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Cyber bullying: When the network becomes a trap

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Cyberbullying | ©: Luis Louro - Fotolia

Several girls from Tübingen (Germany) maltreated a 13-year-old girl with punches and kicks and their recorded it all with a Smartphone. They gathered around the girl when they finally kicked and beat her. More than 10 other young people have watched this incident, however, nobody offered help. This incident only attracted public attention after it was posted on the internet. Within a short time, it was viewed 12.000 times. While the identity of the offenders was not shown, the clip ended with a close-up shot of the bloody head of their victim.

Many people who watched this video clip called for open hate speeches and violence against the perpetrators. For the police, this violent incident, as well as the outcry for violence, was an alarming occurrence. They fear about a long-term threat to the victim and her safety because of the video released on the net.

How many victims are really out there?

The anonymity of the Internet lowers the perpetrators inhibitions to bully weaker members of the community. However, it is believed that there is a high rate of unreported incidents because victims of Cyber bullying don’t speak out, is it out of fear or shame. This gave reason to the Techniker Health Insurance along with the University of Münster (Germany) to conduct a representative study on this subject in 2011. The alarming outcome was that 32% of all teens and young adults are or have been victims of cyber bullying.

How does Cyber bullying take hold in our communities?

Principally, cyber bullying is the same like the “classic” bullying, only with a new dimension, given by the modern communication technology. It is this new technology, which makes this Cyber bullying so dangerous. The chosen victim can be tracked around the clock. It is more personal, follows the victims into their homes (even they are not online) and is no longer restraint to the school yard. The organisation White Ring made it their duty to support victims of Cyber bullying and identified the following causes that can lead to Cyber bullying.


Aggression aimed at a weaker person, verbally or by the means of a violent act, can give the offender a valve to relieve his own pent up aggression. Frequently this applies to people who have only learned to respond to violence with more violence as their only means of conflict resolution. More often than not, those offenders have already experienced psychological or physical abuse, have become victims themselves. Now they “unload” their experience on weaker victims.


Bullying can serve as a means to gain attention. Bullies are mostly outsiders, bullying other outsiders in order to acquire a rank within the group. In some other cases, bullying can be an initiation ritual into a gang. This type of harassment is also called a daring to the cost to the expense of somebody else. This is one of the reasons that most bullying is committed by young adults, which are still looking for their place in society. Once boys and girls have reached the age of 14, the number of offences decreases significantly.

Strengthening the community

If a group closes in on one single victim as in the example mentioned above, this can enhance the bond between the members of this particular group. Despite the offenders were recorded, their identity stayed hidden, which forces them to remain silent if they don’t want a brush up with the law. It is not unusual, for offences, which are committed by a group that the individual (perpetrator) does not wish to harm the victim. Along the lines “for a pound, not caught”, they are more or less forced by the group dynamic or forced by any other means to comply with what the group demands of them.

Demonstration of power

Bullying and Cyber bullying can be used to show power; to show the victim, who is in charge in this group. The offender’s intention is to acquire a certain status/leadership of the group or his social circle. It is quite common that the offender has already experienced the feeling of total powerlessness. What he merely is saying with his actions is, “Finally I am on top and I am going to dish out as much as I can.” The offenders often experience a strong sense of inferiority themselves. When it comes to cyber bullying, the offender “works” from a distance. He is invisible and not immediately assailable. From this point, it is easy to ambush, provoke and exert psychological and moral violence. Then all of a sudden, even the insignificant, the powerless can become “someone”.


One of the propelling emotions of the offenders is anxiety. This can be a fear of failure, as can be observed by individual offenders. Felonies carried out by an entire group, however, have more to do with losing the rank within the group. The “classical” follower is afraid to be exposed or become a victim of violence himself carried out by the group leader. As the saying goes: offence is the best defence, the individual then carries out an act of violence himself.

What are the consequences of cyber bullying for the victims?

Just as it is with the “classic” bullying, when it comes to cyber bullying, there are no neutral parties. Those who notice the offence, side with the offender. To turn the situation to the favour of the victim is, a) the offence committed happens in a public space and b) if bystanders, not belonging to the group, take the side of the victim.

Cyber bullying undermines the self-esteem of the victims. Extended cyber bullying over a longer period of time can lead to a negative self-image in the victim and the assumption to be flawed. This faulty self-image can be expressed in their personalities and/or their achievements. Over time, this can erode the person’s social behaviour. Victims start to fear negative experiences in other areas of their lives as well, which can lead for the afflicted person to avoid social contacts altogether. As a direct result, they have only a small circle of friends and a poorly developed social network.

Proper response and prevention

If you young people want to protect themselves from Cyber bullying, they need to be taught how to use the internet safely.

Address, school, phone number, and the like should not be posted on the profiles or in any social media where it is visible to everyone. The other part is to be careful what you are posting. Even unfavourable images of a birthday party might not have an immediate negative impact, one should consider that the net “does not forget”. A self-incriminating photo today can hamper your attempts to find a job tomorrow.

Another way for self-protection would be to google your name every now and then. Should your name appear in a negative context, you maybe could ask the operator of the particular site to delete the article. If there is any sign of targeted cyber bullying, the young person should collect evidence and acquire the help of an adult. If necessary charges can be pressed against the perpetrators.

You also need level-headedness when it comes to personal “attacks” or insults in forums. Best is not going into any details and if necessary report it to the operator. If a person becomes evident in their negative behaviour, they may be barred from the forum.

When in doubt, it may help to change your nickname and email address. This is best done before a situation escalates. Close friends and relatives you can inform beforehand. As soon as you have changed your name they can get in touch with you again.

Having said this, changing the nickname and email address might not work as well as one might expect. Within any circle of friends, school or other clubs, there is always someone friends with somebody else. They might pass on your new name and you are confronted with the same problem once again.

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