What is Cyberbullying?
Bullying is a big problem. It can leave people feeling anxious, vulnerable, alone and even depressed. Sadly, the internet has allowed bullies to continue harassing the victim, even when they are in different places.
This article will provide the ins and outs of cyberbullying. We’ll define cyberbullying and help you understand the term better with the most common types and examples.
Summary: Cyberbullying means bullying via the internet. It is the use of electronic devices and social media to post mean-spirited content about an individual. It’s often performed anonymously, but can also come from classmates or other people close to the victim. Essentially, it mirrors the ways people are harassed, impersonated, stalked, or shamed in real life. It can be considered criminal behavior when the perpetrators send threatening messages.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying attacks feature technology to threaten, embarrass, target, or harass another person. They also include mean, rude, or aggressive text messages, posts, and tweets. Posting videos, pictures, and information to embarrass or inflict hurt on social media platforms counts as cyberbullying too.
It can be particularly upsetting and damaging because it’s generally anonymous, making it hard to track down. Furthermore, controlling the attacks is hard, so the victims can’t tell how many users have seen the posts or messages. As a result, people can experience constant harassment, whether they use a mobile phone or computer.
Harassment and online bullying are relatively easy to commit, as the attacker doesn’t confront their targets in person.
Due to the popularity of digital forums and social networking sites, photos, comments, and other content posted online are available to friends and strangers alike.
The information that ends up on the internet, including personal and harmful content, leaves a permanent record of their behavior, activities, and views. These publicly available posts are crucial for the victim’s reputation, which can be accessed by clubs, employers, schools, and colleges. Anyone researching the individual can check it out and form their opinion using the content.
Therefore, it harms the reputation of the victim and can decrease their chances of landing a great job or enrolling in a great school. But if the perpetrators are discovered, their reputation also suffers heavy blows.
This brings us to the unique concerns of online bullying.
- It’s persistent – Internet users can communicate consistently with the victim using digital devices, making it hard to combat cyberbullying and find relief.
- It’s hard to recognize – Parents and teachers can easily miss instances of cyberbullying, they may not perceive the immediate danger. This is why recognizing online harassment is challenging.
- It’s permanent – Most electronic information is public and permanent unless victims report cyberbullying and require the content to be taken down. A negative reputation can plague the victims and perpetrators, impacting their employment, college admissions, and other areas.
Cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying, but it can have similar consequences. The victim can have severe, long-lasting problems.
For instance, young people who can’t prevent bullying experience recurring fear, which leads to issues with energy levels, mood, appetite, and sleep. The attacks can also make the victim feel sad, anxious, or jumpy. If they’re already anxious or depressed, cyberbullying incidents can aggravate their condition. In the worst-case scenario, persons experience so much emotional distress that they commit suicide.
The victims aren’t the only persons that get hurt. Their friends and family suffer too.
Various harassment laws have been introduced to punish cybercriminals.Some forms of cyberbullying can also break sexual harassment or anti-discrimination laws. Thus, bullies may face severe legal trouble. Schools and many after-school programs are setting up cyberbullying response systems. This allows the institutions to suspend the attackers from school or sports teams.
After considering all these repercussions, you’re probably wondering: why would someone be a cyberbully? There could be many reasons.
In some cases, harassment or threats happening online can be accidental. Posts, messages, and other means of communication have an impersonal nature. For this reason, it’s hard to tell if the creator is being serious or they’re joking.
Popular teens or kids bully because they see it as a great way to remain popular. Some people’s moral values may be distorted, so hurting others can make them feel more powerful.
However, the perpetrator isn’t always popular. They can be less successful or socially active. In this case, they bully other people because it lets them address their low self-esteem. They may think it helps them fit in better with society, and they rarely empathize with the individuals they harass through electronic posting.
Overall, school-age bullies’ behavior generally originates from their own problems. They’re usually not excited about studying, and their parents aren’t involved with their upbringing. They’re typically anxious, depressed, and have trouble controlling impulses or emotions, so they rarely follow the rules.
Other reasons for bullying include the following.
