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.