This week, social media was abuzz following the surfacing of a video in which a minor records herself sending a message of intimidation to another girl. The video is allegedly a response to a string of back-and-forth messages between the girls.
The video, which has received thousands of views and shares, has been described by most online-commentators as outright bullying. Many commentators have also voiced concern at the state of the youth and the impact that social media has on the social-development of the next generation.
To understand the psychological impact that cyber-bullying has on both victims’ and perpetrators, VOC’s Breakfast Beat spoke to educational psychologist, Anel Annandale.
Annandale explains that given the sheer shock that most who watched the video experienced, the level of concern that the video attracted is to be expected.
Though bullying has long been considered a problem within institutions of education globally, Annandale says that with the advent of social media platforms, bullying has become more prevalent, where perpetrators are not subject to the impact their actions have on their victims.
“Even though bullying is being addressed, cyberspace has given it a completely different dimension and it’s become much more difficult to limit,” she stated.
Given the fact that the perpetrator in this incident is a minor, she asserts that children of her age are impulsive and, therefore, often do not assess the consequences of their actions.
“The way the brain is formulated, only into adulthood does that impulsivity lesson a bit. So, social media can be a very dangerous space for young people who don’t normally think about the consequences of their actions.”
Since social media platforms are relatively new mediums of mass communication, Annandale notes that most people are still working to understand the full scope of social media and the subsequent impact that communicating on these platforms may have.
Annandale says that users of social media to a large extent display “wonderful lives of popularity,” but that these isolated moments do not reflect reality.
This apparent focus on social media popularity and vain competition, Annandale asserts appears to reflect an “imbalance” in social interactions.
Implications of cyber-bullying
She explains that aside from the feeling of guilt, bullying of this nature has in previous cases had serious implications for minors, where parents of victims approached the courts to address the issue.
Social worker Marianna Deyzel of Akeso Clinic, a dedicated adolescent facility, says cyber bullying often leads to teen suicides.
“The scourge of bullying at schools is a problem and many children do not have the life skills to handle it. Worldwide, incidences of cyber-bullying and through social media have already led to teen suicides. This most likely will increase as teens increasingly take to social media,” she said.
Annandale advises parents of teens who indulge in cyber-bullying, to assertively disapproved of the behaviour, but in reprimanding them to separate the person from the behaviour.
“So, it’s not that you are a horrible person, but what you did was a horrible thing,” she said.
In addition, Annandale says that the parents of all parties and the schools need to work as a team to deal with the matter and work to understand what is causing incidents of this nature to transpire.
“It was most likely a moment of impulse. So, deal with it and move on. Let’s then start focussing on positive behaviour and don’t really bring up the incident again,” she continued.