Cyberbullying can be a horrific experience for the victim, who might feel as though there’s nothing they can do to escape it. It’s also more popular than you might think - in a recent survey by Ditch the Label, 47% of young people who took the survey had received nasty profile comments and 62% had been sent nasty private messages via smartphone apps. If you’re worried that you might be a victim of cyberbullying yourself, read on to find out what to do…
What counts as cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of any digital technology to tease, humiliate, upset, threaten or ridicule someone else.
It can happen through:
- Text message
- Instant messaging (IM) and chat rooms
- Apps, e.g. WhatsApp
- Social networking sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
- Online gaming
- Online grooming, e.g. when someone builds an online relationship with a young person and tricks them or pressures them into doing something sexual
- Abusing personal information, e.g. someone posting photos or other personal information about you without your permission, or pretending to be you online
Why is it happening?
Sometimes, people say and do things without realising they might be hurtful to others. At other times, these actions are more intentional. Very often, bullies have been bullied themselves, have experienced difficult childhoods, or are responding to peer pressure in order to feel more like they’re part of a group. It’s particularly easy for them be aggressive towards others online, as this provides them with the ability to ‘hide’ behind they’re keyboard – it’s far easier to bully someone without feeling guilty when you can’t physically see the harm you’re causing.
If you’re the victim of bullying, whether online or otherwise, the most important thing is to remember that it is not your fault, and that if they weren’t picking on you, they’d very likely target someone else.
What to do
If you feel that you’re being bullied online, it might feel as though there’s no way out, but there are steps you can take. Don’t feel guilty about taking action – a text or comment can seem like no big deal on its own, but they do build up into something more. If it’s keeping you up at night or you’re starting to feel miserable because of it, it’s best to action as soon as possible. Here’s what you can do:
- Keep a record – take a screenshot or photo of the messages, photos, videos or comments that are causing you to feel down.
- Block and report – most social networks allow you to block people that are bothering you and report their behavior if it’s aggressive. Click here to find out about how to do this on a range of different social networks. A general rule when making a complaint about being bullied online is to copy the terms and conditions which have been breached and take a screenshot of the comment or photo as evidence. This may prompt any of these sites and apps to take action as you have shown them their obligation to investigate and take appropriate action.
- Don’t share, comment or react to any bullying post – as tempting as it might be to defend yourself or react in other ways, this can often make things worse.
- Talk to someone you trust – you don’t need to suffer in silence and talking to someone can sometimes be the only way to make bullying stop. Speak to your parents, a family friend, someone at school/college or a counsellor – very often, they will be able to give you some advice and help you to get through it. If the bullies are at your school/college, a teacher or counsellor will very often be able to take the next steps required to stop the bullying.
- Tell the police if it’s serious – Cyberbullying isn’t against the law in the UK, but harassment and threatening behavior is. The means if someone keeps making you feel scared on purpose, what they’re doing could be illegal.
- Know that things can change – It might not seem like it right now, but as long as you start to take the above steps and don’t suffer alone, it’s very likely that this will pass. In the meantime, focus on spending time with friends who make you feel good about yourself, or focus your energies on a hobby to take your mind off things.
- You can contact Childline about anything that bothers you, including cyberbullying. You can call them, email them or speak to someone online. Click here for more details.
- The Mix is dedicated to helping young adults and children, and they have a page entirely dedicated to cyberbullying here. Like Childline, they also operate a phone, email and online chat service.
- BullyingUK has some great advice on how to stay safe on Twitter and online in general.
- The Samaritans is a voluntary service designed to help absolutely anyone, regardless of their age, who is struggling to cope. Click here to get in touch with someone who can help.