Despite all the good that the internet has brought to students, parents, teachers and practically almost all walks of life, there are people who use it with malicious intent and when the use of internet becomes widespread so as bullying online also started.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to stalk, intimidate, shame, or target another person. Online threats and mean, aggressive, or rude texts, tweets, posts, or messages all count. So does posting personal information, pictures, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass someone else.
Cyberbullying also includes photos, messages, or pages that don’t get taken down, even after the person has been asked to do so. In other words, it’s anything that gets posted online and is meant to hurt, harass, or upset someone else.
Intimidation or mean comments that focus on things like a person’s gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, or physical differences count as discrimination, which is against the law in many states. That means the police could get involved, and bullies may face serious penalties.
Cyberbullying can be particularly damaging and upsetting because it’s usually anonymous or hard to trace. It’s also hard to control, and the person being victimized has no idea how many people (or hundreds of people) have seen the messages or posts.
People can be tormented nonstop whenever they check their device or computer.
Cyberbullying and harassment can be easier to commit than other acts of bullying because the bully doesn’t have to confront his or her target in person.
It is also like in-person bullying in two key ways. It’s done on purpose, and it tends to happen more than once.
Cyber bullying can lead to serious long-lasting problems. The stress of being in a constant state of upset or fear can lead to problems with mood, energy level, sleep, and appetite.
It also can make someone feel jumpy, anxious, or sad. If someone is already depressed or anxious, cyberbullying can make things much worse.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
- Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
- Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
- Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
- Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
- Online gaming communities
Different Kinds of Cyberbullying
There are many ways that someone can fall victim to or experience cyberbullying when using technology and the internet. Some common methods of cyberbullying are:
Harassment – When someone is being harassed online, they are being subjected to a string of abusive messages or efforts to contact them by one person or a group of people. People can be harassed through social media as well as through their mobile phone (texting and calling) and email. Most of the contact the victim will receive will be of a malicious or threatening nature.
Doxing – Doxing is when an individual or group of people distribute another person’s personal information such as their home address, cell phone number or place of work onto social media or public forums without that person’s permission to do so. Doxing can cause the victim to feel extremely anxious and it can affect their mental health.
Cyberstalking – Similar to harassment, cyberstalking involves the perpetrator making persistent efforts to gain contact with the victim, however this differs from harassment – more commonly than not, people will cyberstalk another person due to deep feelings towards that person, whether they are positive or negative. Someone who is cyberstalking is more likely to escalate their stalking into the offline world.
Revenge porn – Revenge porn, is when sexually explicit or compromising images of a person have been distributed onto social media or shared on revenge porn specific websites without their permission to do so. Normally, images of this nature are posted by an ex-partner, who does it with the purpose of causing humiliation and damage to their reputation.
Swatting – Swatting is when someone calls emergency responders with claims of dangerous events taking place at an address. People swat others with the intention of causing panic and fear when armed response units arrive at their home or place of work. Swatting is more prevalent within the online gaming community.
Corporate attacks – In the corporate world, attacks can be used to send masses of information to a website in order to take the website down and make it non-functional. Corporate attacks can affect public confidence, damaging businesses reputations and in some instances, force them to collapse.
Account hacking – Cyberbullies can hack into a victim’s social media accounts and post abusive or damaging messages. This can be particularly damaging for brands and public figures.
False profiles – Fake social media accounts can be setup with the intention of damaging a person or brand’s reputation. This can easily be done by obtaining publicly available images of the victim and making the account appear as authentic as possible.
Slut shaming – Slut shaming is when someone is called out and labelled as a “slut” for something that they have done previously or even just how they dress. This kind of cyberbullying often occurs when someone has been sexting another person and their images or conversations become public. It is seen more commonly within young people and teenagers but anyone can fall victim to being slut shamed.
Why Do People Do It?
Why would someone be a cyberbully? There are probably as many reasons as there are bullies themselves.
Sometimes, what seems like online harassment may be accidental. The impersonal nature of text messages, posts, and other ways of communicating online means it can be hard to figure out if someone is joking or not.
Most people know when they’re being bullied, though, because bullying involves repeated insults or threats. The people doing the bullying know they’ve crossed a line, too. It’s not a one-off joke or insult — it’s constant harassment and threats that go beyond typical fun teasing or a nasty comment made in anger.
