According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, about half of young people have experienced cyberbullying in one form or another at least once, and between 10% and 20% of them are regularly bullied online. In other words, there is a strong chance this affects you, whether as a victim, a witness, or as a bully.
Cyberbullying is a very damaging and deadly ‘game’ to play. The suffering inflicted is very real and long-lasting. Being better equipped to respond when you encounter cyberbullying can therefore be helpful.
What is cyberbullying?
This term describes different types of online abuse, including harassment, bullying, attacks on reputation (for example, via fake profiles or dissemination of false information) and revenge pornography. Cyberbullies can use any connected device — such as computers, consoles, cell phones — to harass, stalk or abuse another person. Although cyberbullying is usually connected with social media, it is frequently seen on forums, blogs, online video games, or emails.
Advice for victims
Remember – this situation is not your fault, you are not alone and help is available.
Talk about this issue with trusted adults. Parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, etc. are there to listen and support you.
Remember that online resources are also available. Web sites such as Kids Helpline, Kids Help Phone, UK’s National Bullying Helpline do not only offer advice, but also provide contacts for counseling services. Some these support lines are available 24/7. Other resources may also be available in your area; don’t be afraid to seek them out as they are all there to offer help.
Keep all the evidence (printed or virtual copies) of cyberbullying. This can include emails, blog posts, social media messages and text messages.
The most important thing — even if it is difficult — is not to respond to any of these messages and leave the interaction in question.
Depending on the platform, there are many ways you can report bullying and prevent your bully from getting in touch with you. It is also helpful to contact your telecommunications provider to block certain phone numbers, if needed.
If you face criminal behavior or threats, do not hesitate to contact the police directly. If you don’t know how to do it, you can ask someone you trust to help you make contact with them.
This short video summarizes some of the tips that might help you if you are facing cyberbullying.
I am a witness: What can I do?
While having fun on your favorite website, looking at your social media or chatting with friends and you feel like something’s wrong. One or several people harass, humiliate or threaten others. What can you do?
A Canadian study on cyberbullying conducted by MediaSmarts in 2014 (Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) examined the issue. If you want to intervene, you’re not alone. In fact, 65% of the 5,436 Canadian students from grades 4 to 11 surveyed said that they would do something to intervene against the actions of a cyberbully. That’s good news!
There are several reasons why you might hesitate to react, such as fear of becoming the target of cyberbullying, jeopardizing your social status, or worsening the situation. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand how to support the victim without the risk of unintentionally causing more harm.
The website, BullyingUK, offers a list of useful tips that you can use when helping and supporting victims of bullying. For example:
- Insist that no one deserves to be treated in this way and that they have done nothing wrong;
- Make sure they know they can get help;
- Invite them to confide in a teacher, parent, health professional or worker to feel safe;
- Take screenshots of cyberbullying so they have proof that it is happening;
- Report all abuses to the relevant social media networks using the reporting features of these platforms;
- Congratulate them on their courage and talk about things that will hopefully help them get help.
What if my friend is a cyberbully?
Taking action is never easy. The situation can get even more complicated if it’s your friend who is intimidating someone else. However, even in this scenario you can find advice online. For example, Get Cyber Safe, developed by the Government of Canada, offers various solutions, as does the kidshealth.org website.
As one of the options, you can take your friend aside to discuss your concerns. Without belittling or seeking confrontation, clearly explain that cyberbullying is not acceptable, and that it can have serious consequences, not only for the bully but also for the victims, their family and friends.
If you are worried by the cyberbullying you witness but are uncomfortable talking directly to your friend, you can discuss it with an adult you trust, a counselor who specializes in this area, or consult some of the resources mentioned earlier.
If you suspect someone’s safety is at risk, don’t hesitate to reach out to a teacher or directly to the police.
Bullying, whether it takes place face-to-face or online, is always a sensitive issue that can be very difficult to address and it is a subject that affects everyone, despite the feeling of isolation that it can cause, remember you are not alone. Cyberbullying reveals one of the really dark sides of technology, but help is available via the digital resources mentioned in this article.
written by Gabrielle Ladouceur Despins, ESET We Live Security