2023 Scholarship Winner: Caleb Napper

2023 Cyber Bullying Scholarship Grand Prize Winner, Caleb Napper

Caleb’s Essay

Being an older brother (middle child, but eldest boy), I think about the generation before mine a lot.
When I was in high school, I didn’t use social media. It was obviously a big deal, but I just wasn’t
interested in the online photoshoot that my peers were so intrigued with. When I got to college, I finally
gave into peer pressure and joined Snapchat for the first time. I honestly didn’t understand it initially;
why could I not just call people if I wanted to reach out to them? Why does everyone need to know
everything about everybody all the time? Now, though, I see how valuable it is to be able to stay
connected with friends, especially after everyone moves away or life gets really busy. I only use
Instagram these days, but it’s nice to witness the little moments your friends are proud of that you
otherwise would have missed.

While my age group uses electronics fairly often, it’s basically a necessity for those younger than me. I
couldn’t imagine having a phone that could do more than make calls when I was younger, but those
phones are nearly extinct now. Covid led to elementary students going to school virtually. Kids are using
ChatGPT to help them do their homework. Many homes use Amazon Alexa to ask questions or do tasks.
People are dropping out of high school because they are becoming millionaires from TikTok and
YouTube. The world we live in now would be deemed science fiction only twenty years ago, so it is
important to understand that we live in a time where children cannot be hidden from various devices
and platforms, as it is integrated with a normal life.

As mentioned previously, I use Instagram at this point in my life. However, I always get filled with an
extreme amount of anxiety whenever I post something. Social media is intended to be a way to share
good moments with your friends, but over time, it quickly morphed into a way to be judged. Every time
you post, people are evaluating your appearance, your life, and it can feel like your worth is also being
scrutinized. Of course, you shouldn’t feel this way with your friends, but “friends” on social media does
not always equate to people who actually love you. Social media feeds quickly get filled with
acquaintances, fallen-off friendships, one-time meetings, and mutuals that you never have even met.
This may seem silly to those who are older, but again, put yourself into the shoes of someone who grew
up online. So much time is spent in cyberspace that it’s a part of our human experience.

Cyberbullying is not a joke, my older sister deleted her social media apps due to the stress it caused.
While that was an option in her day, nowadays it seems that all classes and students need to join an
online group chat of some sorts. Many courses make interacting with classmates outside of class a
requirement, whether that be school forums, GroupMe, Discord, or even Twitter in some cases. This
required online presence supplies consistent ammo to someone who wants to berate or insult someone

Solving these issues is difficult, because nowadays an online identity is important. Cutting off social
media in general leaves the current youth unprepared for a modern society. Pretending that internet
interactions are avoidable is simply running from the truth. Whether it be seeking jobs on LinkedIn,
joining online groups for certain trade skills, promoting your merchandise, or even finding love, digital
presence will play a part from now on. So, adults can try to keep children from using devices, but how
long is that possible or even beneficial? Over two-million car crashes occur in America every year.
Despite this, we acknowledge that driving is a necessary way to navigate in the current world, and
without it, we would be severely limited and behind our peers societally. So, we don’t reject cars.
Instead, we focus on education and preparing individuals to safely traverse known and unfamiliar

That is what I would recommend parents and faculty to do. Make sure the youth understand that, like
real traffic, digital traffic is very serious, and dangerous at times. However, acknowledge that being able
to navigate the digital world is essential in today’s age. Do not keep this world from them, as they will
then deal with several disadvantages down the line. Instead, prepare them to safely traverse the online
landscape. Teach them to keep their private lives private. Teach them to be wary of strangers, even
virtual ones. And teach them that getting attacked online is serious like getting attacked in real life.
Bullying is bullying, and if your child was bullied, you would want them to tell somebody. Just like the
birds and the bees became a staple parenting moment, this should too. Just like sexual education
became a staple in middle school curriculums, this should too. When these conversations get avoided, it
leads to an uneducated child attempting to figure it out themselves.

My parents are very old-school, so I never got this conversation. I ended up giving it to my little brother.
While everyone doesn’t have a sibling, everyone can help defeat cyberbullying. If you see it, call it out!
Hate is so common on social media nowadays, that a simple act of standing up for someone can go a
long way. Also, report anything creepy or seriously weird. Those can be precursors to things beyond
bullying, so definitely address those, as well. Finally, as Mom always says, if you don’t have anything nice
to say, don’t say it at all. You may not notice it, but you might be the problem. Notice if the last few
comments you left were positive, neutral, or negative. If only half were positive, you might be the
problem. If any were negative, you might be the problem. Having to read a lot of negativity, or even a
lot of neutrality, can lead to someone severely questioning themselves and damaging their self-esteem.
If you can’t think of a way to compliment the post, it may be best to keep scrolling.