Q1: Is cyberbullying different from normal bullying?
A1: Excellent question; the answer is yes.
Using technology like the mobile phone or the internet helps this type of bullying to affect someone who’s not just at school but at home as well. Because the World Wide Web, or cyberspace, is not a real world – it is only a virtual one – bullying can happen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, not only in the school hallways, classrooms, or playgrounds. It can invade your personal space, and affect you anytime, while you’re with your family, or in your bedroom. It can make someone feel upset or threatened wherever they are.
Moreover, because the Internet allows you to create usernames and aliases, some of which can be funny or self-descriptive, it can sometimes be hard to identify who the cyberbully is. They can post things on a website anonymously, or set up fake emails, Facebook profiles or Twitter accounts. They could also block their numbers or register themselves as “private number” holders.
Another difference is that this type of bullying can be easily and quickly done on a very large scale, like a stadium with hundreds of spectators! The speed and reach of emails, text messages, website links, YouTube videos, pictures, and other harassment materials make for a larger audience, many of whom might not even realize that they’re being bullied by passing on the emails, texts and pictures messages, or participating in the comments, retweets and “likes” as bystanders.
The Internet has even changed the “profile” of a bully. The bully no longer has to be the big tough kid who steals your money or makes mean comments in class, knowing they’re supported by their clique or group of friends. The cyberbully can be anyone with the Internet, who wants to annoy someone else. Also, the victim is no longer the bookworm, or the one who doesn’t have many friends to stand up for them. It could be a popular girl, a
In addition, and because of the above reasons, cyberbullying can last for a much longer time than face-to-face bullying, and can build over weeks and months of online nastiness. For example, an English girl who was 18 in 2009 kept bullying a schoolmate online (and sometimes offline) for four years before she got arrested for posting something as serious as a death threat to her on Facebook.
However, there is one way in which cyberbullying could be better than face-to-face bullying: Evidence. With normal bullying, there might be no way could you prove someone has been attacking you, as usually bullies choose a time when you’re alone, and it can be one person’s word against another’s. On the other hand, with cyberbullying, you can save texts, print out emails, or take screenshots of instant messages, pictures, web pages, links to videos …etc. This can help you report the bully, and can be used as proof to catch them and stop them from upsetting someone; you or a friend.
One last thing! Cyberbullying incidents may be unintentional. Some people perceive their nasty comments as jokes and might have not considered the possible negative results or consequences of their actions. This could be taken into consideration.
Q2: How do I know I’m being cyberbullied?
A2: Follow The Seven Steps!
- Is it happening through the internet or a mobile phone?
- Is it repetitive (happening more than once)?
- Is it hateful, bashful, and making you feel hurt?
- Do you feel weak and inferior, alone, scared, as if someone is watching you?
- Does it involve someone wanting to embarrass you, like someone sharing something without your permission?
- Has it continued for a relatively long time?
- Is it increasing in intensity (for example, by a larger number of people joining in)?
If your answer is “Yes” to more than two of those questions …then your alerts should go off.
Q3: How do I know if a friend is being cyberbullied?
A3: We understand that you care a lot about your friends. Here are a few things to look for in case you notice something suspicious:
- Are they spending far more or far less time on texting, Facebook, Twitter, Ask.fm, or online gaming? Perhaps they’re having trouble there.
- Do they often seem annoyed, stressed or look flustered or confused after using their phones or logging in to their social networking accounts while you hang out together?
- Have they mentioned deactivating their accounts or talked about privacy settings?
- Have they changed or considered changing their mobile phone number?
- How have they been acting withdrawn lately? Have they started calling less, or not wanted to hang out and meet friends?
- Do they complain about headaches or upset stomachs sometimes?
- Have they been coming late to school, or saying they’re off “sick” sometimes?
- Do they get really tense when someone they trust approaches their phone or laptop?
- Do they seem sad, like they’re putting themselves down, or show less self-confidence?
It’s often hard to know, but you can always help.
Q4: What to do then? How can I help my friend?
First: never, ever, forward messages or pictures. Though you may not have started it, by the mere act of sharing or retweeting, you could become of the vicious cyberbullying loop. Support your friend! You could use the “Report Abuse” buttons on websites. You could even stand for them by speaking up and telling a trusted adult; someone who can actually help you to stop the cyberbully from attacking your friend.
