Cyberbullying is an act carried out by a group or an individual to intentionally and aggressively scare, anger, embarrass, or shame an individual who cannot defend themselves. It is usually a repeated attack, and it’s done through the use of electronic or digital forms of contacts such as the internet, social media platforms, text messages.
Cyberbullying Vs traditional bullying
Cyberbullying is similar to conventional bullying. The only difference is that you get to see the person/people face to face in traditional bullying, which usually doesn’t have a broader effect. But for cyberbullying, most times, you don’t know who the bullies are or why you are being bullied, and it has a broader effect that can be harmful to you in the future.
In cyberbullying, the bullies share malicious, harmful, false, and demeaning contents, which sometimes escalates to the point where they share private and personal information about their victims on the internet. This doesn’t just tarnish their online reputation but also affects them in the real world.
These demeaning contents shared online are received and seen by millions of people unknown to the victims making it hard to avoid the bullies because it is all around them anywhere they go.
There is a common misconception that only kids and teens are victims of online bullying. The truth is, anyone can be bullied. However, since the emergence of this digital sphere and the prevalence of social media platforms among teens/adolescents, they are mostly victims of this crime.
People partake in cyberbullying for many reasons, ranging from boredom, self-loathing, and lack of empathy to self-esteem issues and feelings that the victims need to be bullied.
Effects of cyberbullying
Mental and physical effect
Cyberbullying affects the victim’s mental and physical health. This prevents the victims from being mentally stable, and their physical appearance begins to change due to the humiliation they receive daily. They are always stressed out and anxious because they fear everyone is aware of the demeaning contents on social media.
Not participating in social activities
Cyberbully victims disconnect from friends and rarely associate with people even at home. They are always isolating themselves from others for fear of being humiliated.
With the constant humiliation from people, cyberbully victims are always frustrated and fall into depression. Once they can’t cope with the feelings of depression anymore, they try to end their lives.
People who are bullied experience decreased self-esteem and confidence. They always feel they are not worthy of being happy, or they are useless to society. It’s easier to attack this set of people because they can’t speak up for themselves.
Low school attendance
Victims of cyberbullying tend to skip school a lot as that is the center of all attacks. In fact, the majority of the harassment and humiliation they get are mainly from school. It eventually leads to low school performance, which can be evident in their results.
How to prevent cyberbullying as a victim
Speak to someone you trust
Being a victim of cyberbullying can be an overwhelming experience. A lot will be going through your mind, and the fact that you can’t speak to anyone can make it all the more frustrating.
But the best way to help yourself is by talking to someone you trust about what you’re going through.
You may feel that telling your parents or teachers about what you’re going through will only make matters worse, and you may be right – to an extent.
But the only way out is by talking to them about it, and if you don’t trust them enough to handle it, then you can speak with someone random whom you feel can advise you, or better still, you can talk with a counselor.
If you are a victim of cyberbullying, you need to gather all the evidence you can before you report to someone or the local authorities. Most cyberbullying can develop into criminal offenses such as harassment and threats.
So if you know the offender and want them to be punished, you must keep enough evidence of their crimes. You can screenshot their social media posts, the text messages, and pictures they shared.
Retaliating when you are being bullied will not solve the problem. Instead, it only makes the issue escalate to a point you can’t control. Cyberbullies sometimes attack people just to get their attention and make them revenge.
Please don’t waste your time replying to their messages or posts in a bit to defend yourself. Walk away without responding to them but make sure you tell someone about it, after which you block the bully, so they don’t have access to send you any message again.
If they threaten to go public with it, do not give them an upper hand by begging them, as that will only give them more evidence to solidify their attacks. Instead, leave the post or message unanswered until you think of a better way to handle it.
Understand the scope of bullying
The world is becoming digitalized, and technology is changing every day. Cyberbullying is mostly carried out on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat, etc., and some times through text messages and emails. As a teen or young adult, you can prevent cyberbullying by understanding the medium being used and the angle the attacker is exploiting. If you’re being attacked via a post on any social media platform, you can easily report it, and the post will be taken down. And if you were messaged privately, you can report and block such accounts.
Safeguard your information
Sometimes, bullies can hack your social media accounts and obtain valuable information about you or even post malicious content from your account. Always protect your sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, email address, etc. Password your devices at all times, and try not to use passwords that are easy to guess. Also, make sure to log out and clear your browsing history whenever you use a public computer or a friend’s device.
Watch what you share online
A lot of people see social media as a platform where they can be themselves without being judged or cautioned. While this may be true, we should also mind what we share on these platforms.
To prevent cyberbullying, always keep your public posts PG and refrain from sharing your nude pictures or videos with people, even if you trust them. Your account or theirs might be hacked at any time, and those images can fall into the wrong hands.
Also, make it a habit to pause and evaluate your post before sharing it on social media. Remember that you have a reputation to protect, so make sure what you’re posting for ‘fun’ won’t affect your life or career in the long run.
Take your online privacy serious
Almost all social media platforms allow their users to customize who sees their posts and interact with them. You should restrict your profile to only people you trust and make sure not to open or interact with messages from people you don’t know.
Don’t be a cyberbully
This is quite self-explanatory, but I’ll deal with it a little. No one is above cyberbullying. You may be on the giving end today, but tomorrow, you may be on the receiving end. And if you have been bullied before, you don’t have to bully someone else to feel better.
Remember what you went through in the hands of your oppressors. Do not inflict that pain on someone else because they may not be as strong-hearted as you are and may take their life. You do not want to be the cause of someone else’s death.
How to prevent cyberbullying on the part of the parents, teachers, and older siblings
As a parent, teacher, or older sibling, you must teach your teen or older adults about cyberbullying and its effects. Educate them on the negative impact of being addicted to social media. Also, let them know that they can talk to you or someone they trust if they are being bullied.
Be educated about cyberbullying
You can help avoid these issues from escalating if you know and understand what cyberbullying is. You should learn to keep a close eye on your kids and note their moods and gestures, especially when they are on their phones. Once you are aware of the dangers of cyberbullying and how to stop it, you will be able to help those under your care when they are faced with such a problem.
Regulate their online and offline activities
Parents should understand that 90% of their kids are being bullied online. So you need to monitor your kids’ online activities, making it easier to detect cyberbullies and act on it. Enlighten them on the need to limit their gadget usage and interact with the outside world more often. Encourage them to spend more time with real friends and not to over-rely on social media.
Engage them with physical activities
Most teens rely on social media because they feel disconnected from the real world. Help them find their place in the real world by taking them out of the house sometimes, encourage them to make real friends, engage in different sports and fun activities, or even volunteer with an NGO.
Cyberbullying is destructive and shouldn’t be encouraged. If you’ve been bullied or are currently experiencing it, it’s totally normal to feel like no one understands you. But suicide or any other form of self-harm is not an option. The truth is, your oppressor is only attacking you because he or she is struggling with self-worth and self-esteem issues.
You are stronger than your oppressor. Don’t give them the victory they are looking for. Make sure to speak to someone you trust about what’s going on. If they don’t listen, there are tons of online communities willing to listen to you.
Or better still, you can talk to our team of counselors here. They are always available to listen to you and give you the necessary support to handle the situation.