- Anonymity – Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying doesn’t require the perpetrator to face their victim. Consequently, it makes them believe they’ll get away with their online harassment.
- Social pressure – Some attackers think their cyberbullying behavior is socially acceptable. This is especially true when their peers egg them on.
- Ignoring the consequences – Many perpetrators think cyberbullying through fake accounts and other means is funny. They can’t see the victims’ reactions, so they don’t realize the damage they’re doing.
All forms of cyberbullying are harmful, but some might be more damaging than others. Coming up are the most widespread cyberbullying types.
Harassment may be the most common way of cyberbullying, featuring the use of technology to abuse other people.
One way users harass other users is by starting warning wars. These attacks occur when they click the report button on a website to get their victim kicked offline or in trouble. This can even happen when the victim hasn’t done anything wrong.
Hackers can also participate in text attacks or text wars. This form of harassment involves people ganging up on their targets and sending them dozens of texts. The correspondence causes emotional distress, but it can also skyrocket cell phone bills if the person doesn’t have unlimited texting.
Alternatively, the perpetrators can post insulting, mean, or rude comments on online gaming websites or social networking platforms. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch are the most widely used pages.
Sometimes, the perpetrators’ approach is subtle and involves so-called vaguebooking and subtweeting. In other words, they post mean content about others without using their name. Other times, harassers overtly abuse their victims with instant messaging, text messages, and emails. Apart from harassing them, they may also threaten and embarrass the target.
Impersonation is another go-to tactic for cyberbullies. As the name implies, it involves a person impersonating another user online. There are many ways to use this strategy. For instance, the perpetrator can steal the victim’s password to hack their account and change their profile.
Once the hacker gains access, they post racist, sexual, and other inappropriate content. This can tarnish the victim’s reputation and social standing.
They can chat with other users while pretending they’re the target. They say rude things to offend and aggravate the victim’s acquaintances or friends.
If they can’t access the account, they can create a fake account or screen name that resembles the victim’s credentials. Then they post hurtful and insulting remarks while posing as the target. To make the process look authentic, they will often use real images of their victims.
Catfishing is a type of impersonation. It refers to taking images and information from others to set up a new identity.
In most cases, catfishers steal another user’s complete identity, including the date of birth, geographical location, and profile image. They pretend the information belongs to them to add credibility to their strategy. In turn, bullies use the newfound identity to lure other users into interacting with them.
Catfishers usually target one person for their attacks. They look for potential victims and decide on the one that appeals to their desired identity.
This tactic has been popular on dating websites and forums. It allows catfishers to hide their identity without question. They lure other people into dating them using photos of other people to look more attractive.
Catfishing also refers to falsifying likes, dislikes, locations, and professions. When an attacker fakes relatively insignificant or just a few parts of their identity, this phenomenon is called kitten fishing.
The reason why catfishing is considered cyberbullying is that the target whose identity is stolen is harmed in the process. Perpetrators often play mind games with their victims, resulting in mental health issues.
On top of that, catfishing generally lures users into fake relationships. As they interact with other people with their faces shrouded in mystery, they obtain information to use against their targets. Once they acquire enough details, they release them to embarrass their victim and ruin their reputation.
Cyberbullies sometimes shame or bully other people with photographs. These images include inappropriate or embarrassing content that was shared privately or was taken without the victim’s knowledge. For instance, the abuser might have spied on their target in a dressing room or bathroom.
These photos serve as weapons posted on social networks or various image-sharing websites. Any internet user can see and download them, which is why this cyberbullying type can reach a wide audience. Other times, perpetrators can send text messages and emails with degrading or nude photographs of their victims.
Sexting is another name for these attacks. Once the images are sent, the consequences can’t be controlled. The content can end up on thousands of devices within a couple of hours.
To make matters worse, hackers can use this strategy to control and blackmail their targets. This can escalate to involve shaming women for the way they dress, their behavior, or the number of men they’ve dated.
Cyberbullies frequently use videos to embarrass their targets. For example, they can upload videos that show the victim in a humiliating situation. They normally upload the content to YouTube or other popular websites and share it via text messages or email.
