Causes and effects of cyberbullying

Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 1
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 2
The rapid increase in the number of internet users over the last decade has revolutionized
the modes of exchanging ideas and more so, the ideas exchanged on social media platforms such
as Facebook and Twitter. Subsequently, when the ideas shared on these platforms involve
humiliation, harassment, and embarrassing of an individual on the virtual internet community,
the issue of cyberbullying and its effects arise. Cyberbullying is a social problem whose solution
can only be developed by understanding its cause and effects on the society. Although the exact
cause of cyberbullying cannot easily be identified, this paper examines the direct and indirect
causes and effects of the cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the use information and communication technologies such as social
networking tools, chat rooms or instant messaging to support repeated harassment, intimidation,
or threatening of an individual or a group. The main victims of cyberbullying are children and
teenagers as they are prone to sharing more personal information than adults. Cyberbullies take
advantage of the innocence of the peers who share the personal information to either intimidate
or harass them for fun or revenge. The main difference between cyberbullying and traditional
bullying is the anonymity provided by the internet. Due to the anonymity, cyberbullies do not
have to own for their actions as they are often outside the legal reach and subsequently, this
encourages them to be more aggressive than they would be if their identities were identifiable.
There are different forms of cyberbullying. The most common form is the harassment,
and it involves sending offensive malicious and threatening messages to the target group or
individual. Flaming is the other form of cyberbullying, and it involves the aggressive exchange
of words through emails, messages or images. Other common forms of cyberbullying include
exclusion, outing, and masquerading. In exclusion, an individual is singled out from a group, and
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 3
the group may leave malicious messages on the singled out person while outing a person is outed
by sharing private information such as pictures or videos. Masquerading involves anonymously
creating a fake account as to bully the impersonate person.
Causes of cyberbullying
The major causes of cyberbullying are almost similar to all the victims or the bullies.
These causes include the desire to revenge, for entertainment purposes, to boost self-esteem,
power, and to remind people the personal social standing.
Cyberbullying for revenge
Cyberbullying is one of the most convenient ways of ensuring that a message is
conveyed. As a result, peers often use this technique to revenge. A survey by Sanders (2009)
suggests that most of the youths cyberbully others as to revenge. Sanders stated that this form of
revenge is common when the bully cannot physically confront the victim. Likewise, research by
(Konig and Gollwitzer 2010) showed that 41.1% of cyberbullies engage in cyberbullying as an
act of revenge. Taking revenge through cyberbullying does not only punish the perpetrator but
also serves as a warning to the other peers that the bully is not a person to mess around with. It
can also encourage other victims to use the same technique to revenge against their enemies or
show solidarity with the victim by cyberbullying the first actor.
Engaging in cyberbullying as an act of revenge can also be viewed from the perspective
of fear of retaliation. Individuals who are less likely to confront others use indirect strategies to
retaliate against their perpetrators. When the cyberbullies have lower status than the victims, they
can easily hide their identity while revenging thereby reducing the probability of retaliation. The
bullies are therefore no afraid of doing the incapables that they cannot do while facing their
perpetrators. As a revenge technique, cyberbullying is also an effective way of reacting to
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 4
aggression. Reactive people who find their peers actions as intentionally harmful can readily
engage in cyberbullying as a defense mechanism against the peers.
Cyberbullying for entertainment
It is unfortunate that some people find cyberbullying as entertaining. They think
harassing, embarrassing, or mocking others on social media is fun while, on the contrary, it is not
fun to the victim. Cyberbullying for entertainment is common in social media groups particularly
Facebook and Twitter. For instance, a Facebook user may post a sarcastic message on a group's
timeline as to get as many likes as possible. The more likes the users get, the more excited they
become. Therefore having the audience who view the post and likes or shares the post becomes
entertaining to the bully where else it becomes a nightmare to the victim. The situation becomes
even worse if the victim responds to the bullying as it increases the intensity of the attacks and
subsequently the number of viewers interested in the attack.
