Cyberbullying AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
Cyberbullying is when someone is harassed, threatened or targeted online.
Online bullying can lead to severe anxiety and fear, negatively impact our mental health and have an effect on our daily routines. That’s why all cases of bullying, whether small or big, need to be dealt with properly.
How do I know I’m being cyberbullied?
It can be difficult to distinguish between jokes and insults online, but it is necessary to keep in mind that repeated threats and insults are not jokes or impulsive comments – they definitely count as cyberbullying. The same goes for content posted about you, without your consent.
Anything that makes you uncomfortable or hurts you, is worth speaking up about, regardless of who is behind those comments.
What should I do?
You don’t have to deal with cyberbullies alone. If you or anyone you know are experiencing cyberbullying – always report any upsetting posts and speak with an adult.
If the bullying is occurring on social media – many platforms have ‘reporting’ functions in place to block bullies from using the site in the future. If it’s through texts or emails, blocking the sender will ensure that they can no longer contact you.
If the bully is anonymous, reporting the incident can help in tracking down the person behind the screen.
Can’t I just ignore it?
Though the comments may seem meaningless at first, bullying may worsen if not dealt with. Should the bullying continue, speaking to someone you trust will ensure that you find the help you need to stop the situation from escalating.
If you feel hesitant and don’t wish to discuss the situation with someone immediately, take a moment to walk away. Although easier said than done, finding ways to distract yourself and spending time offline can help you figure out how you feel and what you want to do.
Talking to someone can be difficult – you may feel embarrassed by what the bully is posting about you. In such cases, remember to be kind to yourself. Just because something has been posted about you online doesn’t mean that it is true.
The same goes for when you know of someone else being bullied. Standing up for your friends helps them feel supported. Speaking up sooner rather than later can help stop the bullying before any additional harm is done.
What if I fire back at the bully?
Responding to a bully may seem like an effective way to assert yourself and show them that you will not back down. However, bullies often want a reaction. Engaging with a bully can lead to further provocation and escalation. Again, try to take a break, go offline, and find a distraction that will help you center yourself.
By taking a breather, and momentarily removing yourself from the situation, you are taking back control. You allow yourself the time to breathe and process. This will help you figure out how you want to handle the situation, in a way that is effective, safe and beneficial for you.
Remember to save any content and messages the bully sends you – this can be useful in the future, if needed. You can save the screenshots on a separate file, so that you need not be constantly reminded of them.
What if I or my friends have bullied someone?
Sometimes, we end up bullying others as a way to deal with our own frustration, anger or sadness. It is not uncommon for victims of bullying to become bullies themselves, in an attempt to feel powerful.
If you have bullied someone, try talking to a trusted adult to express your feelings. Understanding why you bully and the feelings behind your actions, will help prevent you from repeating your behavior.
Recognizing your actions and the impact they have is difficult. However, be proud of yourself for wanting to change and do better. Remind yourself that having bullied someone in the past, does not have to mean that you become a bully for life.
If possible, try apologizing to the person you bullied. However, remember that they may not necessarily accept your apology – and that’s okay. You can’t force them to forgive you, however, you can stay true to your apology and be mindful of your actions in the future.
The same goes for when someone we love and are close to is the one doing the bullying – whether its towards us, or someone else.
Though difficult, try and talk to your friend to explain why their actions are not okay. Discuss the consequences of bullying – for both the victim and the bully. In certain cases, bullying can become a legal issue.
Be prepared for possible reactions from your friend – they may not understand immediately, or they may get upset, go into denial, or feel ashamed by their actions. Remind yourself that it is not your responsibility to change your friend’s behavior.
Mutual respect and understanding are important in any relationship – if your friendship negatively impacts your mental health, it is okay to want to take a step back and focus on yourself. It can be painful to realize how our loved ones negatively impact us, and especially overwhelming to distance ourselves from such an environment. However, it is important to always honor your boundaries and do what is best for you.
How else can I stay safe online?
Always password protect your devices and accounts. Keep strong passwords, and change them often. Don’t share your password with anyone except a parent or guardian.
Be careful while sharing any personal information online that can be used to identify you.
Think twice before posting – once something has been shared online, it can be saved and re-posted even if the original post has been deleted. The same goes for when sending someone a text or image – will they be responsible with the content you’ve shared with them?
Remember to be mindful and kind – not impulsive.