In other cases, perpetrators can create a situation that upsets the target and they record their reaction. This form of abuse is known as cyberbaiting.
Finally, they often record and share bullying instances. These situations usually include children punching, kicking, hitting, or slapping their target. Even embarrassing school or community moments can be taped and uploaded to bully the victim.
People who bully other people can create a poll, blog, or website to abuse their targets.
For example, they may conduct internet polls about a victim or several victims. The questions are extremely harmful, such as asking the respondents to rate the targets by their weight or looks.
Blogs and websites can be just as humiliating. They might involve the target’s personal pictures and information. This puts them at risk of being noticed by predators.
Furthermore, people may use this tactic to tell lies or spread rumors about their victims. It distorts the image of the person and harms their reputation.
Doxing is a type of cyberbullying where the perpetrator maliciously posts private information of the victim without their consent. It can come in the form of actual documents (hence the term doxing) or photos.
This cyberbullying form has been around for quite a while. It was first used in the 1990s by hackers who wanted to take revenge on their targets. At the time, people often used the term “dropping dox,” which meant making private information publicly available.
Doxing attacks are relatively easy to perform due to social media. Any social platform user has voluntarily disclosed a large amount of personal information. They may not have known they were making it publicly available, but either way, cyberbullies can quickly obtain these details and post them wherever they want.
The most malicious version of doxing is swatting. The perpetrator posts a fake terrorist threat and exposes the contact information of their victim. When SWAT forces or other units arrive at the target’s address, the doxer has successfully performed their attack.
Cyberstalkers use the internet or other technologies to stalk people online. Many instances are considered criminal behavior in the USA.
This form of harassment is an extension of in-person bullying and takes the form of text messages, social media posts, and emails. It’s generally persistent, deliberate, and methodical.
Most commonly, the behavior doesn’t end even if you express your displeasure or ask the attacker to stop. The content is also inappropriate and can be disturbing. This makes the victim feel worried, anxious, distressed, and fearful. The targets can have trouble sleeping, dramatically lowering their quality of life.
To help you grasp all these cyberbullying types, here are a few cyberbullying examples that can happen to you or your child.
Verbal Abuse of Other Players in Online Games
Your kid is constantly bullied by another player on their team. The bully is also your child’s classmate, and they apologize to your kid after school and ask them to play another game when they get home.
Your young one now thinks they’re friends again, but they’re not aware the bully is a griefer. This term stands for any player who uses online gaming to target other users. They intentionally seek out other players to make them a victim.
Once the game starts, the bully attacks your kid throughout the game. They also behave aggressively, sending harassing and threatening messages. This makes your child feel worse.
Over time, they may decide they no longer want to go to school.
Harassing Someone with Instant Messaging, Emails, Phone Calls, or Text Messages
Three of your kid’s teammates text them, blaming them for their team’s loss. They also tell them they should no longer play the game.
Your child is afraid to tell you or the coach, so they put up with the bullying the entire season. As a result, they suffer so much emotional damage that they don’t want to return to the team next season.
Posting Embarrassing or Private Photos of Others
You finish your workout and go to the locker room to change. You don’t notice that your coworker is also there. They’re jealous that you got a raise and they didn’t, so they decide to take revenge.
They take an embarrassing photo of you while you’re changing and post it on Facebook masquerading as another user. The image is distributed to everyone on your team, and you’re now hesitant to go back to work.
Setting up a Website to Rate Someone’s Popularity or Appearance
At the start of the hockey season, a player is upset your child was promoted to captain. They set up a web page about your kid that degrades and insults them. They invite other people to check out the website that lies about the things your kid did last season.
Insulting and negative posts pile up, and your child discovers the website. It messes with their mind, so their performance decreases.
Creating a Fake Twitter or Facebook Account to Make Fun of Someone
A football player is jealous of your son because they’re not receiving the same time on the field. They want to do something about it, so they create a fake Facebook profile of a recruiter. They send messages to your kid, who gets excited, but his or her enthusiasm is short-lived. The purpose of the fake recruiter is to disappoint and embarrass your child.