Cyberbullying to boost self-esteem
When cyberbullying others on social media, more parties tend to get interested in the
attacks. As a result, the bully becomes recognized by the social media users, and subsequently,
their overall subjective emotional evaluation is boosted. Cyberbullying is not gendered specific,
and therefore both males and females are involved in the act as to boost their self-esteem or gain
popularity. However, the issue of cyberbullying to boost self-esteem is more common in females
than in males. Female cyberbullying resorts to spreading fake news and hateful messages about
the victim. By constantly demeaning their counterparts, they believe that their social status is
validated or their superiority is justified.
Cyberbullying for power
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 5
Cyberbullies may choose to use the social media to prove their power and force others to
do what they want. They use cyberbullying as a weapon to scare others and yield power which
they do not have in the real world. This form of bullying is common if the victims were once
victims of traditional bullying and get an aggressive character when they get online. In some
cases, they can show others their achievements while in the real sense they have achieved very
little. For instance, in 2013, a thirteen-year-old girl from Western Canada was allegedly bullied
by her fellow student. The student was jealous that Cassidy had been appointed as the school
advisor (McDowell 2013). Since he could not confront her, the boy created a Facebook page
called I hate Cassidy and Hope she dies. Cassidy's friends liked the page and commented
negatively on her. She was disappointed that her friends were making fun of her on social media.
Some made fun of her physical appearance and used terms such as bitch which frustrated her.
Through the bullying, Cassidy was convinced that she did not have real friends.
Effects of cyberbullying
Both traditional bullying and cyberbullying impacts the victim socially, and
psychologically. However, the impacts of cyberbullying are severe and long-lasting.
Cyberbullied victims experience anxiety, depression, fear, and low esteem. In the process of
struggling with these impacts, the victims are forced to engage in more harmful activities such as
substance abuse or commit suicide.
Social anxiety
Kowalski and Limber (2013) suggest that victims of cyberbullying experience heightened
social and emotional problems. The researchers argue that social anxiety, depression, and loss of
self-esteem are not only the result of cyberbullying but also the cause of cyberbullying. It is
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 6
unfortunate that some individuals suffering from the disorder turn to social media as to ease the
impacts of the problem only to encounter cyberbullies who heighten the problem.
Depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation
Cyberbullying victims tend to experience psychological health problems such as
depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation compared to individuals who have never been
cyberbullied (Chang et al. 2013). The mental problem can both be the cause and effect of
cyberbullying although most of the studies suggest that they are results of cyberbullying.
Prolonged exposure to cyberbullying increases the risks of suffering from the psychological
problems. Several suicide cases have indicated that the ideas of the suicide developed from
cyberbullying on facebook or twitter. For instance, Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old Houston school
student committed suicide after she was frequently cyberbullied by an anonymous person (CBS
News 2016). According to her parents, Vela had received bullying messages from an anonymous
smartphone application. The Bully further harassed the girl by creating a Facebook account using
her identity and posted her number claiming that she was giving herself up for free sex. Although
the case had been reported to the authorities, it remained to be a mystery to the girl as the bully
could not be identified.
Cyberbullying is a social problem whose solution can only be developed by
understanding its cause and effects on the society. It results from the desire to revenge,
entertainment purposes, to boost self-esteem, power, and to remind people the personal social
standing. Some of it effects include anxiety, depression, fear, and low esteem.
Causes and Effects of Cyberbullying 7
CHANG, F. C., LEE, C. M., CHIU, C. H., HSI, W. Y., HUANG, T. F., & PAN, Y. C. (2013).
Relationships among cyberbullying, school bullying, and mental health in Taiwanese
adolescents. JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH. 83, 454-462.
KOWALSKI, R. M., & LIMBER, S. P. (2013). Psychological, Physical, and Academic
Correlates of Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health. 53,
SANDERS, J. (2009). Cyberbullies: Their motives, characteristics, and types of bullying.
Presentation at the XIV. European Conference of Developmental Psychology, Vilnius,
KONIG A., STEFFGEN G., & GOLLWITZER M. (2010). Cyberbullying as an act of
revenge? Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling. 20, 210-224.
McDowell Guy (June 24, 2013). Cyberbullying unmasked-the tragic case of Cassidy. Retrieved
(December 8, 2017)
CBS News (December 2, 2016). Cyberbullying pushed Texas teen to commit suicide, family
says. Retrieved (December 8, 2017)

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