Going through the adolescent years, it is natural for teens to seek attention and acceptance of their peers. While social media has provided them with a convenient medium of achieving that on one hand, it has exposed them to the menace of cyberbullying on the other. Never had the vulnerability of kids been this high to emotional and psychological abuse before. The more time they spend roaming the streets of cyberspace, the more likely they are to bump into cyberbullies. In a bid to encourage teens to take a break from social media and hence the constant threat of mental anguish, Bully Zero Australia Foundation, an Australian organization that works with victims of bullying, launched the 48-hour Digital Detox Program on this year’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. The Australian organization clearly believes, and rightly so, that raising awareness is one answer to the pressing question of how to stop cyberbullying.
A price to pay for adoption of social media culture
Staying connected is an integral part of teen culture in the digital age of today. According to a research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 91 percent of teens go online weekly to socialize. Further highlighting the obsession of teens to contemporary communications technology, the research showed that two-thirds of the teen do not just consider Internet to be important, they consider it to be “extremely” important. This raises a concern because as the kids spend more time online, their inadvertently raise their susceptibility to victimization. Oscar Yildiz, the founder of Bully Zero Australia Foundation, quoted an alarming stat of 1 out of 3 people getting cyberbullied on social media, with most of the victims being teens. While it may not be as prevalent as face-to-face bullying, the 27/7 contact along with anonymity and freedom of speech makes it just big an issue as schoolyard bullying, if not bigger. Online abuse can have dire implication for the victims, which can range from anxiety and depression to something as dreadful as suicide.
The case for taking a break from social media
Despite the risky nature of social media, teens frequently take a stroll through the streets of cyberspace due to the fear of missing out, or FOMO. If they are able to break away from this obsession, they can escape the threat of cyberbullying to a large extent. Detachment from technology can further improve the learning and cognitive skills of kids. The distraction caused by social media often splits their focus, hampering experiences and memories from getting encoded in their minds. Driven by the motivation to free teens from the clutches of social media addiction and its potential dangers, Bully Zero Australia asked teens from schools across Melbourne to sign up for the 48-hour Digital Detox Program on the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. By pledging to abstain from logging onto all forms of social media, the participants helped raise money that will be used by the organization to deliver cyber-safety training in their schools.
Cyberbullying is often overshadowed by face-to-face bullying, which is more common and noticeable than its relatively covert counterpart. Considering the possible implications of online abuse, parents, educators and teens need to be made aware of the magnitude of the problem and encouraged to confront it actively. Efforts such as the one by Bully Zero Australia Foundation can help the cause, but only to a certain extent. It’s imperative that all the stakeholders to the cyberbullying issue realize their role in its mitigation.