Cyber Bullying is the act of using online communication channels like social media sites to cause offense to and intimidate a victim. There are many definitions, but it usually includes the sharing or making of offensive material usually directly about someone else. In addition to popular outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, virtual bullying can occur almost anywhere on digital devices and the internet including SMS text messaging, gaming and email.
Statistics show that 1 in 3 young people have faced threats online. Research also shows that cyber bullying is more secretive than traditional bullying, as more than half of teenagers do not tell anyone that they have been bullied online.
Bullying can occur at any time and in any given location, pairing this with the wide availability of internet-enabled smart devices, traditional bullying methods have evolved past face-to-face into bullying online.
What are the laws covering Cyber Bullying?
Under UK cyber bullying law, there is no legal definition and so no strict laws about the topic are in place. However, cases of cyber bullying can be applied to pre-existing laws, like the Defamation Act 2013, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003.
Under many of these laws, it is illegal to send offensive communications in any form to an individual, which of course includes those sent over the internet. The Protection from Harassment Act also covers all offensive or intimidating behaviour like stalking, carried out in the internet space or in real life.
All of these laws ensure that despite there not being a specific cyber bullying law, it can be a criminal offence leading to serious consequences if a person is found guilty.
What are the effects?
Cyber bullying, like digital devices themselves, can prove constant and have short and long-term effects on a person’s mental and physical health.
It can occur before, during, and after school or work meaning it affects both work and leisure time as victims are This means that a teenager or a schoolchild may find it hard to go to school on a daily basis, having a knock-on effect on their education, grades and all-round growth. They may also not want to participate in activities they dearly love, especially sporting pastimes, effecting their mood and physical health. This is all because the victims’ self-esteem has been damaged, leading to a loss of body confidence and potential changes in appearance.
However, there are some longer-term psychological effects that can occur. It has been found that people being bullied are more likely to suffer from “anxiety, depression and other stress-related conditions” partly because they feel alone with nobody to turn to.
These stress-related conditions also have physical aspects, as they can lead to headaches and it may alter eating habits like “skipping meals or binge-eating”.