What was once said on the playground or under one’s breath at an annoying coworker has made a home in today’s technology- and it seems pretty comfortable there. This type of bullying with the aid of technology is called “cyberbullying.”
Common platforms for cyberbullying include: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, text messaging, instant messaging, and email.
Cyberbullying has become so popular because of the anonymity technology allows. Individuals are able to create fake usernames and accounts, then say whatever they want to whomever they want with no apparent consequences. Not seeing the reaction of their victims in person prevents them from seeing the hurt they are causing, making them less empathetic.
Others who participate in social media may not instigate cyberbullying, but might participate by liking posts, commenting, or other such action that would encourage the bully. Jon Ronson describes this as an “internet mob mentality.”
This often happens when many individuals gang up against another person on social media in the comments section, or when individuals comment on posts or articles online, ridiculing or making fun of someone. The individual posts may not seem like much, but when hundreds of people are chiming-in in agreement, the person being chastised is very much a victim of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying Happens to All Ages
Unfortunately, taunting and teasing doesn’t always stop when we grow up. Adults can be victims of cyberbullying just as easily as children and teens. Here are ten tips for adults who are being harassed online:
- Don’t retaliate. Often, that is the exact reaction cyberbullies are looking for.
- Record everything. Keep evidence of the harassment, including screenshots, emails, and texts. If you need to involve law enforcement, this evidence will be necessary to build a case against the person. Even if the person is acting anonymously, authorities may be able to trace their identity.
- Inform your employer. This is especially important if the cyberbully is a coworker or if it occurs in a work-related situation. Even if the harassment isn’t work related, but you are being harassed during work time or it is affecting your productivity while at work, your employer should be informed.
- Involve law enforcement. If the harassment continues, or if threats are being made, law enforcement should be notified and a police report filed.
- Report online abuse. Most websites and social platforms have a feature that allows users to report inappropriate comments or use of the platform. Use this feature to report inappropriate communication.
- Include others. The main goal of a cyberbully is to make you feel isolated and worthless. Counter that negativity with the encouragement of a close friend.
- Don’t pursue conversation. If at all possible, ignore the cyberbully. Friending them or trying to rationalize with them will likely backfire. Keep all correspondence respectful.
- Block them. Most websites and apps have a feature that allows you to block certain individuals. It’s there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use it! Email, social media, and text message programs all have a feature that allow you to block a certain individual. If you aren’t sure how to do it, ask a trusted friend or go to your cell phone provider for help.
- Change your contact information. Although a huge inconvenience, changing your contact information is one way to prevent the cyberbullying from continuing.
According to stopbullying.gov, there are many reasons that make cyberbullying more serious than playground taunting or rude comments said by people on the street. These reasons are why cyberbullying is considered a crime in many states, with a conviction bringing a possible 18 months in prison, according to John Tumelty, a criminal defense lawyer.
Cyberbullying is Persistent
We live in an amazing digital age where information can be accessed at any time from virtually any location. This also means that cyberbullying can reach victims at any time from virtually anywhere. Victims often are overwhelmed and feel that they cannot escape from the bullying that they are experiencing.
Cyberbullying is Permanent
The internet never forgets, regardless of whether it is true or kind. Cyberbullying can create a negative online reputation, influencing the opinions of others in regards to personal relationships, employment, and other such opportunities.
Those who participate in cyberbullying often do not recognize the permanency of what they are saying or the damage they are causing as a result of their actions.
Cyberbullying is Silent
Often the victims of cyberbullying feel isolated and alone. Those in their life may not be aware of the bullying, especially if it is via text or instant messaging. Victims may not share their experiences out of shame or guilt, further isolating themselves.