Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to schoolyards or street corners. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere, even at home, via email, texts, mobile phones, and social media websites 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with potentially hundreds of people involved. For those who suffer cyberbullying, the effects can be devastating, leaving you feeling hurt, humiliated, angry, depressed, or even suicidal. But no type of bullying should ever be tolerated. These tips can help you protect yourself or your child online and deal with the growing problem of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying occurs when a child or teen or more worrying adults use the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology to harass, threaten, or humiliate another person. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying doesn't require physical strength or face-to-face contact and isn't limited to just a handful of witnesses at a time. Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes—almost anyone with an Internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else, often without having to reveal their true identity. cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.
The methods people use to cyberbully can be as varied and imaginative as the technology they have access to. It ranges from sending threatening or taunting messages via email, text, or IM to breaking into your email account or stealing your online identity to hurt and humiliate you. Some cyberbullies may even create a website or social media page to target you.
As with traditional bullying, both boys and girls cyberbully, but tend to do so in different ways. Boys tend to bully by "sexting" (sending messages of a sexual nature) or with messages that threaten physical harm. Girls, on the other hand, more commonly cyberbully by spreading lies and rumors, exposing your secrets, or by excluding you from emails, buddy lists, or other electronic communication. Because cyberbullying is so easy to perpetrate, a person can easily change roles, going from cyberbullying victim at one point to cyberbully the next, and then back again.
Any type of bullying can make you feel hurt, angry, helpless, isolated, even suicidal, or lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In many cases, cyberbullying can be even more painful than face-to-face bullying because:
- Cyberbullying can happen anywhere at any
time, even in places where you normally feel safe, such as your home,
and at times you'd least expect, such as at the weekend in the company
of your family. It can seem like there's no escape from the taunting and
- A lot of cyberbullying can be done
anonymously, so you may not be sure who is targeting you. This can make
you feel even more threatened and can embolden bullies, as they believe
online anonymity means they're less likely to get caught. Since
cyberbullies can't see your reaction, they will often go much further in
their harassment or ridicule than they would do face-to-face with you.
- Cyberbullying can be witnessed by potentially thousands of people. Emails can be forwarded to hundreds of people while social media posts or website comments can often be seen by anyone. The more far-reaching the bullying, the more humiliating it can become.
If you are targeted by cyberbullies, it's important not to respond to any messages or posts written about you, no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse and provoking a reaction from you is exactly what the cyberbullies want, so don't give them the satisfaction.
It's also very important that you don't seek revenge on a cyberbully by becoming a cyberbully yourself. Again, it will only make the problem worse and could result in serious legal consequences for you. If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online.
Instead, respond to cyberbullying by:
Saving the evidence of the cyberbullying,
keep abusive text messages or a screenshot of a webpage, for example,
and then report them.
Reporting threats of harm and inappropriate sexual messages to the police. In many cases, the cyberbully's actions can be prosecuted by law.
Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents. It's far more
likely to be a sustained attack on you over a period of time. So, like
the cyberbully, you may have to be relentless and keep reporting each
and every bullying incident until it stops. There is no reason for you
to ever put up with cyberbullying.
- Preventing communication from the cyberbully, by blocking their email address, cell phone number, and deleting them from social media contacts. Report their activities to their internet service provider (ISP) or to any social media or other web sites they use to target you. The cyberbully’s actions may constitute a violation of the website’s terms of service or, depending on the laws in your area, may even warrant criminal charges.
If you are being cyberbullied, remember:
Don't blame yourself.
It is not your fault. No matter what a cyberbully says or does, you
should not be ashamed of who you are or what you feel. The cyberbully is
the person with the problem, not you.
Try to view cyberbullying from a different perspective.
The cyberbully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have
control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don't
give them the satisfaction.
Don't beat yourself up.
Don't make a cyberbullying incident worse by dwelling on it or reading
the message over and over. Instead, delete any cyberbullying messages
and focus on positive experiences. There are many wonderful things about
you so be proud of who you are.
Get help. Talk to a friend , teacher, counselor, or other trusted person. Seeing a counselor
does not mean there is something wrong with you.
Learn to deal with stress.
Finding ways to relieve stress can make you more resilient so you won't
feel overwhelmed by cyberbullying. Exercise, meditation, positive
self-talk, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises are all good ways
to manage the stress from cyberbullying.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy. The more time you spend with activities that bring you pleasure—sports, hobbies, hanging out with friends who don't participate in cyberbullying, for example—the less significance cyberbullying will have on your life.
Find support from those who don't cyberbully:
Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will boost your resilience when being cyberbullied. Reach out to connect with family and real friends or explore ways of making new friends. There are plenty of people who will love and appreciate you for who you are.
Unplug from technology. Taking a break from your computer, tablet, iPod, video games, and cell phone can open you up to meeting new people.
Find others who share your same values and interests.
You may be able to make friends at a youth group, book club, or
religious organisation. Learn a new sport, join a team, or take up a new
hobby such as dance, art, or music.
Share your feelings about bullying.
Talk to a friend, counselor, colleague, religious leader, or trusted
friend. Expressing what you're going through can make a huge difference
to the way you feel, even if it doesn't change the situation.
Boost your confidence.
Exercise is a great way to help you feel good about yourself, as well
as reduce stress. Punch a mattress or take a kick boxing class to work
off your anger.