All You Need to Know About Cyberbullying

The Internet has so many benefits attached to it. However, it also comes with many risks to protect against, such as cyberbullying. The term was first used in 1998. It was defined as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as a student) often done anonymously.”

However, as time went by, we faced a much broader definition of it. Essentially, it mirrors real-life bullying by using electronic communication.

All You Need to Know About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can start as early as eight or nine years, but it’s most present during teenage years, up to 17, says Public Safety Canada. The main issue with it is that it spreads very quickly. In turn, most teens have been involved in cyberbullying, whether as a bully, target, or silent observer.

In other words, cyberbullying is much more present than you might think. Worse yet, it poses very real threats. In some cases, this means non-reversible consequences.

Back in the day, people didn’t pay as much attention to cyberbullying. Fortunately, more individuals and organizations, including even celebrities and news media, address this issue as time goes by.

Before we get into details, let’s review the basics.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying refers to using digital technologies for bullying, meaning repetitive behaviors to make another person feel sad, angry, or scared. It can take place on computers, phones, tablets, using text messages, or social media platforms.

Cyberbullying covers both sending harmful, mean, or false content to someone or spreading the talk to others. So, cyberbullying also means sharing and posting this information on the bully’s account to harm the victim.

Sending hurtful messages or threats to someone, spreading lies or posting embarrassing photos of someone, or impersonating individuals are all examples of cyberbullying.

According to Unicef, cyberbullying creates long-lasting effects. These activities can affect a person mentally, emotionally, and physically. The victim can feel upset, embarrassed and angry, ashamed, or tired. The emotions can turn into physical pain, such as headaches and stomachaches. In extreme cases, this can even translate to suicide or the victim taking their own life.

Kids usually call cyberbullying hating, trolling, gossip or drama. Regardless of the name, it’s a serious phenomenon that asks for attention.

If you are wondering whether it comes to cyberbullying or not, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Are the offender’s actions intentional?
  • Does the offender do this repeatedly?

If the answers to these two questions are yes, it comes to cyberbullying. If not, the offender might demonstrate bad online behaviors.

The Frequency of Cyberbullying

As mentioned, cyberbullying is very common. The following stats can confirm this fact.

Furthermore, teachers were asked to fill out a Google Form. According to the survey, cyberbullying is the top online issue for students, ahead of privacy, inappropriate content, and other concerns.

Source: https://services.google.com/fh/files/blogs/parent_teacher_survey_us.pdf

Different Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullies have found many ways to harass their bullies. In some scenarios, they even combine multiple tactics to hurt their targets. As mentioned, cyberbullying can take place on different devices.

Still, the most extraordinary phenomenon is that sometimes bullies aren’t aware of their actions; they don’t know that their actions classify as cyberbullying, least that they are hurting others.

Here are some frequent methods of cyberbullying:

  • Harassment: sending abusive and offensive messages to another party through texts, calls, email, and social media. It implies repetitive, intentional, and constant actions, where the bully spends lots of time and effort to harm their victim. In most cases, the bullied person doesn’t respond to these actions. However, the results are lowered confidence and self-esteem.
  • Doxing: distributing the victim’s personal information without their permission. In this case, the bully might be an individual or a group. Essentially, they distribute personal data on public forums or social media platforms.
  • Cyberstalking: a form of harassment but implies more threatening nature. Usually, the bully aims to establish contact with the victim due to positive or deep negative feelings. In some cases, the offender might threaten the safety of their victim, moving from online to offline bullying.
  • Slut-shaming: sharing private images and sexual conversations with the victim online to the public. It’s most common with teenagers and young people. The offender usually labels the victim as a “slut” and spreads negative talks, degrading them further.
  • Exclusion: deliberately excluding the victim from social media events, activities, and chat rooms. The bullied individual might spot the existence of these interactions but be unable to join. Furthermore, the included individuals might further offend the victim or bully them.
  • Swatting: the bully calls emergency responders to the victim’s address to cause feelings of panic and fear, even though there’s no need for help at the address.
  • Masquerading: the bully takes the identity of another person to harass the victim. In some cases, the offender can take the identity of a real person, related to the victim, in one way or another.
  • Fraping: the bully logs on to the victim’s accounts to use the socials under their name. These actions can put the victim in trouble, embarrass or harm the bullied, or ruin their reputation.
  • Corporate attacks: the attackers can send mass information to take a website down or make it temporarily non-functional.
  • False profiles: the bully creates accounts with the personal information of the victim, thus false representation. Usually, the offenders make these accounts as authentic as possible and use them to harm the victim.

How to Identify Cyberbullying?

The question, at this point, is, how can you identify cyberbullying?