Q5: Alright, my friend is safe. What about if I myself am a victim of cyberbullying?
A5: There are so many things to do! But first of all, don’t blame yourself for it. It is by no means your fault, ever. No matter what the haters say, you’re you, and that’s amazing enough. You should not be ashamed of who you are, what you feel, or what your life is like. The bully is the one with the problem, definitely not you.
There are several angles to tackle the cyberbullying problem, but let’s start with the bully:
First of all, save the evidence!
The one advantage cyberbullying has over usual school bullying is that you can actually save every bit of proof against your bully. Everything could be tracked online, yes, but it won’t harm if you take screenshots of this or that. If you have any nasty emails, mean posts on your profile or offensive tweets, save them on your computer. Save texts, voicemails, and anything else that says something horrible.
Second: Do not respond
A very effective and simple response, though not exactly easy to do, is to ignore them. Do not interact or engage with them, whether positively or negatively. By replying to what the bullies say, you’re only giving them the satisfaction they want. Responding only makes the situation worse because revoking a response out of you is exactly what they aim for. If you ignore them, they are more likely to get bored of their immaturity and just move on.
Third: Block the bully
By blocking them, you’re giving them a harder time reaching you. Block and delete their email address, or their mobile phone number. Block and delete them off your Facebook friends list, or from your Twitter followers. You should be aware that the fewer ways we give bullies to contact us, the less damage they could cause. Leaving them unblocked so you could think of payback might not be the best idea ever because it gives them room to think of other things to say to hurt you, and only invites more attacks.
Also, changing the username, screen name, or email address that you are using will limit how the bully can contact you. By doing that, you also prevent the bully’s friends from joining in the attacks, and you can have a good night’s sleep without wondering who is saying what to you.
Fourth: Online Reporting
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google + and others always provide ways to report abuse or anything that violates the site rules or code of conduct. Try reporting them to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) if it gets too serious. In case your bully has been using mobile phone texts, contact the network service provider; they do have terms and regulations that conflict with such incidents. Call their customer service and see what they can do about harassment.
You should also know that, if you do not report the incidents, the cyberbully will often become even more aggressive. And because it is never limited to one or two incidents, but is more of a sustained form of harassment, you should also follow a sustained scheme of reporting every single time the bullying happens. Relentlessness could only be faced with similar relentlessness.
Several ways to report cyberbullying:
- On Facebook: The “report” button is very useful! Facebook has a team that constantly revises what you report, and because it wants to guarantee transparent reporting, you could actually follow up with your complaints through the recently launched Support Dashboard. While it might not work, Facebook also relies on Community Reporting, as in asking the person who posted the offensive picture, video or comment to take it down. However, if they had not intended harm to you, they might comply and avoid further misunderstanding.
If you report someone for cyberbullying you or for sending you a mean message on Facebook, that automatically adds them to your Blocked list, which means they will no longer be able to post on your timeline or send you any messages. You can also block someone through your privacy settings (the little triangle at the top right corner of your Facebook web page)
- On Twitter: The real problem with Twitter is that everything is public and viewable by anyone who has or doesn’t have a Twitter account. So many popular celebrities have been harassed by receiving insulting tweets or messages from absolute strangers. However, while you cannot report an upsetting tweet, you can block a Twitter user from reaching out to you, and Twitter will never tell them you’ve blocked them. They won’t be able to follow, “mention”, or interact with you by any means, including seeing your picture, only if your account is not public; ie: protected. With a protected account, you can control who views your tweets.
- How about Youtube? While Youtube was mainly set up for the very innocent purpose of video sharing, anyone can watch and leave comments on a video, which are also for everyone to see. When someone violates YouTube’s rules, however, you can block a user through their profile, or control the comments added to the videos you post.
Fifth: Resist becoming a bully
Never seek revenge from the cyberbully by becoming one yourself. It would only make matters worse and would result in deeper complications and perhaps legal consequences. Remember two things; if you wouldn’t say it back in person, don’t say it online, and two wrongs do not make a right!
Sixth, and most importantly: Speak out; tell someone
Speak to your parents about it. No matter how they seem like they would never understand, they actually will, and they would do anything to help make you feel better. However, if you fear they might take away your phone or laptop, or force you to deactivate a social networking account, then you can speak to a school counsellor or your favourite teacher. If you don’t feel comfortable about that either, speak to a friend, but make sure this friend is really, really trustworthy.
