Cyberbullying and its implications for human rights.

Author:Hackett, Liam
 
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Most health professionals would agree that stress is the biggest factor affecting the mortality rate in modern society. If left untreated, stress can have detrimental impacts on both physical and mental health, and can lead to conditions such as heart disease, insomnia and depression. It is no wonder that stress has reached epidemic levels when one considers the sheer volume of stimuli reaching our consciousness on a daily basis, not to mention the increasing demands on our time and volatile changes across political and economic systems.

At a societal level, stress is often regarded as an issue exclusively impacting adults, with young people often being excluded from the conversation. Young people, however, are under an immense amount of pressure to succeed academically, as exams become increasingly challenging and frequent. The growing global talent pool and economic uncertainty further contribute to the pressures placed on young people to succeed and compete directly with their peers.

Aside from academic pressure, young people have even bigger issues to contend with: shifting hormone levels, questions of identity and living their lives publicly online.

Digital identity is a relatively new concept, so there is no real precedent to follow regarding the integration of technology into our daily lives and ways to distinguish between our online and offline personas. While the Internet is a powerful tool that can be used to connect like-minded people and communities, it is also often used as a platform to defame, harass and abuse people within the sanctuary of their own homes.

Research suggests that up to 7 in 10 young people have experienced online abuse at some point. (1) The term 'cyberbullying' is often treated as a distinct phenomenon, but it is an extension of bullying, which is an age-old problem. Bullying taps into societal undertones of prejudice and discrimination and often impacts people with protected characteristics of race, religion, sexuality, gender identity and disability the most.

Traditionally, bullying was often exclusively confined to the educational environment, with one's home being a safe haven. Today, however, it is possible for a young person to be bullied not only at school but also in the family car or at home, alone in their bedroom, and even in clear sight of their parents or guardians without those adults ever being aware. With communication technology being so integral to modern living, some young people have very little...

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