People under a certain age won’t remember when communication had to be done in person or with a phone. The internet changed that, allowing us to send messages and files to each other instantly. Then, social media came along which made it even easier for us to communicate with other people no matter how far away they might be.
The ability to communicate easily and instantly has its obvious advantages, but it’s not without its disadvantages. One of the biggest internet-related issues that society faces is cyberbullying. It’s just so easy for bullies to say whatever they like to other people when behind a keyboard, especially considering around 64% of cases don’t get reported.
A Widespread Issue
Cyberbullying is prevalent in societies around the world. Indeed, a UNICEF poll showed that more than one-third of people under the age of 24 have experienced cyberbullying. In Thailand, a study showed that around 43% of Thais aged between 12 and 24 have been victims of online bullying.
These statistics make it likely that you know somebody who has been a victim of cyberbullying. They also mean you’re likely to know at least one person who has been a victim of cyberbullying.
But did you know that you might even be a cyberbully yourself? A lot of people are guilty of cyberbullying themselves without even realizing it – unintentionally posting content that is harmful to other people.
To help prevent cyberbullying, whether intentional or unintentional, it helps to understand just what cyberbullying is, what the different types of cyberbullying are, and what you can do to avoid it.
What is Cyberbullying?
Bullying is typically defined as an act that has malicious intent against another individual. A bully typically sets out to harm their victim, whether physically or mentally. Cyberbullying is bullying another person using ‘cyber’ technology, with social media platforms like Facebook being one of the most commonly used tools.
So, how can somebody accidentally cyberbully if they intend no malice in their actions?
Whether or not a person is being bullied depends not on the intentions of the bully, but the perception of the recipient. Even if a text message is meant with good intentions, it can still be perceived as an attack by the recipient depending on the context and what the message says. Such messages can be devastating to another person’s well-being, even if the message was well-intended.
What are the Types of Cyber Bullying?
10 different types of cyberbullying have been recognized. You might be committing one without realizing it.
Humans are a social species and are reliant on being involved with groups of other people. If you leave people out of message threads or don’t invite them to groups, for example, it can be pretty hard for them to take. Exclusion will sometimes occur simply because somebody didn’t think to invite a certain person.
Trolling is another common form of cyberbullying, with around 65% of young adults claiming to have been trolled at some point. Trolling involves actions that are designed to get an emotional response from another person. Trolls tend not to have a personal relationship with their victims, often choosing to target strangers instead.
Flaming is similar to trolling in that it’s intended to get a response from the victim. With this type of cyberbullying, however, the bully will post insults and other inflammatory content to try and anger their victim to draw them into an argument.
Fraping is a form of bullying that is often intended to be harmless fun. It involves accessing the victim’s social media accounts (often by chance) and posting messages and other content on the account pretending to be the victim. Even if it is intended to be harmless it can still be very harmful if something goes wrong.
Doxing involves revealing personal information about a person without their consent. This might be in the form of personal photographs the victim would rather other people didn’t see, or maybe passing on email addresses or phone numbers so other people can use them for nefarious purposes.
Dissing involves the bully spreading malicious information about their victim with the intent of harming them in some way. In this type of cyberbullying, the bully is often well-known to their victim.
Masquerading can be thought of as a more sinister variety of fraping. The bully will typically create an online account in the name of their victim and post content pretending to be them. The intention is usually to post negative or controversial content that will tarnish the victim’s reputation.
Trickery involves the bully using deception to gain the trust of their victim. They will then use this trust to gain access to personal information about their victim, which is then shared without the victim’s consent with the intention of harming the victim.
A sustained pattern of attacks on the victim can be considered harassment. Harassment is typically intended with malice and can become a very serious issue, potentially causing psychological and even physical harm.
Cyberstalking is perhaps the most serious form of online cyberbullying. Cyberstalking will often involve threats and accusation against the victim and will also often involve offline stalking. The victim will sometimes be targeted physically. Cyberstalking is considered a serious criminal offence in many countries.
The Impact of Cyber Bullying on Victims
Cyberbullying is something that should not be taken lightly. It might be easy to brush it off as just a bit of fun or harmless banter among friends, but in reality, its effects can be devastating on its victims.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who are bullied are at increased risk of suffering from anxiety and depression. Bullying can also cause the victim to have difficulty sleeping and their academic performance can also suffer. Dropping out of school is also more likely among victims of bullying. More than 60% of victims of cyberbullying have said it made them feel unsafe at school and affected their learning.
Cyberbullying can also put the victim at a higher risk of self-harm, including digital self-harm that involves the victim sharing content online that’s harmful to their own reputation and image. Worse still is that victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt to take their own lives.
If you’re a victim of cyberbullying yourself, or if your child (or another person) is, there are steps that can be taken to help. One of the first steps is to recognize a problem even exists – many victims will not feel comfortable about opening up about their problems.
According to cyberbullying.org, there are various tell-tale signs that somebody is being bullied, including:
- Appearing nervous when using devices, or stops using them altogether.
