Monday, August 8, 2011

Cyberstalking and Cyberharrassment

The American Psychological Association's (APA) annual convention took place this past week in Washington DC. I didn't go but have sort of been following remotely, and one of the major topics was social media. So this week, I thought I'd post a bit about that.

I've already posted about cyberbullying, but I thought it was worth another mention. One of the speakers at APA, Dr. Elizabeth Carll, presented on electronic harrassment, and made the point that it can be more stressful, anxiety-provoking, and traumatizing than in-person bullying and harrassment.

Why? Because it's a 24-7, global kind of thing. If you get bullied in person, you can (to some extent), escape it. It's more localized. And, while terrible, once it's ended, it ends. But with cyberstalking/bullying, there are multiple ways to get to someone, and once you've posted something nasty online, because of screen-capture technology and caching and whatnot, it's there more-or-less forever, accessible by anyone in the world.

Another set of researchers gave a presentation including results from a study revealing that over a third of students report being victims of cyberbullying at least once in the past year. For just one example of how young both victims and bullies can be, check out this article about a recent case (the kids who engaged in this bullying have now received their sentences). A significant minority of cyberbullying and stalking takes place on social media sites like Facebook. There's some indication that when the bullying is anonymous, like nameless comments on message boards or blogs, it's more distressing than when you know who's giving you a hard time.

This is, of course, fodder for timely fiction, in both adult and YA--and possibly in MG. Are any of you writing about it? But also--have any of you experienced this (there's a potential resource discussed in this article)? If so, were the bullies anonymous or known? Cyberharrassment seems to be one of the risks of our hyperconnected world these days, but it certainly carries a heavy psychological price.

Because it's Monday, be sure to check out Lydia's Medical Monday post and Laura's Mental Health Monday post!

16 comments:

  1. Great idea for a post and novel. I'm looking at doing something that is a twist on this concept for my next YA project. It can be considered one form of cyberbullying, I guess.

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  2. Years ago...when being on the Internet was just getting going and I was a newbie, I started getting IM's from someone I thought was a woman from another country. Sort of like a pen pal. It turned out to be a guy I worked with who was stalking me. Thinking I was communicating with a woman, I shared more than I ever would had I known it was a man. I figured out who it was by the strange questions he would ask me at work. I then confronted him and the only recourse I had to get him to stop was telling him my husband would beat him up. Nowadays though, I'd get prosecuted for threatening him.

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  3. I haven't had this experience, but we've all heard horror stories about it: teen suicide because of cyberbullying (like that mom who posed as a teenage boy on the internet and destroyed a young girl by breaking up with her, or something like that.)

    Cyberstalking/bullying with anonymity though seems really below the belt, so to speak. If a person hides behind anonymity, and then they bully others? What a lowlife! It's just wrong.

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  4. The sad part is that it's only going to get worse. The anonymity of the internet gives cyber-courage to abusive people like nothing else.

    You've got the right idea when it comes to telling stories about it.

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  5. Thanks for the links. I'm definitely going to check those out. Not just because I'm starting a WIP where cyberbullying is part of my main character's backstory, but also because I have 2 daughters who spend a lot of time online.

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  6. hi miss sarah! i didnt ever get cyberbullied. im not allowed on facebook or any of those places where you could get bullied. mostly i just email with my friends and for me that works real good. im glad more people are doing stuff to get it stopped. its a pretty mean thing to do.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  7. I've heard that some people are speaking up to eliminate anonymity on the internet. It might make a major dent in cyberbullying, but then also make it hard for others to share their difficult experiences with the masses.

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  8. Bullying of any kind is despicable behavior, but I suspect cyber-bullying is becoming more of an issue not only because of the anonymity involved, but because of the impersonal aspect to it. It's easier for a perpetrator to feel completely detached from the repercussions of his actions if he's pulling a gun's trigger, or cyber-bullying, than it is if he's attacking someone with a knife or bullying someone face-to-face.

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  9. It's a good topic to explore because of the danger and relevance.

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  10. One of the most upsetting things about human nature is how much more powerful the negative is than the positive. It's like our gray matter grasps it to its sinewy little heart and won't let go. And now technology is magnifying that effect! Wouldn't it be great if cyberstalking and all forms of bullying came wrapped in a sign that said To Be Taken with a Full Cup of Salt?

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  11. Hey Sarah! Sorry I haven't been by here in awhile. Another blogger friend had a genius idea for a cyber bully story. The internet makes it too easy to get away with stuff. But the humiliation is just as real for the victim. Sometimes it's hard to remember beneath all these computers and fonts and graphics, there is a real breathing being with actual feelings. Scary.

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  12. I've experienced cyber-bullying recently (more helping a friend through it), actually. It's a nasty piece of work, let me tell you. Seriously, it breaks hearts and causes people to second-guess who they are and what they stand for in this world. So sad.

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  13. Though I've not experienced it myself, I've seen it happen to other people. Twitter is rife with it which is sad. I experienced it face to face in school... that was not fun at all, but like you said, it passes.

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  14. Wow never thought of this but i will now. I think it's a case of people having too much time on their hands. If we all had something constructive to do to help others, none of this would take place. I agree with the commenter above about the internet giving cyber-courage to people. They hide behind the Internet in a very cowardly manner.

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  15. My friend's daughter is in middle school, and I'm constantly surprised by the nastiness that goes back and forth on facebook. My pal monitors, and there are many who have been "unfriended." The bullying was always there...the internet has merely provided another outlet for it.

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  16. "If you get bullied in person, you can (to some extent), escape it. It's more localized. And, while terrible, once it's ended, it ends." Not always entirely true. I was bullied as a teen in 7th and 8th grade and it was in school so there was no escaping it. It was constant; in the halls, during class, on the bus. I couldn't get away from it except when I was home (and that place wasn't exactly great either). Not trying to argue, just pointing out that bullying in person can be just as destructive.

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