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The technology advanced world we live in today gives us the ability to connect with people all over the world in a matter of just seconds. We can comment, respond, like, and follow people we know personally as well as those we don’t, and we have all experienced things “going viral” on the internet due to a large number of views, shares, and likes. Along with all of these amazing benefits of the internet come some downsides, of course. One such negative of the information age is having to deal with cyberbullying. While this issue is most prominent among teens, it can affect those younger and older as well, including adults even. Although most people are blindsided by their first experience with cyberbullying, all students and adults can be educated, proactive, and prepared should they ever need to deal with cyberbullying for themselves, a child, or a friend. Be sure that you and those you love understand what exactly cyberbullying is, the effects it can have on those involved, and some ways to respond to instances of cyberbullying.
What Exactly Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is just like regular bullying in that it involves threatening, humiliation, harassment, and other mean behaviors, but it is done primarily online or through some sort of technological device or platform. Cyberbullying can take place on one or many social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or SnapChat. It can consist of instant messages, text messages, or emails sent between students, either directly to the victim or to other students about the victim. Usually, cyberbullying occurs between two or more individuals who know each other in real life, such as peers at school or members of the same team. However, some instances of cyberbullying can take place between individuals who meet or interact online only. Either way, cyberbullying can be incredibly challenging for those targeted because nowhere will seem safe. They can be attacked or bullied in a variety of ways and at any time, and places or things that once seemed safe and comfortable to them can become threatening and stressful due to a cyberbully. Additionally, it’s important to note that cyberbullying is not always just one person attacking another. Oftentimes, more than one student may be involved in the bullying, even if just passively. For example, one student begins commenting humiliating and mean comments on another student’s Facebook page. While that one student may be the only one actually commenting, other students liking or sharing the mean comments become involved as bullies.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect Those Involved?
Being bullied in any form is not fun. It can leave individuals feeling sad, lonely, isolated, targeted, hopeless, fearful, and anxious. Even the cyberbullies can experience some of these feelings, as they most likely are bullying others due to a personal issue that they are facing. Whether the cyberbullying is one student towards or another, the entire class is aware of what’s going on online, or the cyberbullying is taking place on a large scale with countless strangers getting in on it, it can have hugely detrimental effects and should be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible. Some individuals deal with extreme anxiety and even clinical depression due to cyberbullying, and they can even have a slew of new health concerns crop up seemingly out of nowhere. More frequent and severe sicknesses, sleeplessness and insomnia, extreme fatigue, and mental health concerns are commonly associated with cyberbullying. Some individuals even struggle with suicidal thoughts or actions due to being bullied, so it needs to be taken very seriously in each and every situation.
How Should I Respond to Cyberbullying?
Depending on the specifics of the cyberbullying, there are a number of options for how to actually deal with it. These tips may not apply to every situation, but they can give those affected by cyberbullying a starting point to get the issue resolved.
Talk to Someone Trustworthy
This is the first thing to do when you’re dealing with cyberbullying. Find a trusted adult who will take your concerns seriously and share with them what is going on. Take screenshots of conversations, save emails, and have proof of the cyberbullying so that your trustworthy confidant can help you know how best to proceed. If the cyberbullying has occurred a few times versus several, is rude versus threatening, and so on can help you and your trustworthy adult to decide what to do about it. Don’t let your bully win by silencing you—you need to talk to someone about it so that something can be done and so that you don’t let it eat away at you and stress you out in secret.
Confront the Cyberbully
This may be your first step in getting the bully to back down, but it’s best to confront them in a way that is safe and is encouraged and approved by a trusted adult. Keep in mind that confronting isn’t necessarily just about responding to a rude comment or being hateful back. It might be about sending them a direct message asking them to stop or it may even be about setting up a face-to-face meeting with the individual. Again, this should be done safely and with adult supervision. Confronting the cyberbully can often be very effective in getting them to stop because cyberbullies usually like being hidden behind their computers and phones, and they may feel invincible in that way. As soon as you acknowledge that you know who they are and call them out, they are likely to back down.
If confronting doesn’t work or if the bully thinks that he or she is anonymous but isn’t, you can take another step and expose them. This doesn’t have to be done vengefully, but it can be done in a way where you simply acknowledge that you know who they are. If you have a personal relationship with this person, you may wish to talk to his or her parents, teachers, siblings, or other individuals who have authority in his or her life. Again, cyberbullies enjoy the anonymity and supposed safety of bullying online, so they will often stop immediately when confronted or exposed.
Block Them & Report Them
Some websites have strict rules and regulations regarding how patrons can interact with one another. If a bully is breaking these rules, you should absolutely report them to the internet service provider and/or the website involved. If you go to school with the cyberbully, talk to a teacher, counselor, or administrator at your school about the situation. Schools usually have behavior codes that include online interactions and even though the end goal is not getting the bully in big trouble, he or she may need more motivation to stop and that can come from consequences at home and school. At the same time, you can block the cyberbully to avoid interactions online. This isn’t a way of saying you’re afraid of them or that they’ve intimidated you, but there’s no use in dealing with them online if you don’t have to. Remove them as a friend or follower, or simply block them so they cannot comment, like, or share anything with you or from you.
Remain Hopeful & Don’t Let Fear Get the Best of You
No matter how severe your situation is with cyberbullying, try your best to stay hopeful and believe in a resolution. Don’t let your fear get the best of you and don’t let your cyberbully silence you out of fear of more bullying. Talk to a trusted adult, confront and expose the bully if necessary, and do your best to not let their words and comments get the best of you. Remember that you are not defined by what other people say or think about you, and you can rise above any hurtful or difficult circumstance to live a happy and hopeful life.