How Bullying Has Evolved in the Digital Age

Although bullying is discussed more widely now than it was years ago, the concept of bullying has been around forever. No matter how old you are, you probably have memories of childhood bullying, whether you were the victim, the aggressor, or just an outside observer. While bullying is not new, it has changed as technology has advanced. And while the digital age has brought many improvements to modern life, bullying is one area that seems to be getting worse. Here are some of the ways that bullying has changed in recent years.

Online Armies of Bullies

Small groups of bullies can become multitudes of bullies online. 

In the past, a child may have only had to deal with one bully, or at worst, their bully might have a small group of participating friends. It can be bad enough to be bullied by one child or a small group of children. But online, one bully may be able to send an army of bullies after a victim.

A bully with a lot of followers on a social media site or online forum can quickly send large numbers of those contacts to harass and attack a victim. Some bullies have been known to share embarrassing photos or personal information of their victim publicly, which can inspire others — even strangers — to bully the victim. And of course, there are cases where pictures, video, or information goes viral, which can result in the victim receiving harassment from bullies all over the world. Fending off one or a small group of bullies at school is bad enough. Fending off dozens, hundreds, or thousands of bullies online is a whole different ballgame.

No More Safe Spaces

Cyber bullying leaves victims with nowhere to hide.

Being bullied at school can be traumatic, but at one time, bullied children could at least seek solace at home. It’s certainly not ideal for a child to have to hide out in their home to avoid bullies, but it’s better than having no safe place.

However, it’s no longer true that children are safe from bullies in their own homes. When bullying goes online, that safe refuge is lost. The bullies enter the home via computers, tablets, and cell phones. Even if a child chooses to disengage by turning off their internet-connected devices, the bullies can continue sending harassing messages. The next time the child turns on their devices, the attacks are there waiting for them.

Bully/Victim Crossover

In the past, a bullying victim was unlikely to be a bully themselves. A child who was physically bullied most likely wasn’t strong enough to pose a physical threat to other children. Even if the bullying was mainly verbal, other children tend to distance themselves from bullying victims, leaving a bullied child without the social resources needed to become a bully themselves. But a child doesn’t need great physical strength or wide popularity in school in order to engage in bullying behavior online. Most of the tools that are available to online bullies are also available to their victims.

This can sometimes result in crossover behavior, where bullying victims retaliate against their attackers, or take their frustration out on other victims, becoming bullies themselves in the process. It can become very difficult to sort out who started what, and it’s more difficult to address the problem of bullying with children who are both victim and bully.

No one has the ultimate answer to solve the cyberbullying problem yet, so parents have to try to put a stop to bullying in the earliest stages before it gets out of control. Parental monitoring software can help you keep an eye on your children’s online interactions and inspire conversations about bullying, which can help keep the problem from growing. To find out how parental monitoring software can help your family, get our free trial.