Don’t keep someone’s mean behaviour towards you a secret. If something is bothering you, act wisely, and get help. Even though adults and trusted people can’t always stop the harassment, they definitely can help you restore your strength, and will remind you that you should not let cyberbullying ruin your life. If you ever feel too embarrassed to ask for help, remember that the bully is the one who should be embarrassed for their wrongdoings. You’re not ‘tattling’ if you’re seeking some support and encouragement.
About your online activity and cyberbullying
We are well aware that some people, who do not understand the nature of the Internet and cyberbullying, often ask the silly question “Why don’t they just turn their computers off?” However, we know that it is never that simple. We know that clicking that “x” button or shutting down the device is never the only answer to the problem.
Nobody is expecting you to stop being online because of the immature and ridiculous behaviour of someone else. That would be plainly unfair to you, just like it’s unfair to ask a child to stop going to school to attend classes because that’s where he gets bullied. You are not the one to blame. Besides, we all know that the attack continues whether you’re online or not. For example, a Facebook fan page could be published through which lies and rumours could spread and circulate on the web. Unfortunately, the show goes on until the bully gets bored, or someone decides to put an end to it.
Have you dealt with the bully? Perfect. Here’s how you deal with someone who’s way more important than the bully: yourself.
- Do not dwell on it! Don’t ever spend time re-reading the mean messages or going back to the old embarrassing posts. It only brings you down, and it’s useless. Focus on your positive experiences, because there are many wonderful things about you to be proud of.
- Find ways to relieve stress and anger, especially the ones caused by surrounding people. We recommend breathing exercises for someone who’s not a fan of moving around, but doing simple workouts, meditation, or muscle relaxation exercises can be good ways to manage stress. Workouts and simple exercises are also an amazing way to boost your self-esteem and help you feel much better about yourself.
- Take some time to disconnect, and connect with your loved ones! Taking a break from your laptop, iPod, video games or mobile phone can help you think of the limitless possibilities of things to do out there! Wonder what your parents did to have some fun? Talking to people online hasn’t always been every teenager’s favourite hobby. The more time you spend away from technology, the less important the cyberbullying experience will be to you.
- Share the experiences. Most people have been through this before, and it is always great to talk to someone about it, but make sure they’re trustworthy. Letting out the feelings always helps, even if not directly. Never feel ashamed about it.
- Asking for help does not make you seem helpless or childish. In fact, it is the most mature thing to do in such cases. Go ahead and speak your mind out; tell people about the problem and the good ones WILL indeed help. Know that it does get better.
- If you talk to trustworthy people about it, go out, and hang out with people…. Chances are you’re going to make new friends much easier! If you find like-minded people who share your thoughts, ideas, interests and hobbies, you can easily move on from whatever happened to you online. Join a sports team or a reading club. It’s always fun!
- Don’t feel like a victim. In other words, know that you actually are stronger than the bully. Bullies can seem tough on the outside, but on the inside, they’re immature, angry, frustrated people who want to get back at others or control them to make them feel as unhappy as they do. If you do become unhappy, you’re giving them exactly what they want; you don’t want that, do you?
- Love and appreciate yourself some more, because there really are people out there who care and love you, just the way you are. Unless you’re the one who initiated the argument, it’s not your fault someone is cyberbullying you. You did not bring it upon yourself by any means, and you should not blame yourself for it. Adults might tell you that your teenage years are the “best years of your life.” For most people, this is not true. Adolescence can be a time of great unhappiness, and for almost all people things get better as they get a little older. When you get older you can choose your work, your friends, and where you live.
Having people saying bad things about you can be bad enough; don’t make it worse by believing what they say. Hang in there, because you are never alone.
And as Pink says in “Perfect”
“You’re so mean when you talk to yourself
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead.”
Q6: But how do I protect myself from cyberbullying in the future?
A6: The ways to protect yourself from cyberbullying are countless, and the benefits are manifold. With all the surrounding challenges and dangers, Internet safety has become an absolute necessity. Here are a few pieces of advice against cyberbullying that we believe are important, to avoid coming in contact with cyberbullying, ever.
Make a set of assumptions:
- That everyone has access to your profile, including your parents, your teachers, the school administration, even your future employers, and perhaps the police, even if you have everything on your profile restricted to “friends only”. Don’t discuss things you wouldn’t want all of those people to know about, and never use language that you’d be embarrassed to use in front of adults, especially your parents.