Here are some things that act as warning signs you should look for in your children, friends, or relatives:

  • The bullied person seems nervous, anxious, or otherwise upset after using the Internet or a device
  • The victim demonstrates secretive behaviors, hides their devices from others, and refuses to discuss all related topics
  • The victim suddenly avoids using technology or spends much less time on it
  • They spend less time with others, become withdrawn, and push others away
  • At last, they receive a lot more messages and emails than usual

Where Does Cyberbullying Occur?

Often, cyberbullying can take place alongside face-to-face bullying. The only difference is the first leaves a digital footprint. It might not initially help the victims. Still, records come especially useful for providing evidence to fight against abuse.

According to stopbullying.com, cyberbullying primarily takes place on:

  • Social media platforms and email
  • Online gaming communities
  • Texts and messaging apps
  • Online chatting on the web, direct messages, and instant messaging
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards

Here are some common ways that cyberbullying takes place:

  • Spreading rumors, gossip, or secrets
  • Sending mean and threatening messages
  • Sharing embarrassing photos of someone
  • Hacking into someone’s account to access sensitive content
  • Creating polls and rating people
  • Harming the victim’s characters in games
  • Sharing someone’s personal information with others

Special Concerns on Cyberbullying

When an individual shares content online, it can easily become the subject of comments from friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. So, with the increased use of social media and the Internet, cyberbullying has also been on the rise.

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/F7DAQIDSk98

Cyberbullying differs from traditional face-to-face bullying. It’s a particular issue, especially for the parents and teachers. Here are several unique concerns related to cyberbullying:

  • It can be persistent: Since the bullies have 24/7 access to devices and the Internet, they don’t usually give relief to the victims. The bullied person cannot exit the negative social situation, even if they go home or switch schools.
  • Leaves permanent record: Online content is public and permanent. It creates a public record accessible to all parties unless someone reports it or the bully removes it. And since anyone can see it, even strangers can add to more potential ridicule or pain.
  • Harms the reputation of all involved: A public record is a form of online reputation, affecting all involved parties long-term. So, it can impact the participants in all areas of life.
  • Anonymity: Online bullies usually hide their identities, so they have more courage to say harsh and cruel comments or even send threats.
  • Really hard to notice: Cyberbullying is much more challenging to detect than traditional bullying. Most of all, this is because people don’t distinguish between harmful jokes and concerning behaviors, so they don’t pay much attention. Furthermore, parents and teachers might not see or overhear these conversations unless someone reports them.

Sure, cyberbullying differs from bullying. However, it can cause the same consequences, if not worse. The negative effects of cyberbullying might even be more durable and severe, as explained.

Resources on Bullying and Cyberbullying

Fortunately, many organizations worldwide understand the issue of cyberbullying and its consequences. Today, you go to a broad range of places to receive the needed support, help, and advice regarding cyberbullying.

You can download cyberbullying guides for expert advice on the Internet, on pages such as:

Keep in mind; this list is not complete. Of course, you can find many other helpful resources on cyberbullying on the web and in real life.

Laws and Sanctions

Overall, cyberbullying can cause embarrassment and humiliation. However, in some extreme scenarios, it can also turn into unlawful and criminal behavior.

Luckily, schools worldwide have responded to bullying in the form of law, local, or school policies.

Still, the laws on bullying and cyberbullying are relatively new phenomenons. Some countries have introduced them. Still, others have not yet.

In reality, most countries rely on other relevant laws, such as the ones fighting harassment. Furthermore, when cyberbullying is based on age, sex, color, race, national origin, disability, or religion, it can also overlap with discrimination, harassment, or hate crimes.

If a country has specific laws on cyberbullying, the authorities will classify online activities that deliberately cause serious emotional distress as criminal activities.

Furthermore, victims of cyberbullying have the right to report the offender and hold them accountable. The bullied individual can seek protection by law in some countries. At this point, the authorities can prohibit communication between the victim and offender. Also, they might temporarily or permanently restrict the bully from using electronic devices for cyberbullying.

Even so, laws and punishments have not always proven as the best alternative for preventing cyberbullying. In most cases, the better option is to repair the damage and improve the relationship between the involved parties.

Final Thought on Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a common and incredibly concerning phenomenon. It’s not limited to age, sex, race, or location. Anyone can just as easily become a victim or the bully itself.

It’s a complex issue that comes with many attached and unique challenges. It’s as difficult to detect and even more hard to resolve. Still, the consequences might be fatal. As mentioned, cyberbullying might even lead to suicide.

Victims of cyberbullying might feel enticed to leave the Internet and stay offline, at least for some time. However, that’s indeed not a long-term solution. Worse yet, it further encourages the bullies to pursue their harmful behaviors.

Today, we have the needed support to stop cyberbullying. If you are bullied, remember that reporting such behavior is the first step towards solving the problem. As for the rest, keep in mind, saying and sharing some content can hurt others.

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/GUQb38zj2_I

Always try to be kind to one another, both online and in real life!