With the advent of modern communication technologies, people all over the world are engaging with each other and society like never before. Today’s generation of teenagers in particular are connecting in new ways to new audiences thanks to the ease of access to social networking websites, video and photograph sharing sites, internet enabled camera phones and games consoles.
While email, instant messaging, texting and sites such as Bebo, Facebook, MySpace and Nimble are allowing young people to communicate in a free, easy and unsupervised manner, the anonymous, instant and far-reaching technological possibilities have also brought a new dimension to bullying. When they are online, young people can hide behind the anonymity that the internet offers.
The big difference between writing a nasty message on a toilet door and posting it on the internet is that the latter can potentially be seen by a limitless audience almost immediately and remains available on the web even if it is later removed. Young people posting messages tend to feel less responsible for their online actions than in “real life” and often have no fear of being punished.
One only has to watch or read the news to learn the frightening truth about the increasing prevalence of cyberbullying in today’s society. The statistics are approaching similar numbers to the more traditional forms of bullying. NSPCC research in the UK among 11 to 19 year olds found that 1 in 5 had experienced threats via email, internet chatroom, or text message (the most common at 14%), with 73% saying that they knew the person who bullied them.