What is cyberbullying?
Just like in real life where bullies pick on people or kids that they perceive as weak and unable to defend themselves, the same thing happens in cyberspace. Bullies use physical or verbal intimidation to scare their victims and achieve a sense of superiority. Similarly, on the Internet, cyberbullies post hateful or hurtful comments directed at their victims with the same aim to scare and intimidate. Cyberbullies can also attempt to disparage a victim by spreading false information about them, posting embarrassing pictures without consent or posting personal details of the victim online. Cyberbullies torment their victims by repeatedly sending them insults or threats via text messages, emails or comments on social media platforms.
How to fight back
Many children and teenagers face cyberbullying regularly and often suffer in silence because they don’t know who to turn to. Because the Internet is such an integral part of our lives, it is important for parents to have some guidelines in place to make sure that their children are protected against bullies. Adults too can get bullied online and here are a few points that can help anyone who is being victimized online to protect themselves.
Ignore: The very first point to remember is to not react to cyberbullying and to ignore the hurtful or hateful comments. Fighting bullying by reacting with an equally demeaning comment does not solve the problem but prolongs the hatefulness.
Block: When ignoring doesn’t work and the harassment becomes unbearable, it is better to just block the bully and move on. You might need to block the person on several platforms, but do it. Your peace of mind is more important.
Delete accounts: If in some way the cyberbully finds a way around even after blocking him/her and continues to torment you, it is probably best that you delete all vulnerable accounts. Create fresh accounts after a short period of online hibernation and be very careful with whom you share your information with.
Report websites: If the bullying attack on you is particularly vicious and someone starts a blog or website with the sole purpose of causing you anguish, then make sure to report that site to the webmaster. This can be done by sending an email to webmaster@(name or URL or site).com.
Report the bully: In some cases, the messages can be very threatening, such as rape or murder threats. Report these threats to your local law enforcement immediately. Also, be sure to report any accounts or websites that are impersonating you and sharing your information using your identity.
It’s not your fault: Children, teenagers, and even adults who are being bullied online need to remember that it is not their fault. You might feel responsible because you accepted or sent out a friend request to the bully, but you did not know what was going to happen. No matter what the situation, nobody has a right to bully you and make you feel ashamed, afraid or unsafe.
Talk to someone: Confide in a parent, teacher or some authority that you are being bullied. Do not suffer in silence and be afraid to talk about it. Ask someone for help to stop the bullying or just to help you get through an emotionally tough situation.
Educate: Parents, teachers, non-profits and even local law enforcement should create awareness. Keep children, teenagers and anyone who is vulnerable to bullying informed that they are not alone and let them know that they can ask for help. Also, it is extremely important to teach young people that bullying is NOT OK. Children and teens should be taught that what might seem like fun can be very tormenting for someone else and that is not acceptable behavior.