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A history of Cyberbullying.

​On the 5th of May 2017 in Malaysia, a man by the name of Teh Wen Chun committed suicide
by jumping of a building from the 17th floor, prior to that in England on 2013 a 12 year old child
committed suicide by hanging. These two cases are from different nations but the cause of the
suicide is the same in both cases, Cyberbullying. It is an increasing worry in the modern age as it
has become quite a serious problem in developed countries and the reports of cyberbullying has
increased significantly over the years as compiled in Justin W.Patchin and Sameer Hinduja
findings from the Cyberbullying Research Center. The fact of the matter is that cyberbullying is
a common thing in the modern age but where did cyberbullying originate from? The history of
cyberbullying is a complex one that involves a history dated from the time of antiquity and our
basic primordial instinct, to the origin of the word bullying and how it evolved through the
modern age to finally create the phenomenon we know as cyberbullying today.

To talk about cyberbullying, we must first understand that cyberbullying is one of the form of
bullying in cyberbullying case it is bullying through the medium of the internet. Therefore, we
must first understand the roots of bullying before we can truly look at the history of
cyberbullying as they are intertwined with each other. The word “Survival of the Fittest” which
was coined by Charles Darwin is an apt reasoning to some of the behaviour a bully would have
and these survival instinct has developed for human into the educational, the economic and
social realms lead to a competitive hierarchy in which the rich is seen as success and from a
young age we are conditioned to these beliefs (Allanson, 2015, p.32). Bullying has it roots in our
basic instincts and over time these instincts are transferred to our concept of society through
economics, social and education that it transformed into what we call as bullying today. Plenty of
other factors also help the development of bullying like bigotry, peer pressure, rites of passage
and religious intolerance according to Allanson (2015, p.32). These are sometimes looked as part
of growing up which is why bullying was not a big concern in certain societies. In fact a lot of
early iteration of the word “bully” is actually positive and does not carry any negative
connotation that it does today in the modern world. This shows how much bullying was accepted

and normalize throughout history and the lack of research that has been done on the topic of
bullying throughout history. According to Allanson the first actual case of bullying was in 1862
and another case from 1885 where a young boy died out of bullying (2015, p.33). Even when
these official cases of bullying was reported not a lot of researched had been done on the field of
bullying and it took nearly another 100 years for research to be done on bullying. The field was
started by Dan Olweus and after his research, more and more is uncovered and programs and law
has been made to combat bullying especially in schools. Even with the acknowledgement of
bullying and the programs that are implemented, it still did not help in combating these problem
and in 1999, the Columbine Massacre happened and changed public opinion on bullying forever.

The Columbine Massacre had the made the public to be more aware of the problem of bullying
but bullying was already changing to a new medium, a far nastier medium than the face-to-face
kind of bullying. “Before the Internet, bullying ended when you withdrew from whatever
environment you were in.” - said Maria Konnikova (2017). This comes from the interview with
Susan Swearer, one of the first researcher on the topic of bullying and she explained how in
face-to-face the bullying ends when there is no face-to-face connection and the victim can simply
move away from the environment if it had escalated to the boiling point but with the internet,
there is no escape. The introduction of the internet has created a space where nobody is safe and
harder to run away from the bullying. Bullying may have its beginning in MySpace, a social
media that predates Facebook and perhaps even the old forums of American Online however the
first major case of cyberbullying was in 2006 with the death of Megan Meier, while the was a
case from 2003 involving Ryan Halligan the term “cyberbullying” was not used to refer to the
case (Allanson, 2015, p.34). The case of Ryan Halligan has also been used as evidence of
cyberbullying and its impact for a new legislation. The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention
Act was propose to the state of Massachusetts but failed to be enacted in 2009 (Espelage, 2017).
Throughout the years, as new social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter arose, the case
of cyberbullying was increasing in severity. In the early stages of cyberbullying, the bullying and
cyberbullying goes hand to hand, in that people would bully you both in real life and online
(Ewens, 2017). This creates an environment which is hard to escape compared to the early day of

the internet where you could just disconnect (Ewens, 2017), now the bullying is only focused
online and this means that your social circle can be your bullies as they are influenced by peer
pressure to bully you and. A majority of these cyberbullying case, the victims were female
according to Ewens (2017) which she cited a study from the Cyberbullying Research Center of a
data pool taken from 2002 which found that girls are more likely to get abused than boys. These
bullying cases are usually targeting the physical appearance of the girls and usually minorities
are the target of cyberbullying too. Sexual orientation is another thing a person can get
cyberbullied over as according to Ewens (2017), 72% of teenage lesbians reported to be

