The anonymous social network Secret has recently launched in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. The app has been a hit with US consumers and it profiting from the overwhelming need of some people – especially teenagers – to share personal information to the online public.
Secret joins Whisper, Ask.fm, Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp and dozens of other social networking sites that profit from their high numbers of teen users. Although developers intend them to be used in appropriate ways, social networking and teens has been become an environment that has a darker side.
That desire to share and share more intimate details leads many young people down a dangerous path. From Internet predators, to bullies, the physical and psychological damage that can be caused by misused social networking is palpable and sometimes deadly.
Cyber bullying can be very damaging to adolescents and teens. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. To compound the problem, in this digital age, once things are circulated on the Internet, they may never disappear. The hurtful actions often resurface in the future to renew the pain of cyber bullying.
The problem is only getting worse
According to a study by the American Pew Research Centre, in partnership with the American Life Project, they found nine in 10 teens have witnessed cruel or bullying behaviour on social media networks. According to another Internet safety watchdog, Do Something.org, the numbers are alarming:
- Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once
- 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online
- Over 80% of teens use a mobile phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying
- 68% of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem
- 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person
- 90% of teens who have seen social-media bullying say they have ignored it. 84% have seen others tell cyber bullies to stop
- Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse
- Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying
- About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out 10 say it has happened more than once
- Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide
- About 75% of students admit they have visited a website bashing another student
Many cyber bullies have told researchers they believe bullying others online or with social media is funny. But many don’t think of the consequences. From losing accounts, to criminal charges for harassment or threatening are possible. In some cases, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying. If the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the results can include being registered as a sex offender. Teens may think that if they use a fake name they won’t get caught, but there are many ways to track people who are cyber bullying.
Real lives are being destroyed
With so many secrets being told, fake personalities and seemingly harmless digital chatter, it may seem hard to believe that actual damage is being done. The problem for young people, many experts argue, is that the world of social media is indistinguishable from reality. Growing up with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Secret and Whisper, these platforms are treated as real extensions of themselves. Depression and suicide as a result of bullying is a growing worldwide problem. In looking at results of bullying, according to bullyingstatistics.org, the damage and the numbers are very real:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the American Center for Disease Control. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of teenage students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
- 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
- According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying
Experts agree when bullying is a main player in suicide, it can be any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person online.
If you suspect someone is the victim of cyber bullying or may be vulnerable, please visit http://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/ for more information. If you want to contribute to this discussion, Tell us here or join us on Twitter with @growwithorganic. You can also find us on other social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus to join the conversation.