Hacking Someone’s Email Account and Impersonating Them
Your colleague breaks the email password of your boss and they start masquerading as them. They send you hurtful emails that criticize your workplace performance. It ruins your self-confidence, and you start losing the company money. Eventually, you’re forced to leave the business, and you’re less likely to find a similar job.
Video Shaming Someone to Destroy Their Reputation
Highly-motivated parents don’t like that their daughter isn’t getting enough ice time. They want to put her in the game, no matter the cost.
They devise a plan to remove the coach. They videotape them at various practices and alter the content digitally. The parents make it seem like the coach is harassing the players.
The video reaches the principal, who fires the coach.
Creating Websites or Blogs With Stories, Pictures, and Jokes That Ridicule Others
You watch your son’s basketball game with a few other parents. After the final whistle, the other parents argue with you about the abilities of their children. They claim your child shouldn’t play as much as their kid.
That night, you discover a blog about a delusional parent who can’t handle the truth that their child can’t play at a certain level. It doesn’t state your names directly, but there are enough hints for the entire community to figure out who’s being attacked.
Consequently, other parents and some of your neighbors no longer want to spend time with you. Your social life deteriorates, and it’s making you depressed.
What Are the Signs of Cyberbullying?
Perhaps the scariest aspect of cyberbullying is that it’s difficult to recognize. Determining if you’re being abused is relatively easy when you’re an adult, but children have a harder time doing so. They need help from you or their teachers.
What makes things easier is that the symptoms may overlap with traditional bullying. They might not be a reason for concern, but you’ll need to address them if they’re continual.
Be on the lookout for the following signs of cyberbullying.
Anger or Anxiety
Teenagers’ moods shift before or after using a computer or cell phone. Does your child seem anxious, upset, or nervous after spending time on the internet? Are they angry when they use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
If so, they might be a victim of cyberbullying.
Monitor how frequently your children go online, especially if they enjoyed it at some point but haven’t been as excited recently. If they suddenly stop using devices or avoid interacting with peers on social networks, they might be trying to prevent bullying.
Has your kid become defensive or secretive about their internet activities? If yes, this can be a huge red flag.
They may unexpectedly turn off their computer or phone when you approach or try to discuss their online actions. Similarly, they might get agitated when you want to talk about their internet usage. They may be trying to hide that they’re being bullied.
Withdrawal or Depression
Even if a teenager is introverted or quiet, you should monitor their behavior for signs of alienation.
Do they spend less time with their peers and friends? Is there any drama at school? Do they want to spend time alone, away from family? Have they made any comments on any changes to their social life?
The answers may point to cyberbullying.
You shouldn’t take any mood changes lightly. If your child seems depressed or sad too often, they might be experiencing internet abuse.
Another way to diagnose this issue is to track their sleeping and eating patterns. If they can’t get a good night’s sleep or aren’t consuming enough food, they could be overwhelmed by cyberbullying.
Lastly, see if their interests have changed. If they reluctantly go to school or play sports they used to love, cyberbullying might be the culprit.
Higher Number of Messages Received
If your teenager receives a lot of messages, this is typically a good sign. They’re probably improving their social skills and making valuable acquaintances.
It can also be a cause for concern. The correspondence may come from strangers who are bullying them or blackmailing them with embarrassing images. A good way to test this is to see if your child is evasive when asked about their recent contacts.
What Are the Signs Your Child Is a Bully?
It’s hard to keep a watchful eye on your kid when they’re at school. Even with teachers around, you can never know if they’ve become jealous of their peers or teammates unless they tell you.
Many factors can trigger this, and unfortunately, your child can also cyberbully other people.
This doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. Cyberbullying is widespread, and it’s tempting to ridicule other people with embarrassing content. You can help your kid get back on track, but you’ll first need to recognize they’re a cyberbully by observing their behavior:
Withdrawal and Secretive Mood
Victims of cyberbullying get alienated, but so do the perpetrators. Your teenager may abandon hobbies and activities to spend more time on the internet.
