What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying: Bullying that takes place over any electronic device we use.
Its intent is to threaten, humiliate, harass or abuse another person. Cyberbullying can take place in any area of our online experience including text messages, games, apps, and social media. Cyberbullying focuses on sending or “posting” harmful or negative content in an effort to degrade or demean a person or group of people.
Cyberbullying can be extremely devastating to the reputation and emotional well being of the person or group being targeted. Cyberbullying is extremely hard to combat. Our electronic devices have the ability to communicate 24 hours a day and make it difficult for victims to get away or hide from attack. Most bullies fail to realize the information sent electronically is permanent and public. A bad online reputation obtained from cyber bullying can even adversely affect college admissions and employment opportunities.
A few facts from dosomething.org
- Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
- 70% of students report seeing frequent online bullying.
- Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is serious. So serious in fact, a new Alabama law was passed focusing on protecting children from Cyberbullying and harassment. HB366 is a comprehensive anti-bullying law passed last March. State Rep. John Knight introduced HB366 known as the Jamari Terrell Williams Act in honor of a 10-year old boy who committed suicide in 2017 after he was bullied. Schools are now mandated to follow a number of recommendations to help fight bullying not just on school grounds but off campus as well. Even with this legislation, it still happens every day.
What can you do?
It’s hard to help a victim of cyberbullying if you don’t know it is happening. There are signs to look for to identify a victim of cyberbullying.
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- Exhibiting emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- Hiding their screen or device when others are near and avoids discussion about what they are
doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- Starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- Becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
Once you’ve identified the victim or if you are a victim yourself, there are things you can do to try
to stop the cyberbullying.
Never respond – Responding could make it worse.
Take a screenshot – Keep a record of it.
Block and report – Report the offender to the social media platform.
Talk about it – Don’t keep it inside.
How serious is it? – Assess the cyberbullying. It might be easier to block and ignore.
Report it – If it’s a schoolmate or a work colleague, report it to a teacher or supervisor.
Be private – Keep your social media setting private.
Talk to them – Have a conversation in a controlled, equal environment.
Sympathize – Secure people don’t bully. The bully may be going through a difficult time.
Unlike other cyber attacks, there are no patches or updates to fix the issue. Cyberbullying attacks can have a physical and emotional impact on our lives that can be hard to recover from, if at all. Remember to stay
vigilant and stay safe.