- That person can and will use the information you post to inflict harm upon you. We’re not saying you should be paranoid; careful and protective would be better words. Before you post anything, ask yourself if you’d want your worst enemy to know about it. Besides, we don’t advise adding people as “friends” unless you know them in real life, because even if you really do believe you know them, be wary; it’s not cool to pile up thousands of friends or followers on social networks, especially when you realize they have one hundred percent access to details about your life, ones that you willingly post.
- That there are predators out there who want to find you. Based on the information that you tell everyone who is in your online social network or who has access to your profile, someone could follow you. Your profile identifies who you are, what you do, where you live, what activities you enjoy, where you hang out (and sometimes the food you enjoy). Posting this kind of information on a constant basis gives people who don’t know you, or adult cyberstalkers, the room to think of how to get you.
PS: Your friends know how to find you without the need for a social network.
When it comes to cyberbullying, Beware of:
It’s generally cool to share pictures and videos of you and your friends, true. However, we strongly advise you to be discrete when you upload content on your profile, whether that was a picture, a video, or otherwise. Yes, your friends might find that picture of you acting funny at a party incredibly hilarious, but have you considered how your parents or your teachers would react in case they saw it? What if someone who actually wants to harm you sees it?
Also, remember that when a friend (or a stranger) takes a picture of you, and it ends up on their profile, everyone is allowed to see it. Once a picture or a video is online, other people can download it, some of whom you don’t trust, and they can do whatever they wish to do with it. It’s just… not yours anymore.
- Password sharing
Treat your password like a toothbrush, and safeguard it with prying eyes. Never leave passwords or other identifying information where others can see it. Also, never give out this information to anyone, even your best friend. If others know it, take the time to change it at this very moment!
- Unidentified or unsolicited messages
In other simpler words… avoid opening emails, texts, and Facebook messages from people you don’t know, or from someone you probably know is bullying you. What to do then? Delete them without reading them, because, even if they’re not saying something mean or hurtful, they could contain viruses that automatically infect your device or hack your accounts. Moreover, beware of links that seem fishy. Clicking on those ends up spamming unwanted content or links everywhere and might contain viruses that are designed to collect every piece of information you have online, or track you in some way or another.
Cyberbullying Password Safety tips: What should I do?
So we’ve established that we will never share out social network, instant messaging, or email passwords with any of our friends. It is private, and friendships sometimes don’t last, so we better be careful…
- Don’t use passwords based on personal information, such as your login in name, birth date, address, mobile phone number, family/middle name, pet name, nickname, country name, and so on. (We’ve all done that at some point, haven’t we?)
- Use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and non-alphanumerical characters such as underscores and other symbols, if it won’t be too difficult.
- Change your password often. While it can be confusing and might take time, do it anyway because it is more of a chore and much more time consuming trying to get a hacked account back.
- Do not place a written copy of your password on the side of your monitor, under your keyboard, under your mouse pad, etc. Figure out a secure place where you can store the passwords you write down – or, if possible – never write down any passwords; it is best to remember them by heart.
- Do not type passwords on computers that you do not own, control, or fully trust. Computers in Internet cafés, computer labs, airports, libraries, or similar public places should only be used for anonymous Web browsing, and not for logging into your online accounts.
- Remember your secret answer. When you create an online account, and it asks you to provide an accurate answer to a question you should know ‐ don’t treat it lightly or as a joke. Make sure it’s something you will remember months and years from now in case you have a problem at that time.
Finally, we have read an interesting suggestion on preventing cyberbullying. You could make your own acronym by creating a phrase that means something to you, and group together the first letter of each word. Use numbers and symbols when you can. Make sure the acronym you create has at least seven characters. For example:
• “Last week I fell down thirty stairs” (Lw1fd30$)
• “It’s 3 am, I must be lonely” (I3amimbL)
• “My boyfriend got me a dog for Christmas” (mBFgm@d4C)
• Use short words separated by characters (d0g%d00r, c@ndystr1p).
Like the idea? Do it, and create your own acronym, and change your passwords right now!
- Post or share personal information online, including your full name, your address, your telephone number, which school you go to, your parents’ names, or your friends’ personal information. In private messages, never ever share your credit card number or social security number.
- Share your password, unless your parents have agreed to not use it except in extreme cases.