Bonding with family and friends is no longer interesting. They’d rather be alone with their computer or phone, which can make them depressed eventually.
Additionally, your child may be secretive about their online behavior. They might hide or turn off their devices when you approach.
They may also be hostile if you question their online habits. They can appear angry and upset if you interrupt their session.
These actions may indicate your kid is busy cyberbullying their peers.
Many Accounts and Excessive Internet Use
Cyberbullies often use a large number of accounts to target different people. Make sure your kid doesn’t fall into this category.
You should react promptly if they use several accounts under various names. It might be a clear sign they’re using an anonymous identity to infiltrate other people’s accounts and harass them.
Another thing you should pay attention to is how much time they spend online. Do they use the internet more than before? Are they obsessed with checking messages? Are they excited about the time you’re not home so they can browse the web without supervision?
Many cyberbullies don’t take up this behavior of their own accord. They’re sometimes egged on by other abusers.
See if your child has made some new friends. If they seem aggressive or mean, they might be cyberbullies. Ask around the school and talk to their parents to find out if they’ve ever abused someone.
Furthermore, see if your kid wants to impress their new friends. This can pressure them into bullying others.
Cyberbullies are, by and large, insensitive people. They don’t care if their actions hurt other people.
If your child behaves similarly, you need to react quickly. Tell them that their words and actions have power. They can easily ruin someone’s life if not used carefully.
A great way to check is to examine their social media profiles. If they make rude or snarky comments, they could be abusing someone.
Are There Cyberbullying Laws to Deter Abuse?
Cyberbullying is a prevalent internet issue that affects numerous users. The country has introduced several laws to help increase online safety.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a federal law that specifically addresses bullying. The only exception is cyberstalking. The good news is that it can be considered criminal behavior under some other harassment and anti-stalking laws.
Bullying often overlaps with hate crimes, harassment, and discrimination when based on sex, religion, disability, age, race, or ethnicity. If the overlap takes place, federally funded institutions must resolve and address the harassment at all levels.
Communities can also respond to online violence, discrimination, hate crimes, and conflicts by contacting the Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s a free service that offers various coping strategies, including technical assistance and counseling.
If the abuse persists, you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice or the Department of Education.
State laws provide better protection, as all 50 states have robust anti-bullying laws. Most areas also have policies to help prevent cyberbullying. Some have even introduced additional guidelines to improve schools’ response to harassment.
Since the specifics of state laws vary, your best bet is to familiarize yourself with the ones in your area. More information is available on StopBullying.gov, Cyberbullying Research Center, and other helpful resources.
There might also be laws at the city, county, or regional level. Likewise, most school codes and districts implement anti-bullying rules and language. Make sure to research them to find out what you can do to combat harassment.
How Often Does Cyberbullying Happen?
Most cyberbullying instances affect students and young people. According to StopBullying.gov, there are two relevant sources of cyberbullying.
The first was conducted by School Crime Supplement as part of the initiative by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice. It found that 16% of students aged 12-18 were bullied at least once during their school year by text or online.
The second was performed by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. It indicated that around 15.5% of all high school students experience cyberbullying at least once a year.
There are more resources that demonstrate the prevalence of cyberbullying in youth. For instance, this survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center questioned nearly 5,000 students aged 12-17. Here are the results.
- Almost 40% of the students reported that they had experienced cyberbullying. In terms of the specifics, hurtful comments (25% of harassment) and online rumors (22% of harassment) were the most common forms.
- Around 30% of the respondents claimed they had experienced multiple forms of cyberbullying.
- About 15% of the respondents admitted to online abuse at a certain point in their lives. They posted mean comments (9.3%), whereas 11% of them bullied other students using multiple forms of abuse.
- The most common victims of cyberbullying are adolescent girls. They make up more than 38% of all attacks.
- Boys are more likely to report instances.
- The form of cyberbullying used to harass students differs by gender. Girls are more likely to spread rumors, whereas boys are more likely to send threats.
Why Don’t People Report Online Abuse?
Even though cyberbullying can have serious consequences, many victims don’t report the attacks. There are a number of reasons for this.