With the introduction of new social media and internet access being much easier to get and
become a necessity in our daily life, more and more cases of cyberbullying has been brought to
the public eye. These cases can no longer be denied and soon most countries had to introduce
legislation against cyberbullying as they have done for bullying. Canada had two cases of severe
cyberbullying for them to introduce legislation and law against cyberbullying with the death of
Amanda Todd in 2012 and Rehteah Parsons in 2013 (Espelage, 2017). In the United States, 22
states have enacted anti cyberbullying laws included in the bullying laws according to Espelage
(2017). Multiple cases has been lost in the United States due to the fact that most cyberbullying
cases nowadays happens off-campus because of the free speech in America being a huge factor
to these cases (Green, 2016). Free speech has also prevented Canada from enacting their
legislation against cyberbullying (Espelage, 2017), The lack of proper definition for the term
bullying is also helping these bullies getting the upperground as there is no empirical way of
defining what is bullying (Allanson, 2015). This is also a problem with cyberbullying as there is
no one correct definition and these definitions are getting bigger and bigger to include all form of
bullying. Furthermore, the anti-bullying laws only accounts for what happens in campus and as a
lot of cyberbullying is done on the internet, a lot of these cases are lost simply due to the fact that
the bullying was happening out of campus. A lot of these are legislation to help children but
there are less to help prevent cyberbullying towards adults. As the research for bullying
continues, a lot of evidence points towards bullying in the workplace and there is very little to

help these adults. The impact of bullying towards adults can be or more severe than the impact of
bullying towards children (Konnikova, 2015). This can impact productivity of an individual and
impact the job satisfaction. Adults don’t see cyberbullying as something serious as for them it is
only applied towards children and they use a justification plus the added anonymity to say harsh
or demean other in social media. The bystander effect also manifest itself in the online world,
where people would only watch and not help the victim and only silently watch until it is too

A lot of steps are taken to spread the impact of cyberbullying to the masses that is happening
right now through agencies and governments. Schools are doing a program to educate children of
the dangers of cyberbullying and found that it will help discourage children to cyberbully
according to Espelage (2017). Increased understanding of the impact of cyberbullying and the
practice of internet safety will help decrease cyberbullying and keep kids safer from the threat of
cyberbullying. There is also a possibility to increase the knowledge of cyberbullying for the
teachers as most teachers understand the threat cyberbullying poses but do not know how to
handle the situation due to lack of training. Social media sites has also implemented a lot of
features to report harassment or cyberbullying and protect the safety of their user but some of
these are not effective ; according to Ewens (2017) one of her interviewee which was a victim of
cyberbullying tried blocking but only for the bully to create a new account and bully her using
the new account. The implementation of algorithm can help combat this problem as Twitter and
Youtube has been using procedural algorithm to filter through hateful and negative comments or
contents. There is also a responsibility for parents to seek out information about cyberbullying
and try to help their children as parents are very crucial in helping to stop or mitigate the effect
of cyberbullying (Espelage, 2017). An increase on developing the compassionate part and
emotional development has help to decrease cyberbullying and the topic of cyberbullying was
brought up for a short amount of time.

The history of cyberbullying comes from our instinct to survive and the impact of society
following that instinct and the evolution of technology that brings new medium for bullying to

happen to. The field is very much in its infancy and plenty of things like adult bullying is not
looked upon and the lack of legislation against cyberbullying even though a plethora of suicide
cases which are linked directly to cyberbullying and how now cyberbullying is almost
impossible to run away from. A lot of these legislation and programs are only done in the
European continent and North America while in a lot of Asian countries, bullying is still viewed
as normal and cyberbullying means nothing to the masses even though plenty of suicide cases.
Malaysia should take notes from these countries efforts to mitigate the impact of cyberbullying
before history repeats itself and takes more lives.


Allanson, P. B., Lester, R. R., & Notar, C. E. (2015). ​Intro​ A history of bullying.​rnational
Journal of Education and Social e​, ​Scienc2​(12), 31-36.

Green, L. (2016, February 10). Cyberbullying: Challenging Legal Issues for Schools. Retrieved
from ​

Ewens, H. (2017, September 1). The Ugly Evolution of Cyberbullying. Retrieved form

Espelage, D. L., & Hong, J. S. (2017). Cyberbullying prevention and intervention efforts: current
knowledge and future directions. ​The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry,​ ​62(​ 6), 374-380.

Konnikova, M. (2015). How the Internet Has Changed Bullying. Retrieved from