Cyberbullying: The Silent Epidemic

Cyberbullying: The Silent Epidemic

Do not become a victim and educate yourself to be prepared.

Online Harassment. Cyber bullying.

The silent epidemic of America.

I was recently reading a book that discussed cyber bullying, online harassment and sexual violence. Did you know that statistically 40 percent of internet users report to being harassed online, and 50 percent of those people don't even know their attackers.The information age has definitely allowed some great advances in our society, and changed the way we interact. But sometimes the effects it has had are significantly more severe than we accept at face value.

Why has cyber bullying become so prevalent? A majority of people feel "stronger" behind a computer screen. These individuals attack others with words and threats that they would not normally use in a face-to-face encounter. The majority of the time, and the most concerning aspect of this issue, is that victims of online harassment are usually innocent bystanders! Most victims of Internet bullying are subjected to unsubstantiated attacks. The anonymity of an online life allows people to harm others in an unequivocally manner; words and threats cause wounds that no bandage can ever heal.

How vulnerable would you feel if a stranger could threaten you or your loved ones, and you never even know where the threat was coming from? To me, that is the scariest part of cyber bullying. You don't know the attackers personally, and you do not know what they are capable of. All because of the screen they hide behind to attack others with.

Most people, especially younger demographics, do not believe it could happen to them. We think that because we understand technology we are better protected and less vulnerable. But statistically, we are at a greater risk to experience online harassment. Teenagers are the most commonly charged suspects in this category crime.

How do we stop the spread of such uncalled for crime?

We have to talk about it and be proactive with future generations. It is ultimately our responsibility to become up-standers on this topic and not be a bystanders. Bystanders will never initiate change nor inspire action. We should know how to handle the situations within legal jurisdiction, know a persons rights when online and know the resources available for us and others. As the web is growing, so are the negative effects, but we can change that. The Internet has so many positive aspects that can be used for good. It is just up to our generation to take the initiative and be the change. Do not become a victim, and educate yourself to be prepared. Because statistically the next victim could be you.

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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The Blue Whale Challenge Is Deadlier Than You Think

Meet the game that encourages children to commit suicide.

In the age of social media, it isn't uncommon to come across trends like the "Ice Bucket Challenge" or the "Mannequin Challenge." We often dismiss these as a fad, sometimes even partaking in the fun.

One challenge, however, managed to stay under the radar-- it's only evidence from first hand experience and personal stories from friends and family. The Blue Whale Challenge is a social media "game" that encourages children and teens to take their own lives.

The challenge (named for blue whales' tendency to beach themselves to die) first emerged in Russia in 2016. Philipp Budeikin, 21, claimed to have invented the game in 2013 in order to "cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide whom he deemed as having no value." He selected people he believed were weak and easy to manipulate. Budeikin had been expelled from his university beforehand, and said he invented the game for fun. In May 2016, he pled guilty to leading 17 teenage girls to take their lives.

How then, does the game work?

Game administrators -- or "curators" -- would reach out to potential participants of the deadly game through Instagram. First, they would ask their target if they wished to play a game. They would then explain the rules, threatening to find, injure and kill the target's family if they didn't follow directions.

Their targets would often be as young as eleven years old, an age group still struggling to figure out their own identity. This group of children were typically already suffering from depression or anxiety; they felt alone and misunderstood in the world. These curators offered a connection in their world.

The "game" consists of 50 challenges over the course of 50 games. They range from using a razor to carve "F57," waking up at 4:20a.m. to watch movies the curators send participants, to ultimately committing suicide. Each challenge requires photographic proof to the game administrator.

The problem with this game is the lack of evidence. Melissa Patton, mother to a 12-year-old girl who was drawn into the game, stumbled across pictures of the challenges in her "deleted" album during a phone search. She couldn't believe her daughter was playing such a deadly game. The only evidence police and parents have of this dangerous trend are the first-hand accounts of survivors and the photo evidence in their phones.

There is no evidence of conversations with these curators due to the conversations being deleted. The only real way to see what a curator says and exactly how the game is structured is to either a) be a part of the game or b) look on the dark web, neither of which is advisable.

Hashtags such as "#F57", "#bluewhalechallenge", "#i_am_whale", and "#curatorfindme" reveal those begging to play the game, hoping to catch the eye of a curator.

These disturbing messages are only the beginning of this tragic game. Pictures show people posting evidence of them fulfilling the challenges, begging for entry into the game.

Fortunately, social media platform Instagram has stepped up, offering support for its users experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. The following message popped up after I searched "#bluewhalechallenge".

It's important for everyone, not just parents, to look out for trends like these. Starting a conversation with your child is the first step, but as Melissa Patton's story proved, regularly checking in on your child's phone and social media presence could save their life. Suffice to say this is worth whatever anger your child may direct at you. It is not an intrusion to make sure your child is mentally healthy.

If you are feeling depressed or full of anxiety, please know you aren't alone in the world. You are worthy, your life is important and you were put on this earth for a reason. Maybe you haven't discovered that reason yet, but that's part of the adventure of life!

Talk to someone; you can reach out to me if you want an ear. Just remember there are people in the world who do and will want to know you. This moment marks the rest of your life -- and it should be full!

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or chat with them online if you feel more comfortable writing.

Choose to live, if not for yourself, then for someone else until you can live for yourself.

You are worth it.

Cover Image Credit: Stefano Pasqualin

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Poetry On Odyssey: What Is A Poem?

I never know what to write when I feel depressed.

I never know what to write when I feel depressed. Should I write in rhymes just so I can express... myself? Or can I just write a paragraph, no stanzas at all, and call it a work of art? I don't know. What is a poem? Is it an answer to a question? Is it following a question with a question? I guess that begs the question of what is the question and the question to the question. My question questions the questions and the questions that follow the question. Does a poem need to make sense? What if the point is to not make sense? What is the point of writing? Is it to make ourselves feel good? Because I still feel shitty afterwards. Is it to make others feel good? Because why the fuck do I care?

I never know what to write when I feel depressed

Because I feel the heaviness of my chest

The kind that makes me drag my fucking legs

That has me squeezing the fucking temples of my head

Where I'm lying for hours on end on my fucking bed

Jesus I wish I was fucking dead

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