They Don’t Perceive Online Harassment as Cyberbullying
One of the most common reasons victims of online abuse don’t report this potentially criminal behavior is that they don’t view it as cyberbullying. Instead, they consider it an online conflict.
This is especially true for young people and students who struggle to distinguish between bullying and conflict. They may not report a situation to adults or school administrators because they believe it’s just drama. It’ll resolve itself, so there’s no need to bring other people into the dispute.
Nevertheless, drama can easily turn into cyberbullying. That’s why you need to understand the difference between bullying and conflicts.
Conflicts are a type of argument or disagreement where both sides voice their opinions. Cyberbullying is negative behavior that aims to help the perpetrator assert power over other people.
An easy way to explain this to your child is to tell them that bullying is usually prolonged. It persists for days or weeks, and makes them feel uncomfortable due to embarrassing photos or inappropriate messages. If someone does this on purpose, they’re probably a cyberbully.
Other examples can also help a young person understand the difference better. For instance, online conflicts typically involve comments or emojis sent impulsively.
In contrast, cyberbullying includes sharing images or other content without permission. It can also involve targeting people in online games.
Either way, don’t take mean online interaction lightly, especially if it persists.
Children Fear Parents Will Take Their Devices Away
If your kid experiences cyberbullying from elementary or high school students but doesn’t report the behavior, they might be afraid you’ll take their phone away. If you’re inclined to do so, remember, you need to address cyberbullying, not the technology.
Confiscating your child’s cell phone or computer can help, but it shouldn’t be done without careful consideration. This technology lets young people connect in meaningful ways, explore various interests, and express creativity. As it plays such an important role, kids might not want to share their cyberbullying because they fear they’ll no longer be able to access the technology.
Don’t let this be the case in your family. Tell your child you recognize the importance of connecting with other people, but you also want them to feel safe. Clarify that they should go directly to you if they experience hurtful online interactions. Your joint response will help them stay connected while handling cyberbullying effectively.
The Reason They’re Bullied Is Personal
The digital world allows people to share just about anything. While this is incredibly useful, it’s also the main reason why users are harassed online.
Cyberbullies can record and share all your movements, which is particularly problematic if children are the victims. Combined with their developing decision-making skills, it can lead to dire consequences.
Your kid may have done something embarrassing and inappropriate. If it gets shared and ends up in the wrong hands, it can reach a wider audience. Cyberbullying is virtually inevitable in this case.
To make matters worse, your child might not want to talk to you about their bullying. They could be struggling with remorse, guilt, or other feelings.
You need to recognize this problem. Understand that children make mistakes, and public ridicule puts them in a tough spot.
If your young one is bullied because of some actions, ignore the actions for the time being. Nobody deserves to be harassed, so your first step should be to support your child.
Let them know you’re here for them. This helps them regain self-esteem while you make plans to address the harassment. Once you’ve dealt with the bullies, address the actions that caused the abuse.
Talking About Cyberbullying Is Hard
Combating cyberbullying is difficult by yourself. It’s even harder for children, so they’re advised to report the problem to an adult. It’s an excellent tip, but not every kid is ready to do so.
Some children find talking about emotional distress with adults uncomfortable. The last thing you want is to further lower their self-esteem. Instead, give them time and encourage them to speak with you when they’re prepared.
You can also use open-ended questions to get them to talk about the situation. Start by inquiring about their environment.
- How was today’s group discussion on Facebook?
- Were some children mean toward other members?
- If this elicits a reaction, ask questions that are more directly related to your kid.
- Are you afraid of starting a group discussion?
- Has anyone hurt you on Facebook or Instagram?
This should encourage them to report any cyberbullying. Once they do, tell them you’ll work out a solution together. They’ll feel safer and be less likely to mishandle their harasser.
Some Victims Believe They Need to Solve the Issue by Themselves
Dealing with cyberbullying is challenging because there’s a difference in power. The bully has the upper hand over the victim because they’re anonymous.
