Cyberbullying is unfortunately more common that most people would like to think, and it can be extremely harmful to the victim. Cyberbullying is defined in U.S. legal terms as using the Internet to post rumors or gossip about individuals to harm or harass them in a targeted, deliberate and hostile way. The intent of cyberbullying is to defame and humiliate victims, and it is becoming alarmingly common among teenagers. However, it is also prevalent in workplaces. Surprising isn’t it? This online course will teach you how to address workplace bullying. Read on for more facts about cyberbullying, as well as crucial methods for countering and preventing cyberbullying today.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying really includes any form of defamation or harassment that occurs via the Internet. Cyberbullying is often confused with cyberstalking, which can include lies, false accusations, threats, monitoring others and more. Cyberstalking is a type of cyberbullying, but cyberstalking can actually result in jail time if a conviction occurs.
Cyberbullying is a pattern of behavior, not a single isolated event. It is repeated cruelty with intent to harm or denigrate the victim using the Internet. In many cyberbullying situations, the bully harms the victim by repeatedly and consistently posting or sending false statements or rumors about the victim in order to cause injury to their reputations and break apart friendships.
The Scope of Cyberbullying
Simple cyberbullying can involve actions as simple and seemingly harmless as the bully repeatedly texting or emailing the victim after the victim has asked the bully to leave them alone. Cyberbullying often starts this way, but rarely remains at that level. Cyberbullying often deteriorates into much more public and damaging actions. In extreme cases of cyberbullying, a victim may be publically threatened, labeled, ganged up on by a peer group, or even hacking into sites or posting false statements as if the poster were the victim.
In more extreme cases, cyberbullies can also go so far as to posting their victim’s personal data online. This is often accompanied with statements encouraging others to ridicule them as well. Cyberbullies have also been known to create false accounts in websites or forums as the victim and impersonate the victim, humiliating them by positing false and inflammatory things as the victim. They can post as the victim to make other members of the online community angry with them or they can post as the victim, disclosing personal things about the victim that aren’t true.
This form of impersonation is extremely damaging and difficult to stop because the cyberbully is completely anonymous. The wide availability of smartphones and mobile apps makes it even more difficult to catch the anonymous cyberbully. If you are the victim of an impersonation, you should report it immediately. Learn how to protect yourself from cyber and physical threats with this course.
The Role of Social Media in Cyberbullying
Aside from direct texts or emails, social media is the largest place where cyberbullying takes place for teenagers today. This is because of the accessibility to teens, the availability of smartphones and tablets to many teenagers, and the amount of time and personal investment many teens place in social media today.
More teenagers have smartphones today than ever before. An overwhelming majority of teens are online today. By 2008, more than 93 percent of teenagers were spending time online. Social media comprise the bulk of teenager’s time online today. In fact, a recent study showed that aside from sleeping, social media is the sole activity that teens spend most time on today.
Because social media is available, used and viewed around the clock, the victims often feel like they can’t get away from the cyberbullies and the effects of the behavior. In a way, they can’t and this sense of the bullying hunting them everywhere and around the clock can have severe emotional and psychological impacts if the bullying isn’t addressed.
Signs That Someone is the Victim of Cyberbullying
A whopping 32 percent of teens say that they have at one time been the target of cyberbullying. A shocking one in six parents know that their child has been the victim of cyberbullying. So, it’s easy to see why it’s important to know the early signs that a teenager may be the target of cyberbullying.
Often, teens who are bullied online start to dread or avoid school. Often, many of their peers know that the cyberbullying is occurring, but often other students don’t step in to stop the behavior. This can lead to feelings of isolation and feeling as though nobody likes them, which is often the intent of the bully. Students can also begin to stop participating in after school activities and social activities. Parents also often see the student’s grades drop.
If you think a student may be the target of cyberbullying, pay particular attention to mood after the student reads a text message or after the student gets off the computer. If a teen seems particularly upset after either, this can be a good indicator that they are the victim of cyberbullying.
Extreme or prolonged cyberbullying can actually lead to deep depression or even suicide in extreme cases. This trend is on the rise and is getting considerable media attention. Since 1983, more than 150 kids have commit suicide and have had recent incidents of cyberbullying.
Nationally Known Suicide Cases Involving Cyberbullying
One of the most shocking cases of cyberbullying that resulted in suicide was one of the first to become nationally known was in 2003 with Ryan Halligan. The bullying began for Ryan as early as 5th grade and escalated through the 7th grade. Ryan begged his father not to address the bullying issue with the school principal even though he was tormented daily and by that point, hated going to school.
In early 2003, the assistant principal broke up a fight between Ryan and the bully. A few months later, much to his parents concern he was now friends with the bully. His summer was spent primarily online and only later did his parents know that he was being bullied online. Shortly thereafter, Ryan deteriorated into depression and ultimately took his life that year. This case received major national media attention because it was the first that resulted in suicide.
Another shocking case involved 13-year-old Hope Witsell, who made one small bad decision to send a topless photo to a boy who shared it with classmates. This resulted in constant online bullying by classmates and resulted in the unfortunate and untimely tragedy of her hanging herself in her room not long after.
Many organizations have supported the anti-bullying movement with the message that if students see the behavior, to say something to stop it. The growing awareness that cyberbullying is happening and can have major adverse effects is a great start and communities are taking part in raising awareness, providing protection for students and resources for the victims. In addition, recovering from cyberbullying can be a long and arduous process. Remember that you are not to blame. This online course equips you with the information you need to stop beating yourself up.
Ways to Prevent and Stop Cyberbullies
If you or someone you love is the victim of cyberbullying, start by changing all of the victim’s passwords, social media settings, email settings and instant messaging settings. All social media settings need to be made private so that only the people in the person’s network can post and read posts. Instant message settings should only allow those people of your choosing. Create new, strong passwords and protect them for all accounts to prevent the cyberbully from hacking into the victim’s account and imitating the victim.
Next, print out any harassing emails, texts or posts. These should be provided to schools if the victim is a student and even the police. Many states now have legislation in place that punishes cyberbullying as a crime. To date, forty five states have laws against cyberbullying.
If after these measures are taken, the victim is still being harassed online, contact the social media provider and provide documentation of the bullying to them. This often goes against the terms of participation and the site will remove the bully’s profile and ban them.
Victims of cyberbullying should not respond to the bully. Engaging in the argument only gives them power. Take the power away by not communicating or responding at all. Also, avoid the urge to retaliate against the bully. This only puts the victim down at the bully’s level and opens them up to legal problems of their own. Read this post to understand all the forms of indirect bullying.
Gather and keep evidence of the online activity and always make the bullying behavior known to a person of authority. If the bullying escalates further, having proof of earlier bullying will help if the case has to go to the police.
Cyberbullying is a very detrimental activity that nobody wants to be a target or victim of. Know the signs and make your loved ones aware of what they can do to stop it and how to appropriately respond if they are the target of it.