Soroka, S., Farnsworth, S., Lawlor, A., & Young, L. (2014). Mass media and policy-making. Routledge Handbook of Public Policy. doi:10.4324/9780203097571.ch16

StopBullying (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/

Rushefsky, M. (2014). Public Policy in the United States. Taylor and Francis.

Wattpad. (n.d.). My Speech on Bullying – Page 2 – Retrieved on March 9, 2017 from https://www.wattpad.com/18337491-my-speech-on-bullying/page/2

 

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