by Sasha Spichke, PAW Writer

Everyone knows the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” but many clearly aren’t listening to this phrase anymore.  According to “Cyber Bullying Statistics 2014” posted by website NoBullying.com, 52% of people claimed to have been a victim of cyber bullying.  That means one in every two people are bullied online, by a monster behind the screen.

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For the most part, the days are gone where the bully would slam you into your locker or steal your lunch money. Today, children and teens can be verbally abused through a variety of social media sites, often by people they don’t even know. Psychologist John Suler, in an article titled “The Online Disinhibition Effect” published in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior, explores the idea of this “monster behind the screen.” He said, “It’s well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the ‘disinhibition effect.’”

When behind the screen, cyber bullies feel as though they have unlimited freedom to dish out hateful messages and threats to those that they would never feel comfortable doing face-to-face. They see their phone, computer, laptop or tablet as a block that shields them, and often they work under a different name or comment where they know they can be anonymous. Suler goes on to say that, “As you move around the Internet, most of the people you encounter can’t easily tell who you are. If you wish, you can keep your identity hidden. As the word ‘anonymous’ indicates, you can have no name – at least not your real name. That anonymity works wonders for the disinhibition effect.”

While online, the bully can take seconds, minutes or even hours to craft evil hate messages. The bully will never see the tears stream down their victims face or discover that later, their victim has taken their own life. The cyber bully never has the chance to get any reaction from their victim regarding the pain felt or feel any remorse after typing hateful comments.

Early on in our lives we learn to connect things together. For example, if a young child pushes someone down, they will see that person cry, and likewise, regret their evil action. However, children today grow up surrounded by all sorts of technology. They have the opportunity to type whatever they wish and never see a reaction from anyone that would thus curb their own malicious actions. They never see what goes on behind the screen.

Who are the cyber bullies? Could they be the bully that would slam you into your locker at school, or are they the average person walking through the halls you see once a day? Could it be a CEO of a company or is it a college student? The truth is, anyone can be a bully, and technology makes it easier for him or her to unleash anger and resentment. Suler said, “Some people do report being more like their true self in cyberspace… People who are shy in-person may thrive in cyberspace when the disinhibition effect allows them to express who they “truly” are inside. This is a wonderful opportunity for them.” It is startling to think about that the “nice girl” or “nice boy” in class may really be a cyber bully.

Cyber bullying has become a part of our technology boom. Anyone can be a bully and anyone can be bullied. However, this doesn’t have to remain true forever. If you are being bullied, talk to someone you trust. Be stronger than the cowardly cyber bully.

And remember, if you don’t have anything nice to type, then don’t type it at all.

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