Staying Safe from Bullies on Facebook
The stories of cyberbullying are countless. There’s the case of Amanda Todd, the teen from Canada who made friends with a man on video chat. He convinced her to bare her breasts, which she did. He took a photo, spread it all over the Internet and created a Facebook page where he used the photo as a profile image. The girl changed schools several times to avoid the man yet the man kept stalking and bullying her on Facebook. Finally, she posted a video on YouTube that went viral and she ended up killing herself a month later.
Then there’s the case of Ryan Patrick Halligan, a 13-year-old student in Vermont who was noted as being “sweet, fragile, fun-loving and extremely intelligent.” But he became the target of his classmates’ bullying both online and in school. One boy in particular really bullied Ryan until they had a fight. After the fight, the other boy then pretended to be Ryan’s friend. Only he wasn’t.
That boy spread the rumour throughout the school that Ryan was gay and the other kids embarked on a cyberbullying campaign against Ryan. However, one girl started talking to Ryan online and said she liked him. In the meantime, everything he confided in her she was blabbing to everyone in school. In other words, she didn’t really like him at all and found pleasure in making him the laughing stock of the school. And so Ryan couldn’t take it anymore and he ended up committing suicide.
There are many more stories and unfortunately, more and more come to light every day. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, 30 percent of America’s young people are involved in bullying, either as the bully or the victim. Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that among this same group, suicide is the third leading cause of death and that more than 14 percent have contemplated it.
It is true that not all teen suicides are because of bullying, but that number increases exponentially as cyber apps such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy to publicize, stalk, haunt and embarrass those who are bullied.
According to a 2013 PEW Report, even though the use of Facebook among teens is declining, still, 94 percent do have Facebook pages. Recently, Facebook has sparked outrage for another infraction based upon research it conducted on its users without getting their permission. In fact, those involved in the study never even knew they were subjects.
Their outrage came from the nature of the experiment which was that users were divided into two groups: those who were shown positive newsfeeds and the others who were shown negative feeds. The purpose of the study was to see if social media can manipulate people’s emotions, which indeed this study suggested it could do. The implications of this when it comes to bullying are frightening.
For Facebook users, the key is to manage the app to be safe and secure and there are a number of procedures to hide from certain users, block them, or even block Facebook completely. But before physically manipulating Facebook, there are other steps you can take to stop or minimize bullying before blocking Facebook completely.
How to Recognize Bullying on Facebook
Believe it or not, bullying on Facebook may not always be as easy to recognize as you would think. Here are some things to be on guard for:
- Nasty, mean comments about you or someone in your Friends list with whom you are close.
- Use of all capital letters in messages and posts to your which denotes shouting.
- Unnecessarily negative or even cruel responses to your posts.
- Frequent use of swearing followed by excessive punctuation
- Posting of unflattering, or worse, photos
Setting up a Bully-free Facebook Account
You can start out with a relatively secure Facebook page that doesn’t invite bullying or another unwanted intrusion. Consider setting up your account so that only your friends can ‘see’ and talk to you. Also, scrutinize who you allow to become your friend and avoid potential trouble spots. Take advantage of all the Facebook privacy settings that it has improved over the years. Remember, For someone to block Facebook in any way is something they want to avoid at all costs.
What to do if Someone is Bullying you on Facebook
If you or your child has fallen prey to a bully, there are some steps to take before adjusting your profile. These include:
- Send the bully a message to stop: if the bully is particularly threatening, it may be safer to send him or her a message rather than have a face-to-face confrontation.
- Inform friends and family: enlist the support of trusted friends and family members and ask them to intervene if they see any bullying of you taking place.
- Don’t hide behind the relative anonymity of your computer and engage in flame wars with the bully.
- Let Facebook administrators know: parents and teens can report the situation, including facts and examples, at http://www.facebook.com/help/?safety=parents
- Contact the police: more and more jurisdictions have cyber-crime units and even if not, it’s still important to have a legal record should things ever escalate.
- Block the bully from your friend’s list
- Block Facebook: completely close your account.
Other Ways to Stay Safe
As a parent, become proactive in getting your child’s school to get involved in educating students about Facebook and social networking in general. Also, monitor your teen’s activities online. No one under 13 is allowed to have a Facebook account, but the number of kids younger than that on Facebook is countless. For parents and teens, keep any personal information off your profile, including:
- Telephone number
- School name
- Personal photographs
Insist that your child asks you before ever giving out any personal information on Facebook.
There are actually several ways to block, or unfriend, people on Facebook. You can choose who can see your ‘likes’ or pages, you can ‘unfriend’ a person, or you can ‘block’ someone completely. Selecting audiences is less severe than blocking. Unfriending someone prevents a person from putting anything on your Timeline or contacting you in a Facebook chat.
When you block someone, you literally vaporize from every aspect of a person’s Facebook orbit. They can’t search for you or see what you post, tag you, post anything on your timeline, invite them to events or groups, add you as a friend, or start a conversation with you. It’s the surest way to avoid a particular bully. Once you have blocked someone, you can unblock them if you choose.
If you want to select who can see your likes or pages, these are the steps to take:
- Go to your Timeline, find your cover photo, and below it, click on About.
- Select Likes from the list and then click the pencil icon.
- Select Edit Privacy, and then use the audience selector to select who can see things you’ve liked in that section.
If you want to Unfriend someone, these are the steps to take:
- Find and go to the person’s Timeline.
- Find their Friend button near the top of the Timeline.
- Click Unfriend.
If you want to block someone, these are the steps to take:
- Click the lock icon at the top right of any Facebook page.
- Click How do I stop someone from bothering me?
- Enter the name or email address of the person you want to block and click Block.
- Select the name of the exact person to block if you have entered a name and a list appears.
- If this procedure doesn’t work, go to the person’s Timeline and select Report/Block from
If you are concerned that anyone you block will be notified, the answer is that they will not.
Should you decide to unblock someone, these are the steps to take:
- Click the lock icon in the upper-right corner on any Facebook page.
- Select How do I stop someone from bothering me?
- Enter either the name or email of the person to block and click Block.
- Click Unblock next to the name of the person you want to unblock.
However, you will still need to send the person a friend request to add them to your friend’s list once again.
Blocking Facebook Completely
For whatever reason, you might decide to completely deactivate your Facebook account. If you choose to do this, then all of your information disappears from Facebook.
Should you decide to deactivate your Facebook account, there are the steps to take:
- Click on the account menu located at the top right on any page.
- Click Settings.
- Select Security (left column).
- Click Deactivate your account.
(For specific information from Facebook on what to do if you, a friend, or a teen is being bullied, go to the Bullying information page)
Wherever and however it occurs, bullying is a serious and sometimes deadly business. For teens, it’s absolutely essential to tell a parent, teacher or trusted and responsible adult what’s going on. For parents and guardians, be involved: monitor your child’s Facebook account and other social media activities. Don’t let them get lost in a world where they can be bullied to death.