Cyberbullying is a new type of bullying that arose with the introduction of email, texting, and social networks such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. StopBullying.gov describes cyberbulling as:
- Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
- Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
- Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others
This type of bullying takes place at all hours of the day and does not require the bully and their victim to interact in the physical world. Sometimes the bully can act anonymously so the victim doesn’t even know who the bully is. The mean messages can be sent repeatedly to harass the victim and can even be automated. As a result, the victim can feel that there is no safe place to avoid the bully or bullies and will fear that their reputation is being ruined.
The first thing you have to remember about cyberbullies is that they are cowards. They strike from a distance and the anonymous bullies are the greatest cowards. There are people who occasionally want to post mean messages in response to my articles. They are not wanting to discuss differences of opinion but just want to insult me and move on. In the Internet world they are called trolls and most bloggers just ignore them because they obviously have nothing good to contribute to the conversation.
It is more difficult when the person attacking you is doing so in school and online. Victims of cyberbullying may not want to go to school to hear how others responded to the online attacks and may start to feel bad about themselves. As with bullies in the physical world, there are some things you can do (much of the advice was from StopBullying.gov).
- Don’t Start the Bullying. Be careful what you say online about other people. Some people start bullying because they think they were wronged by someone and they are lashing out immaturely. Don’t reveal anything that might embarrass others (even if it is true) or to put another person down. The old advice of “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all” is wise online.
- Don’t Reveal Anything Embarrassing About Yourself. Don’t post secrets or other things that you wouldn’t want everyone in school to know. Don’t take immodest pictures of yourself and certainly don’t post such pictures! Once information is published you have no control over where it goes.
- Restrict Your Friends List and Followers. Make sure your privacy settings on social networks only reveal things to your friends. Stalkers look for public pages for victims so there is more reason than just cyberbullying to restrict your posts and pictures to friends. Keep your tweets private and only share with your friends. This will allow you to control what is placed on your wall and who sees your information.
- Do Not Retaliate. If someone starts cyberbullying, do not respond online!! Do not allow them to draw you into a fight. Deal with the problem offline.
- Block the Cyberbully. Thankfully the technology exists to block phone numbers and social network users. Stop them from accessing your accounts or phone if possible.
- Report the Cyberbully. As with other bullying, get the adults involved. Most online services have rules against using their services to attack others. Reporting the abuse to the service provider will often get the account suspended while the provider investigates the user’s posts. If they find that there is abuse they will close the account. School officials will also want to confront the bully to stop them from attacking others as well and perhaps help the bully get counseling to help them to quit their abuse.
- Seek Help. Get help from adults to deal with the emotional effects of the bullying. Even though you know what the person said wasn’t true, it sometimes helps to have someone who is older and more experienced to help you deal with any lingering effects of the bully’s actions and to put it behind you.
For all bullying, there is a wealth of helpful information online. Do a Google search and discuss some of the things that you find with your parents. The adults who love you want to help you and often you can help them by educating them on how they can assist.
What advice would you give others for dealing with cyberbullies?