- Meet anyone face-to-face with whom you’ve only made online contact. It is never a good idea to meet up with someone you have only spoken to online. While online friends can be great, and online communities can be amazing grounds for finding people with common interests; you should just be online friends. Always remember that not everyone online is who they claim to be… perhaps the picture, their age, and their entire identity is someone else’s. However, if you’ve grown more certain of their identity, tell a parent or an adult, perhaps they can come with you at least for the first time.
- Share “sexy” photos with anyone. Before sending that sexy image of yourself to anyone, no matter how close you are, ask yourself if you’d want your parents, grandparents, and the rest of the world to see it. If your answer is no, then you probably should not share it. Bullies can use this picture as a tool to make their life miserable. Keyword: Keep your photos PG!
- Save passwords in form fields within websites or your web browser for convenience, and don’t stay logged in when you walk away from the computer or cell phone. Don’t give anyone even the slightest chance to pose as you online through your device. If you forget to log out of Facebook when using the computer at the library, the next person who uses that computer could get into your account and cause significant problems for you.
- Be a cyberbully yourself. Remember to treat others how you would want to be treated. By being mean and hurtful to others online, you are telling everyone that you find it okay to hurt another, and you might be the next victim.
- Watch or forward mean messages, because it empowers bullies, and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell the bully to stop, and let them know that their immature harassment makes them look stupid. It’s time we let bullies know that their behaviour is utterly unacceptable. However, if you cannot stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behaviour. Be a friend, not a bystander.
When it comes to Cyber Bullying It’s also important to:
- Set up privacy controls over your social networking accounts. If you restrict access to your online profile to trusted friends only, you are more likely to be safe. Most social networking sites like Facebook and Google + allow you the ability to pick what to share with “friends only”, but these settings must be configured and continuously revised to ensure maximum protection. Try to keep your profile as private as possible, and avoid adding anyone you don’t know or don’t trust to your profile.
- Google yourself, by searching your name in the popular search engines, like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc, and see what comes up. If any personal information or photo comes up, one that you would not a cyberbully to use to target or harass you, then quickly access the website on which it was posted and remove it before it becomes a problem. Try especially looking for images; it will show what it is about you that others can see, and make changes to what you don’t like.
- Take half a minute and pause before you post, especially anything that would compromise your reputation. Remember that people can be judgmental, and what you appear to be like online reflects on how they see you offline. Perhaps you might be denied a future scholarship or internship based on your online behaviour.
Remember that the answer to all trouble is one thing: Common sense
- It is rather easy for your intentions to be misunderstood online. You may type something out and then realize how odd it looks, or that it does not properly say what you meant. Thinking carefully before you post anything is not a difficult task to do when compared to the drastic consequences that could result from not thinking. It is also easy to get worked up because you disagree with something, or someone has annoyed you, but you should have a little more tolerance. Try and be cool, and respect other people’s opinions, thoughts and views. We can by no means get along all the time, but just because you don’t agree with them, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to be rude or abusive. A little more respect can do a lot.
- Be nice!
Whether you’re sending an email, having fun in a chat room or commenting on people’s posts in forums, it is important to be courteous and respectful. In other simpler words, follow the golden rule of manners: one should treat others the way he or she would like to be treated. Likewise, just as you treat others with respect in the real world, it is important that you apply these same basic rules online as well.
Part of being nice is helping new Internet users; we all were “newbs” once upon a time. Many teenagers who gain access to social networks, iPods, and laptops at first are unaware of how dangerous this technology can be if not used properly or if abused. Although it is truly normal to be excited about the lots of things the Internet enables us to do, especially connected with all our friends and classmates, we should be wary of the fact that those who abuse the privileges of the Internet do and will exist.
Everything can and will be tracked. For any inappropriate content on your profile, you can be held accountable, in case it violates the terms of service or acceptable use policies of the website you are using, or your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Learning is key
To prevent cyberbullying from occurring you must understand exactly what it is. Research what cyberbullying is about, as well as how and where it is most likely to happen, and what kind of person the cyberbully is. Talk to your friends about what they are seeing and experiencing, and form a better idea about the problem.
- After you’ve learned enough and helped your friends understand, then why not start a movement, create a club, build a campaign, or host an event to bring awareness to cyberbullying? While you may understand what it is, it’s not until others are aware of it too that we can truly prevent it from occurring.