Cyberbullying may be defined as the use of technology to threaten, intimidate, or torment another person. Countless young people all over the world have experienced cyberbullying at one point or another, and it carries heavy consequences for both the perpetrators and the victims. In fact, the stress, anger, and despair caused by cyberbullying have led many young people to suicide.
To try to better understand and especially to stop cyberbullying, social scientists have been studying the nature of this phenomenon, and they have focused on several major themes that help them describe cyberbullying.
First, social scientists study the environment in which cyberbullying takes place, and they have learned that Facebook is at the top of the list for many incidents, followed by Instagram, other social media sites, and online gaming.
Second, social scientists examine the features of cyberbullying, and they have identified several of these. Many of the perpetrators of this harmful behavior hide behind anonymity. They don't reveal their identities, and therefore, their victims feel powerless to stop them. Cyberbullying also often takes place publicly. Bullies want to publicly humiliate their victims, and further, the hurtful messages they send are often permanent on social media sites. The hurt is continually renewed with every view.
Third, social scientists explore the types of cyberbullying. These include name-calling, malicious gossip, verbal abuse, unauthorized photograph postings, and exclusion from social groups.
Fourth, social scientists want to understand the reasons behind cyberbullying. Some perpetrators think it is “fun” or “entertaining” to hurt others. Some try to punish people who have annoyed them. Others seek revenge. Still others are jealous or prejudiced.
Fifth, social scientists focus on the theme of how victims cope with cyberbullying. Some merely ignore it or leave the setting. Others talk to their friends about what is going on. Still others go to their teachers or parents for help. A few even confront the bullies.
There are other themes that social scientists study as they work to understand and help curb cyberbullying, but the above are the major ones.