- Appearing upset after spending time online.
- Avoids talking about their online activities.
- Avoids spending time with their peers.
- Has irregular sleeping and eating habits.
- Shows reluctance to spend time outside and/or at school.
- Withdrawal from friends and family and becoming secretive.
- Losing interest in hobbies and other activities.
- Appearing depressed and occasionally making dark comments.
Where there’s a victim, there’s a perpetrator. Identifying perpetrators of bullying can be just as important as identifying victims. Below are some tell-tale signs that somebody might be bullying another person:
- Uses their devices often and gets upset if they can’t
- Laughs a lot when using their device but is secretive as to why
- Has multiple online accounts.
- Hides their online behavior from others.
- Becomes withdrawn from family members.
- Is boastful about their abilities using online platforms.
- Appears insensitive to others, perhaps even aggressive.
- Appears to be concerned with popularity.
- Experiences regular disciplinary problems at school.
If you do suspect your child is being bullied then it’s understandable you’ll want to know about it, but remember it’s important to be tactful about it. Victims of bullying will often feel ashamed and be reluctant to be open about it so try and avoid being too direct.
How to Deal With Cyberbullying
Bullying can be difficult to approach and, if not handled correctly, you may end up making matters even worse. This is regardless of whether you are the victim or somebody else, like a parent, wanting to help. Below are some key tips on how to deal with a bullying problem once it’s been recognized.
- Tell Somebody
If you’re a victim then you should let somebody know so they can help you. This will usually be a parent or a teacher. Try not to feel ashamed about it – it’s not your fault.
If you’re a parent or another person wanting to help a child victim then consider speaking with their school. Teachers can be a valuable ally in helping to deal with the problem and not just for your child but other children as well.
A lot of research has been carried out on cyberbullying and bullying in general, and there are many resources online available to help victims. Go online and try to learn what you can to help the situation. Consider asking for professional advice if you can.
Also, try and learn more about the extent of the problem the victim is facing. Which platforms are being used, who is involved, what tactics are they using, and so on.
- Don’t React
Bullies will often bully other people because they enjoy getting a reaction. If you do react to their actions emotionally, it’s only likely to encourage them to step it up even more.
To prevent worsening the situation, the victim should try and avoid reacting. It is also advisable to block perpetrators on social media and other communication channels. Not only will blocking prevent the bully from being able to attack the victim, but it will also prevent them from seeing messages and other content posted by the victim – giving them less ammunition to use.
- Keep Everything
If a case gets serious enough then it may be necessary to call in the policies and/or other authorities. If this does become necessary it would be very helpful to them if you have kept evidence of bullying actions.
Take screenshots, save messages, and take notes of other information like dates and times. Even information that might appear to be irrelevant may be very helpful to the right people.
- Secure Your Data
Some cyberbullies will be looking to get as much information on their victim as they can so they can then use it against them. Make sure any sensitive data online is secure to prevent the wrong people from getting access to it.
How to Avoid Being a Cyberbully Yourself
As mentioned, some people will perform cyberbullying acts without even realizing it. We might react out of frustration sometimes with realizing the impact our actions will have on other people. At other times we might just be absent-minded as we focus on other things. Another potential reason is that some ‘harmless fun’ may not be as harmless as we think it is.
To avoid being part of the cyberbullying problem yourself, you should always try and T.H.I.N.K before you share any comments or other content with other people.
- T = True
Is your post true? It can be easy to pass on misinformation or even out-and-out lies without meaning to, and the impact of false posts can be very hard to deal with. Try and clarify whether something is genuinely true before sharing it especially where sensitive, personal information is concerned. If in doubt, wait until you are sure.
- H = Helpful
Is your comment helpful to other people? If not, can you make it helpful? We might sometimes knowingly be critical of other people with the intention of helping them, yet doing so might not be as helpful as we think.
- I = Inspiring
We all might be surprised at just how we can inspire other people. We might be able to inspire them to do great things, to achieve something in their life, or even just to be good to other people. Be positively inspiring wherever you can, helping to improve other peoples’ lives overall.
- N = Necessary
Is your post necessary? Do you need to post it? Do other people need you to post it? If you think there’s a chance that it might be harmful to somebody else and there’s no reason to post it, then why post it at all?
- K = Kind
Is your post kind? Perhaps more to the point, is it unkind? Always try and stick to posting kind messages only even if the message is not about somebody you know. Even what might appear to be mild criticism can be hard for other people to deal with.
It’s not easy to completely avoid bullying other people online and even well-meaning people can do so without intending to. However, remember to T.H.I.N.K before posting anything online and you are a lot less likely to do anything that’s harmful to other people.
Cyberbullying is a very real issue that deeply affects the lives of many people. In many cases, it is deliberate and done to harm the victim. At other times, it is accidental with the perpetrator not even being aware of the consequences of their actions.
Perhaps the best way to deal with the problem is education. Educate yourself and other people on what cyberbullying is, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it. Doing so could help make a considerable positive difference to a lot of peoples’ lives.