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Online Harassment: Internet, Teenagers, Information Age

Social World of Adolescence: Online Harassment or Cyberbullying
Online Harassment: Internet, Teenagers, Information Age

Cyber-bullying Facts – Top 10 Forms of Cyber Bullying [Video]

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Social World of Adolescence: Online Harassment or Cyberbullying

What does it mean this term “online harassment” in the modern world, what is the difference between the traditional bullying and cyberbullying?

In today’s world, youth activities include participating in online games, online discussions, online social support and social networks. Indeed the internet is a space of social activity, and participation in this large social space might expose young people to the risk of online harassment. This notion refers to unwelcome and uninvited comments or attention. The comments provoke negative emotions and insulting because of anything, from ethnic content and gender to political views of food preferences. In fact, young folks are more likely than older ones to undergo this sad experience.

This can take the form of offensive messages, jokes and remarks of any sort purposely initiated by the harasser to humiliate the victim. Youth are the first victims of this type of online harassment. Every study reports today that more than 90% of youth participating in representative national surveys report receiving unwanted messages, which can be intimidating, insulting, aggressive or seemingly unoffensive, but really disturbing (such as obscene language). Curiously enough, the relationship with the offender plays an important role in the process: Researchers found that usually the harasser is known from the real word, and only about 20 percent of the victims do not know who the harasser is (or at least, the respondents think they know the author of the unwanted messages).

In many occasions, the likelihood of being a victim of this aggressive behavior depends on the application that teenager use, as well on the locations visited (social networking sites, chat rooms, comments on texts on different blogs, and so on). Besides, adolescents who blog prove more likely than youth who do not blog not only to be at risk of harassment, but to post personal information online, including real age, pictures of themselves, names and to disclose personal experiences.

Adolescents’ choice of internet applications probably reflects a selectivity effect. Youngsters who have unsatisfactory ties with parents and friends choose to use Facebook, discussion forums or any other chat platform for that matter to compensate for this unsatisfactory relationship by engaging in communication with unknown others. Such activity is a logical risk factor for online bullying.

It’s hard to know what role plays here low self-esteem, not feeling safe at school, to have been physically abused by other children, but for many boys and girls alike online experiences are significantly associated with adverse psychological characteristics. The anonymity of online interactions lowers control of ethnic, racist and other personal remarks even when adolescents use moderated chat rooms.

The aggressor in online harassment may by known or unknown, but a follow-up study that investigated risk factors of online harassment found that the likelihood of exposure to cyberbullying is associated with exposure variables: high frequency of internet use, high frequency of participation in “discussions on hot topics”.

cyber harassment - Online Harassment: Internet, Teenagers, Information Age

Today’s cyber-harassment includes the use of email, chat, instant, messaging, clips, comments.

In sum bullying and harassment have not just moved from physical to virtual space, their intensity has magnified as well. Physical separation of aggressor and victim does not guarantee disengagement and cessation of acts ob bullying – not in terms of frequency, scope, or severity of the inflicted harm. Today’s cyber-harassment includes the use of email, chat, instant, messaging, clips, comments. Aggressors spread rumors or clips and photographs of the victim in embarrassing situations and so on.

Components of Online Harassment

Cyberbulling has a number of important components:

  • Cyberbullying (like bullying) involves repetitious harmful behavior.
  • Cyberbullies are aggressors who seek pleasure (both implicit and/or explicit) through the mistreatment of other individuals.
  • A power differential between bullies and victims should be expected, and in the case of the electronic environment this differential might also be observed in computer literacy.
  • As the attacker often believes that there is only a slim chance of his or her misconduct to be detected online (and the assumption is globally correct), so online harassment and threats have become prevalent among young users.

What to do with the cyber-harassment?

Inquiry into young people’s social networks today requires study of the patterns of internet adoption and of online and face-to-face networks. Adolescents’ adoption and use of the Internet are related to the social network to which each of them belongs. The choice of internet social applications such as forums, chat rooms, email, instant messaging and social networking sites depends on which online activities are carried out by others who belong to the peer groups. A member’s engagement in online communication requires that the other members have adopted the Internet for communication purposes. This has an effect on a youth’s access to positive and supportive ties in an intent to limit his or her exposure to negative consequences to his or her well-being.

Exposure to online harassment depends upon the online activities being conducted, even when it’s clear that the motivation to use forums and chat rooms is undoubtedly different from the motivation to use instant messaging and social networking websites.

These conclusions should be qualified, as bullying is a relatively new and developing behavior that has to be monitored over time. We must follow the progress of cyberbullying and its connection with face-to-face and online behaviors.


  • Gustavo S. Mesch, Ilan Talmud. Wired Youth. Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age, Routledge, 2010.
  • Devorah Heitner Screenwise. Helping Kids Thrive (and survive) in Their Digital World. Bibliomotion, 2016.
  • Andrew WhiteDigital Media and Society, Transforming Economics, Politics and Social Practices. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  • Edited by Graham and William H. Dutton. Society & the Internet. How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives. Oxford University Press, 2014.


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