Words Can Hurt

Every day, individuals from around the world suffer from harassment and abuse on social media sites. Harassment comes in many forms, ranging from rude comments to sexual insinuation to physical threats Because of the abusive nature of online harassment, it can start to take a negative toll on a person’s mental health.

Recently, Amnesty International released a collection of personal interviews from women across 8 countries, detailing their fears regarding the online harassment they faced. Shockingly, 41% of women who have experienced online harassment reported that they felt their own safety was at risk. More so, 24% felt concerned over their family’s safety. That fear caused 76% of women interviewed to self-censor themselves and 32% to completely stop using social media platforms. Additionally, the women surveyed claimed had trouble sleeping, which lessened their ability to focus on everyday tasks.

-The impact of harassment on women

Besides fear for their safety, demeaning comments also caused women to suffer a loss of confidence and self-esteem. Abusers will deliberately harass women there they are the most vulnerable, leading many to doubt their own worth and begin to harm themselves. To make matters worse, half of them began to experience anxiety, stress, and panic attacks. Overall, the Internet is an intimidating environment for women. Often time, they receive death and rape threats or worse, have private photos shared without their consent or knowledge.

-Examples of some of the threats women receive

Online harassment doesn’t only take a negative toll on women’s health, but it disproportionately affects adolescents. According to a Dove Medical Press study, teenagers are most at risk for stress, depression, antisocial behavior, and anxiety after receiving harassment online. In addition, many also begin to exhibit signs of suicidal behavior or tendencies and start using illegal substances to cope. More alarmingly, harmful side effects can be seen in children as young as 10 years old. After suffering from online harassment, children begin to develop an increase in delinquent behavior and fewer relationships with peers and family.

So, it’s no wonder that bullying and harassment is what seems to be a never-ending cycle. This toxic behavior is passed down and not treated effectively. In order to stop the spread of online harassment, people need to make sure that they understand the negative impacts of their comments and how severely it can hurt others. Additionally, this is why effective education on matters like bullying and harassment are extremely important in today’s day and age.

Online environments have the ability to become more welcoming and peaceful if behaviors that make others feel scared, helpless, or threatened are eliminated. Educating people, providing support and help for victims, and holding abusers responsible will help alleviate the stress behind the harassment.

If someone you know is being harassed or bullied online, the best thing they can do is to block the abuser, especially on social media sites. Offer your support and encourage them to record the messages and report them to authorities. Also, remind them not to continue the cycle by sending rude messages back, but try to take a stand against the abuser. Hopefully, by standing up together against harassers and showing that we don’t condone their behavior, the harassment will eventually stop.