It gets worse if the perpetrator has a higher social status or attacks the victim in a group. Children believe they need to cope with the hackers on their own, but this can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the only way to tackle the harassment is through adult intervention.
Encourage your kid to pick up self-advocacy skills. In other words, tell them they should express their needs and wants to overcome obstacles more easily.
While youth shouldn’t address their online abuse by themselves, they should be fully involved in handling the situation. Self-advocacy is crucial, and allows kids to identify the desired scenario. This way, they’re an integral part of the decision-making process and they know what to do if cyberbullying recurs.
How Do You Address Online Bullying?
People bullied online are usually afraid. They may not even know they’re being abused until someone tells them. Hence, they may not do anything about it.
If you’re teased, harassed, or bullied online (or know another victim), you shouldn’t remain silent. Act quickly to address cyberbullying and prevent future instances.
Several options are available.
If you’re the victim of cyberbullying or know someone who is, your first reaction after being made aware of cyberbullying should be to report it to a trusted adult. Yes, this is easier said than done. Victims are typically embarrassed, so they are reluctant to report bullies. Some hesitate because they can’t tell who the perpetrator is.
All these are valid reasons, but they shouldn’t stop you from reporting the problem. Otherwise, the attacks can worsen, and the victim’s mental health can deteriorate if they don’t seek help.
The best way to address cyberbullying might be to talk to the police. They have advanced technology and databases that can help them discover the perpetrator more quickly.
If you’re not comfortable talking to the police, your family members should be your go-to option. Parents are usually overprotective and want to do everything in their power to protect their children from online threats. Thus, they can take major action to prevent cyberbullying.
If you’re being harassed and are worried about losing access to your computer or mobile apps, tell that to your parents. Explain the importance of keeping your electronic device and discuss a solution that doesn’t feel like punishment. You might need to negotiate your future computer or phone use, but the most important thing is to get the harassment under control.
Another option is to report cyberbullying to school officials.
If the harassment gets out of hand and affects your concentration or sleep, consider therapy. If that seems too daunting, find any trusted adult. Their input can be invaluable.
The most common advice used in real-life bullying also applies to the virtual world – walk away. Ignoring your bullies makes them less powerful. This isn’t easy, but it can alleviate your troubles.
If there’s upsetting content on the internet about you, try to shut down your phone or computer for a few hours. Avoid responding to the hurtful comments or behavior, and find a distraction until the situation settles. Do something to divert your thoughts from the harassment, like reading a book, watching a movie, going for a ride, or listening to music.
Taking breaks lets you stay calm and focused on all the good things you have going on. But more importantly, it gives you more time to determine how to address cyberbullying.
Another great thing about walking away is that it gives you space. This way, you won’t feel the need to interact with the bullies or respond to their hurtful behavior.
If you’re tempted to hit back at them, remember – responding when you’re upset can only make it worse. Standing up to the perpetrator is effective in traditional bullying, but cyberbullying is different. These attackers don’t face you in person, so they’re not afraid of potential consequences.
All responding does in online harassment is provoke the hacker and escalate the situation. By contrast, you can regain power by distancing yourself from the social media platform where you’re experiencing cyberbullying.
Although you shouldn’t respond to bullies, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save the evidence. Record proof of their behavior to prove the case to authorities.
There’s no need to keep all texts, emails, or other content across different social media websites. Save a copy or two to your flash drive, and you should be good to go.
Report the Bullying
While social media sites can leave room for cyberbullying, they also have robust security measures. They react seriously to mean or cruel posts. If you report your abuser, the administrators can block the hackers from using their platform.
This doesn’t apply to social media companies only. You can use this tactic with any provider.
For example, if you’re receiving malicious emails or texts, report the bullying behavior to your email (Google, Yahoo, etc.) or phone service provider (Verizon, T-Mobile).
Block the Bullies
Besides asking various providers to block cyberbullies, you might be able to block them on your own. Most digital devices feature settings that prevent bullies from sending messages. If you’re not sure how to find the settings, consult your device’s instruction manual. Alternatively, seek help from a knowledgeable adult.