Some of the most common reasons are:
They’ve been cyberbullied themselves – Someone may choose to cyberbully another person because they have been through cyberbullying themselves. They might feel like it’s okay to treat people in that way or find that it is the only way to express their own pain.
To fit in – If someone sees another person being cyberbullied by a group of people, they may feel that by participating, they will ‘fit in’ or develop a new group of friends themselves.
Home life – The perpetrator may be having a difficult home life and misplace their anger and frustration onto someone else. Most of the time, this will happen when the cyberbully doesn’t have anyone to talk to about what they are going through.
Power – Someone may choose to cyberbully in order to feel powerful and have the ability to control a situation.
Jealously – Jealously is one of the most common reasons for cyberbullying, especially for teenagers and young people. Growing up as teenager can be a difficult time as young people are discovering themselves, and they may feel insecure about their appearance. Because they feel insecure, they might compare themselves to their peers which can result in envy based cyberbullying and abuse.
Cyberbullying and video games – Online gaming has grown rapidly over the last few years. This boom has also seen a rise in online players reporting toxicity and abuse when gaming online. Online gamers have the ability to talk to other users through the use of a microphone to chat – this can be used to encourage teamwork, build friendships and improve the overall gaming experience in general. Some players take advantage of this technology and use it to abuse players through verbal abuse or text/messaging abuse.
How to protect yourself from cyberbullying
Sometimes, people are afraid or not sure if they’re being bullied or not. So they don’t do anything about it. If you’re being bullied, harassed, or teased in a hurtful way — or know someone who is — you don’t have to suffer in silence. In fact, you absolutely should report any upsetting texts, messages, posts, or emails.
Tell someone. Most experts agree: The first thing to do is tell an adult you trust. This is often easier said than done. People who are cyberbullied may feel embarrassed or reluctant to report a bully. Some may hesitate because they’re not 100% sure who is doing the bullying.
Most parents are so concerned about protecting their kids that sometimes they focus on taking major steps to stop the bullying. If you’re being bullied and worry about losing your phone or computer privileges, explain your fears to your parents. Let them know how important it is to stay connected, and work with them to figure out a solution that doesn’t leave you feeling punished as well as picked on.
You also can talk to your school counselor or a trusted teacher or family member. If the bullying feels like it’s really getting you down (like if it’s affecting your sleep or concentration), therapy can help.
Walk away. What you’ve heard about walking away from a real-life bully works in the virtual world too. Ignoring bullies is the best way to take away their power, but it isn’t always easy to do — in the real world or online.
If you see something upsetting, try to step away from the computer or turn off your phone for a while. Don’t respond, and never forward the message to someone else. Find something to distract yourself from what’s going on. Do something you love.
Resist the urge to retaliate or respond. Walking away or taking a break when you’re faced with online bullying gives you some space so you won’t be tempted to fire back a response or engage with the bully or bullies. Responding when we’re upset can make things worse
Although it’s not a good idea to respond to a bully, it is a good idea to save evidence of the bullying if you can. It can help you prove your case, if needed.
Report bullying. Social media sites take it seriously when people post cruel or mean stuff or set up fake accounts. If users report abuse, the site administrator may block the bully from using the site in the future. Block the bully. Most devices have settings that let you electronically block the bully or bullies from sending notes. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a friend or adult who does.
Be safe online. Password protect your smartphone and your online sites, and change your passwords often. Be sure to share your passwords only with your parent or guardian. It’s also wise to think twice before sharing personal information or photos/videos that you don’t want the world to see.
If someone you know is a bully
If you know of a friend who is acting as a cyberbully, take him or her aside and talk about it. Without putting your friend down, stand up for your own principles: Let the bully know it’s not OK.
Explain to your friend that bullying can have serious consequences: for the bully, for those being bullied, and even for bystanders like you and your friends.
What Are the Consequences of Cyberbullying?
Sometimes, online bullying, like other kinds of bullying, it is not just the person being bullied who gets hurt. The punishment for cyberbullies can be serious. More and more schools and after-school programs are creating systems to respond to cyberbullying. Schools may dismiss bullies from sports teams or suspend them from school. Some types of cyberbullying may violate school codes or even break anti-discrimination or sexual harassment laws. So a bully may face serious legal trouble.