Yes, cyberbullying is as harmful as harassment and hazing. Recent publications regarding teen suicides support the conclusion that cyberbullying may be more harmful than harassment or hazing. Harassment leads to hostile hallways in school and in the work place. Cyberbullying makes the victim feel unsafe and insecure everywhere. Electronic bullying and stalking follow the victim home. There is nowhere to run or hide. In the last century, victims could change schools or go live with grandma if rumors or bullying interfered with normal social or emotional growth. Cyberbullying won’t be stopped by changing schools or going to live with a relative in another state. Suicides have been the result of cyberbullying in children as young as nine years old.
Harassment may get the perpetrator fired or demoted. Cyberbullying may get the perpetrator jail time.
Harassment, cyberbullying and stalking are forms of emotional violence. Items on the Internet and words last forever. The hurt is not short lived; the hurt also lasts forever. Accusations that a young person is homosexual seem to be the most harmful, but isolation and shunning are also devastating to a developing teen. A recent case showed that the humiliation even continued during the funeral and after the burial. This homosexual cyberbullying should be classified as a hate crime. The victim is just as dead from the verbal text assault as from a brutal physical beating.
Electronic media allows the hateful pictures and words to spread in minutes instead of days. The pictures may not even be real since Photo Shop and other photo editing software can produce undetectable embellishments to any photo. Since it is easy for someone to assume a Facebook identity, it is difficult for the victim of cyberbullying to determine the origin of the text or photo. Then teens pass on the mean or threatening messages so the victim is victimized repeatedly and feels ganged up on. Violent video games, inappropriate rap music content, texting, and e-mails have desensitized our youth to how long lasting hurtful and demeaning comments can be. Unfortunately, many cyberbullying incidents start out as a joke and escalate. Of course the victim never thought the comments and texts were funny or that the threats were meaningless. Other rumors and hateful, spiteful photos and text messages are started by jealous girls. There have even been cases of cyberbullying started by mothers of cheerleaders and former bffs (best friends forever or until one girl gets something the other wanted).
Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey of Sexual Harassment in America’s Schools, 1993.
Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment On Campus, AAUW Educational Foundation, 2005.