Stay Safe Online
Once you post a message or photo, it can be hard to reverse your actions, depending on your social media. Keep this in mind when sharing content online or responding to upsetting messages.
In addition, follow these safety practices to minimize the risk of cyberbullying.
- Protect your devices and social media accounts with passwords. Change them often to increase protection, and only share it with trusted people.
- Think twice before posting personal information and videos.
- Don’t share images, videos, and other information with strangers.
How Do You Protect Yourself from Cyberbullying?
Like any other cyberattack, cyberbullying can be prevented. Here’s how.
Protect Your Devices and Social Media Accounts
Your social media platform should have privacy settings and tools. Familiarize yourself with these features to learn how to keep your account private. You can also find out how to stop other users from sharing your photos by requiring your approval. This way, personal content is less likely to end up on other accounts or pages.
The best way to protect your social media accounts is to set up passwords. You should do the same on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and computer.
If your child has created passwords, make sure they don’t share them with anyone, not even their best friend. Who knows, they may change schools or move to another city, and they may no longer be friends.for
You should also log out of your email platform and social media apps when your session is over. Simply closing the tabs isn’t enough. Malicious actors could easily revisit the page after you get up from your computer and hack your network. If they change your password, you might be in for a world of trouble.
Some platforms encourage you to share your information, but avoid doing so unless it’s essential. The list includes your address, last name, phone number, and email address. If you make it available, cyberbullies will be able to target you easily.
Likewise, tell your children not to share their location with friends. It provides detailed data about their whereabouts, which can attract abusive people. The only person who should have access to their location is you.
Don’t Post Content Recklessly
Impulsive comments or posts are perfect gateways for cyberbullying. Hence, always think twice about posting something before publishing it online.
Even if you post something and delete it, someone may have already seen it and taken a screenshot. Exploiting your recklessness is easy in this case. You’re much better off taking a deep breath before responding to mean comments.
Another great way to manage your posting is to schedule your content. Rather than put together a quick post and publish it immediately, use the platform’s settings to put the content online later. Accordingly, you can delete or edit your post before it’s live.
Limit the Time Your Child Spends Online
You shouldn’t have difficulty controlling your time spent online. You probably have work-related projects or other obligations that take up most of your day.
However, the story is different with children. They can easily spend 5-6 hours a day on social media. During this period, they may post selfies or other content that attracts cyberbullies. The more they publish, the more material cyberbullies have to work with.
To avoid this scenario, limit the time your teenager can spend on social networks. Remind them that there are much better things to do, like go outside and play sports. That way, they’ll be more likely to set personal boundaries on how long and how often they use the internet.
Perform an Audit
Every couple of months, talk to your kid and examine their accounts. Discuss what they should delete to prevent cyberbullies from taking advantage of their posts.
Besides deterring harassment, it also enables your teenager to keep presentable posts and images. Future employers and colleges appreciate these, as they reflect your child’s personality.
You can use this opportunity to teach them how to use social platforms to be creative. Who knows – one day, they might build a network of their own where they’ll feel safer from cyberbullies.
Don’t Fall Victim to Malicious Actors
While traditional bullying is incredibly damaging, cyberbullying might be even more dangerous. This is especially true today, as most of us use the internet to find jobs and meet new people. Sharing images and posts is great, but be careful what other people can access. Abusers can exploit even the tiniest weakness and ruin your reputation.
This holds for your children too. Teach them how to deter cyberbullies and stay on the lookout for changes in their behavior. If you notice anything suspicious, discuss the problem immediately. This helps prevent the situation from escalating and saves your young one a lot of pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is trolling considered cyberbullying?
Trolling involves internet users that seek out people to intentionally upset them with inflammatory comments. It’s usually not considered cyberbullying, but it can be if it features harmful content.
What should you do if a friend is bullying you?
If your friend is bullying you, tell them they should stop, and that their actions bother you. If they persist, block them and report them to corresponding social media administrators.
How do you address workplace cyberbullying?
The best way to manage workplace cyberbullying is to keep copies of all the harassment. Talk to the bully, but if that doesn’t work, report them to your HR department.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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