Bullying is among many abnormal psychological disorders, which have become common in the 21st century America and received high media attention (Mollie, 2008). Bullies exhibit behaviors related to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which are characterized with self-importance, lack of empathy, desire for admiration, and appear pretentious and boastful. They have fragile self-esteem, react angrily when criticized and are ready to show lack of sensitivity, when other do not behave in their expected manner. This condition is more prevalent among children and in the recent years, it has been seen to be on the increase among the youth, as an expression of distress.
Bullying can include different actions that the perpetrators perform to mistreat their victims. Currently, a new form of bullying, called the cyber bullying, has replaced the physical assault acts of bullying. This form of bullying has received high media attention, and it is the perpetration of bulling acts through spread of rumors online, bashing and hazing material aimed at an individual or a group of people. According to the American department of justice, in every four kids, one will experience bullying sometime in life. Bullying statistics have shown that 42% of the children using the internet have been bullied more than once, and 35% have been threatened online. This paper is an analysis of the media’s portrayal to cyber bullying, assessing the accuracy and completeness of the information offered. The paper shall also include the public views and personal response to the media portrayal of cyber bullying.
In the past, Cyber bullying has led to devastating effects on the victims, and in some cases resulted to their deaths. Among those who have died because of cyber bullying are Megan Meiers, who committed suicide after a fiction MySpace friend, insulted her referring to her as a ‘slut’ (Mollie, 2008). Another victim of cyber bullying was Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after viewing a video of him having a sexual encounter with another man, recorded by his friend, and roommate (Gross, 2010). Phoebe Prince also suffered the same fate, as she committed suicide after receiving months of electronic attacks from her classmates through Facebook postings.
Because of these cases, cyber bullying received high media attention from companies such as CNN, ABC Family and Seventeen Magazine, Kids Health and the National Crime Prevention Council included the definition of cyber bullying on their websites. On 6 October 2010, CNN published an article entitled ‘How to protect your Child from Online Bullies’ (Gross, 2010). According to this article, cyber bullying emerged as an easy replacement to the traditional school bullying. In this article, cases of cyber bullying have been highly prevalent and perpetrated through social networks such as the Facebook, MySpace among others. The article also gives different solutions to the parents, which are aimed at assisting in protecting children from cyber bullies. These include using different software in protection of children’s online experience and participation of parent in the children’s online life.
This article presents the information about cyber bullying as an easy alternative to the bullies as compared to the traditional bullying. However, some of its suggested solutions to protect the children from cyber bullies are likely to be resented by the young people. This is because it suggests the parent having the password of their social media accounts (Gross, 2010). To protect the children and avoid parent-child conflicts, it is important for the parent to create awareness among the children regarding the existence of cyber bullying, how to detect, identify and protect themselves.
The Seventeen Magazine in conjunction with ABC Family released an original film ‘Cyberbully’, with the aim of creating awareness to children, students and parents about the existence of cyber bullying (Mollie, 2008). The publicity of the drama was attained through different media vehicles such as the TV and the internet. Over 80,000 Facebook user shared the movie badge on their Facebook profile and others shared images on tweeter. The drama presented a story a girl, who had been traumatized by cyber bullies and was saved from committing suicide by her parent and friends. The drama ends with the girl’s mother challenging the school and the government to come up with regulations preventing the cyber bullying from happening to others (Mollie, 2008).
According to the drama, the girl was not the only one suffering from cyber bullying and there are others, though they have not come out. This presents showed how most victims of cyber bullying have been suffering in silence, and it is the responsibility of others, such as friends and parents to help those suffering in silence. The government can also take the front line in fighting cyber bullying through creation of legislative guidelines to fight the vice.
