Cyberbullying: How to Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, humans tend to confront each other. Cyberbullying is a relatively new way of doing it. The Internet has broken any physical limits, for good and bad. Now, you can be threatened from anywhere by anyone. On the other hand, online blackmail investigators have become the new era of police nowadays and successfully fight off cyberbullying attempts. Let’s find out how to deal with cyberbullying and fight it back.

What are Bullying and Cyberbullying?

Bullying is the harassment of a group member by another or a group of people. Such situations are familiar to all of us, no matter the role – a victim, an aggressor, or just a bystander. This situation can arise at school, university, and work. Verbal abuse often leads to physical confrontation. Sometimes this has, without exaggeration, tragic consequences.

If bullying shifts from offline to online, this is called cyberbullying. It occurs in social networks, communities, various forums, and even media. Sometimes, an aggressor attacks a victim directly through messages and comments via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms. Most often, photos and videos of teenagers fall under ridicule on the Internet. In addition, YouTube can also serve as a platform for aggression, as sensitive videos can be watched by a billion audience.

What Does Cyberbullying Imply?

• insults;
• threats;
• ridicule;
• attacks;
• disclosure of compromising information;
• provocations;
• spreading gossip, rumors, or any other deliberately false information;
• intimidation;
• complete isolation within the team, including a demonstrative disregard for a victim;
• infringement of dignity and honor;
• infliction of material and physical harm.

Aggressors are most often called trolls or mobbers. In most cases, they act anonymously, which causes even more difficulties since it is unclear who is to blame and how to stop and punish them.

Cyberbullying vs Bullying

• Unlike offline harassment, online bullying continues after school hours / the end of the working day. In fact, this is a round-the-clock trouble, so there is no hiding. The worst thing is that you are not protected from attacks even at home unless you evade the Internet;

• A huge audience of users gladly ‘consume’ the sensitive information. The number is basically unlimited;

• Swift data dissemination: texts, photos, and videos are easily copied from one site to another;

• Anonymity: trolls don’t operate from their personal accounts but from fake ones, so detecting them is quite challenging.

Risk Group

Unfortunately, anyone can become a victim of Internet harassment, regardless of age, physical and intellectual abilities, nationality, religious affiliation, financial situation, or sexual orientation.

Most victims of cyberbullying are children aged 11-16. On the one hand, there are very cruel teenagers at this age. On the other hand, they are very sensitive to failures, rumors, and insults. Everyone who deviates in some way from the norm is generally considered to be in the risk group. For example, peers may start bullying a child who is too tall, overweight, thin, raised by one parent or foster family, etc. If harassment occurs online, it likely originates outside the web.

Why Do Kids Bully?

• Simple boredom can make a child write negative comments, lie, slander someone, and inflate a whole story around this.

• Personal adversity, such as a parent’s divorce, a bad grade, or a sports failure, can trigger an outburst of anger that eventually turns on an innocent bystander.

• Fear of bullying. To avoid becoming a victim, the child can join a group of aggressors: attack is the best defense.

• The inability to accept differences in appearance, behavior, and culture of their peers.

• The child may project onto another a complex of his own inferiority.

• The desire to win the respect of peers, to achieve their own authority, and somehow stand out in the group.

• The need to demonstrate their strength and superiority over others.

Signs of Cyberbullying

Recognizing cyberbullying is not so easy. Sometimes the realization comes too late when the child’s mental state has already been seriously affected. Nevertheless, there are specific “symptoms” that can signal you to help the victim in time:

• A sharp deterioration in health: your child may have a headache or stomach pain for no reason. Also, pay attention to insufficient sleep and a generally depressed state;

• A child refuses to go to school for no apparent reason;

• A teenager becomes too withdrawn, plays computer games more frequently, running away from the real world. At the same time, they have a noticeable drop in school performance;

• An appearance of bruises on the body;

• Missing money or valuables.

What Should a Victim of Cyberbullying Do?

• Be sure to report bullying to parents and teachers.

• If you know the aggressor or suspect a specific group of people, denylist them on your smartphone and all social networks. Block them from accessing your page.

• Complain about the user in the social network. Moderators and site administrators promptly respond to such messages and block violators.

If you encounter cyberbullying at a university or at work, the action plan is basically the same. In this case, you can’t just remain silent, believing that adults should solve problems independently. A student needs to seek help from tutors, and an employee should notify higher management about cyberbullying. 

How to Protect Your Child From Bullying?

Unfortunately, not all teenagers tell adults about personal problems. Victims often endure cyberbullying, hoping the aggressors will get bored or switch to someone else.

If you got told that your child has been harassed online but is unwilling to stand up to the bullies out of fear or for some other reason, take the following steps:

Talk to teachers and parents of bullies;

Help your teenager to socialize properly: invite their friends and classmates to visit more often;

Contribute to the proper self-esteem development so your child won’t depend on other’s opinions;

Create a trusting relationship with your child so that the teenager can immediately come to you for advice and help in case of an emergency.

If necessary, contact a school or external psychologist. In severe cases, psychotherapy is the only way to help a child recover from emotional trauma and build relationships with peers.

Our Common Responsibility

Remember: what we say and post on social media affects those around us. It’s imperative to filter information because our comments can offend someone and cause a wave of negativity in their direction. This often leads to serious psychological consequences.

Don’t think that it doesn’t concern you. Unfortunately, no one is protected from bullying in modern society, especially online. Absolutely anyone can become a victim. Having prepared, you can minimize or even eliminate all the negative consequences.

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