According to BullyingStatistics.com, a staggering 77 percent of students admitted to being the victim of bullying. Bullying is defined as “an overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” What was once viewed as “child’s play” and “immature behavior” has become an epidemic in the last several years, leading to severe abuse and even death. But bullying certainly is not new. It is however, on the rise. What is the cause for the sudden rise of bullying?
I think, one main reason we see bullying statistics on the rise is because of the internet. As of December 2011, over 90 percent of the United States was connected to the internet. This is a sharp increase from nearly a decade ago. And though many people use the internet for innocent activities like online shopping, world news and correspondence, the younger generation use the internet for fun and recreation. And that is where the disturbance begins.
As the uncle of a ten year old boy, I am able to see first hand what kind of things children are exposed to on a daily basis. One of the most disgusting things on the internet is viral videos. Viral videos are typically home made videos that become so popular that they are said to have “gone viral.” Some of these videos are innocent and whimsical. For example, one video entitled “Charlie Bit My Finger” was a charming and spontaneous reaction to a child who had his finger bit by his baby brother. Those videos are harmless. However, a sizable portion of viral videos are offensive and promote harassment. Many websites seem to make money off videos that display children fighting and bullying others in school. They say everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame. And for children, they believe the easiest way to get noticed on the internet is through negative behavior such as fighting and bullying. Just browse through sites like WorldStarHipHop or Break, and you will happen upon these videos. When kids observe these viral videos, they are being sent a message that these videos will make you popular and famous. As adults, we know that isn’t true. But perception is reality, and this is the lesson the internet is teaching our children.
Another part of the internet that breeds bullying is forums and message boards. These anonymous outlets allow any user to become a bully. If you use a site like YouTube, you can easily find a dozen repulsive comments that can be described as bullying. But what happens is the attitude generated on the internet boils over into normal everyday life. It’s obvious that children are taking things they learn from the internet, and adjusting them to fit their everyday life. Calling someone “fat” on a message board was comical, so they do it in real life to get a bigger reaction from their peers. I don’t believe children even realize their behavior half the time. They see it as acceptable behavior on the internet, and there are no repercussions. So they take part in this type of behavior in real life, where often times, the repercussions are not seen until the damage is done.
I am against censorship of the internet. Censorship of any kind can do just as much harm as it can good. But I do believe that websites that promote viral videos have a moral responsibility to keep impressionable youths away from their services.