The public is affected by media portrayal of cyber bullies as unreachable and hard to punish gangs. The public perceives the bullies as dangerous and are afraid of bullies, due to the media portrayal. The media lacks adequate information on cyber bullying, and offers inaccurate information to the public, which heightens the perceptions of the public (Hamilton, 2012) (Oxford University Press and Rosenfeld, 2010). Media is a communication tool and it can contribute to bullying due to the fearful reactions that it sometimes causes to the public. The public experiences as sense of helplessness and unnecessary tension, since the public feels that they lack adequate online information, which causes bullying (Hamilton, 2012).
According to Rosenfeld, the mass media plays a significant role in defining the public responses to abnormal psychology problems. The media is accused of distorting or inventing new facts, which are of questionable validity (Oxford University Press and Rosenfeld, 2010). In some cases, the media exaggerates the information that they disseminate to the public about cyber bullying, and this contributes to negative effects on the public. Exaggerated information causes unnecessary panic, mental turmoil, and a feeling of helplessness to the public, and this is a form of bullying of the public by the media, especially when the information provided is inaccurate. The media assumes that public responses are complex, contradictory, and often context- sensitive.
The media is persuasive and the public tends to believe in the information provided, which makes the public more vulnerable to media harm. Lack of media literacy, contributes to the trust that the public harbors on the media. The public should learn about the dangers posed by social media and take caution against online interactions, especially with strangers. Some of the information provided by media may be accurate, although the public should be cautious since, not all information from the media is credible. The public should avoid over trusting the media, and question information before considering it for use. This will protect them from inaccurate information, and discourage the bullies.
It is unethical for the media to provide inaccurate information to the public, since it has negative impacts such as deaths, tension, and a feeling of helplessness. Inaccurate information heightens the perceptions of the public, in relation to the impacts of cyber bullying. If the media focuses much on the issue of cyber bullying, the public will perceive it as extremely serious, which will be reflected on their reactions. The public uses social media tools such Face book, Google Talk, and Twitter as a means of communication. The public perceived these sites as appropriate channels for entertainment and information sharing. Unfortunately, these sites are being abused and used for bullying, which has adversely affected the users. Nowadays, the public is wary about divulging information to strangers met on social media sites and cautious about online transactions.
Media literacy is important and helps the public to deal with social sites in an informed manner. For instance, if the parents are aware of the bullying incidences affecting their children, then they will be in a position tom assist the children with dealing with the problems. Cyber bullying should receive redress from the media, schools, and parents, since it has adverse effects on children. The threat of cyber bullying is real and any person can be targeted, hence, the public should receive education on how to deal with the threat of cyber bullying, and stop shifting the blame entirely to the media. The media can be a great source of disseminating information, with an aim of preventing bullying. This can be done through highlighting the emerging trends in cyber bullying, and other relevant information, that will help in enhancing public literacy. The media and public have a role to play in enhancing safety of social media users.
In conclusion, the media plays a significant role in communicating information that regards bullying, to the public. However, they create various perceptions, which can contribute to more tension and fear by the public, or reduce tension. The information and attention that the media offers to cyber bullying, determines the perceptions of the public, and their reactions to this form of bullying. The public should acquire media literacy, in order to understand and protect themselves against harm caused by distorted perceptions. Cyber bullying is a serious problem, which has negative effects on the affected persons.
Gross, D. (2010, October 6). How to protect your child from online bullies - CNN.com.CNN.com International - Breaking, World, Business, Sports, Entertainment and Video News. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/web/10/04/cyber.bullying.tips/index.html
Hamilton, G. (2012, October 26). Amanda Todd, Dan Olweus and the exaggerated cyber- bullying plague | Canada | News | National Post. National Post | Canadian News, Financial News and Opinion. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/26/amanda-todd-and-the-greatly- exaggerated- cyber-bullying-plague-web-harassment-isnt-rising-researcher-says/
Mollie, D. (2008, October 17). Bullying in the 21st Century. Yale Law & Technology. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from http://www.yalelawtech.org/uncategorized/bullying-in- the-21st-century/
Oxford University Press and Rosenfeld R. (2010). The Social Construction of Crime: Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guide. Oxford University Press