The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cyber-bullying has a major effect on the self-esteem and happiness of girls


Gabriella Molina, 12, hanged herself in the room she shared with her older sister, Georgina, who discovered her body.

All over the world, teenagers suffer from cyber-bullying, sometimes leading to suicide. Victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying are more likely to binge drink, face suspension from school, suffer from depression, and commit self-harm. What's more, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, approximately 20% of students experience cyber-bullying in their lifetimes, and adolescent girls are more likely to have experienced it. Some female names that may be familiar due to recent cyber-bullying incidents in the news include Gabriella Molina, Felicia Garcia, Alexis Pilkington, and Amanda Cummings.

The lack of face-to-face contact on the 'net means bullies can do and say things that they never would in real life, and instead bully in chat rooms, through computer text messages, and by email. A one-off act is all it takes on the part of the bully, and it can be picked up by others and repeated again. According to Dolly magazine, a cyber-bullying attack on a public platform like Facebook can involve multiple people and affects the person on the receiving end, as well as damaging the reputation of the person doing it. As this has become a huge issue, how can we put a stop to cyber-bullying?

Alexis Pilkington
Photo: AP

Girls should not feel threatened, ignored, or disrespected–online or offline. Issues concerning body image, sex, relationships, and schoolwork can result in psychological problems that can have a major effect on girls during adolescence, right up into adulthood.

Celebrity Paris Jackson had been cutting herself and overdosing on pills in an attempt to take her own life. Her father's death and the doubts expressed over her real father were identified as the reasons for her suicide attempt, yet cyber-bullying was indicated as a major instigator of this: she suffered from vicious insults and online taunts.

Extreme examples of cyber-bullying happen because teens are able to access online sites 24/7 to successfully isolate the victim. A Melbourne student, Sheniz Erkan, took her own life a week before celebrating her 15th birthday, after being tormented on Facebook by her peers. Queens girl Gabriella Molina committed suicide at just 12 years of age, due to taunts of "slut" and "whore." Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager who was "slut-shamed," committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. These tragedies highlight the issue of slut-shaming, which puts down girls who act in perceived "slutty" or "promiscuous" ways. 

Felicia Garcia jumped as the train arrived at the Huguenot station, Staten Island. The platform was packed with nearly 200 students, witnesses said.

So how do we put a stop to it? We can start by not engaging in cyber-bullying ourselves, no matter how pressured we may feel by peers. Secondly, by talking to school administrators and reporting the bully to your service providers, you can help prevent cyber-bullying from occurring. Third, it is important to look for signs of harassment, public humiliation, and impersonation, and make an attempt to identify the cause. Lastly, focus on protecting yourself; don’t share your private information with people you don't know. Don't respond to messages when you are angry or hurt–either to strangers or people you know–as this encourages harassment. Stop messaging and log out if you feel that you're being harassed. Don't retaliate; avoid going from victim to bully! Be aware that with sexting, you may not be aware where else the pics may turn up. Ensure that you're aware of the privacy settings on social media sites that you use. Limit your time online. If you use Facebook, regularly change your password, don't post anything too personal, don't accept friend requests from people you've never met in real life, and choose the option to get notifications when others tag you in photos (so you can ask someone to take down a pic of you that you don't like, or report them if they don't). All of this will help to put an end to cyber-bullying.

Amanda Cummings
Photo courtesy of the Cummings family.

Let the images of Gabriella Molina and others act as a reminder to us that we need to end cyber-bullying to prevent these tragedies from occurring.

-Ayesha Khalid 
Junior Girl 
Girl Museum Inc.

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