Surviving Cyberbullying

Ph.D., CPsychol., AFBPsS, Health Professional
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Bullying is the intentional and repeated use of behaviors designed to hurt or harm less powerful or more vulnerable people. Name-calling, threats, teasing, hitting, spreading stories, or deliberate exclusion from groups or activities are all examples of bullying. When bullies use texting, messaging, and posting on social media as their form of torment, we call this cyberbullying.

A big cause for concern

Any form of bullying is upsetting, but cyberbullying is especially difficult because it follows the victim around, 24 hours a day. The effects of relentless abuse and attacks can be devastating. Bullying is linked to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, truancy from school, and suicide. The website Bullying Statistics cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures pointing to around 4,400 deaths per year. For every actual suicide, at least 100 suicide attempts are made.

There is no shortage of creativity when it comes to bullying tactics. Eleven categories of abuse are listed on NoBullying.com, including password theft, impersonation, sending viruses in order to damage another person’s computer, and the use of images for the sole purpose of humiliation.

Think before you act

It’s a sad fact that one way of not becoming the victim of a bully is to side with them. Bullying is at its most successful if people support it and find it funny. The moment we laugh at the distress caused by bullying, we’ve signed on to bullying ourselves. It can be all too easy to be drawn into bullying simply by forwarding a text or commenting on an image. Think about what you are saying. Think about how you would feel if these things were being said and done about you.

Be aware that every state has laws or policies regarding bullying. According to FindLaw.com, some prosecutors have used existing laws to prosecute individuals suspected of cyberbullying.

How to survive cyberbullying

Once a cyberbullying attack starts, it can quickly build momentum. Attempts to ignore it can fail due to the fact that bullies often increase the variety and frequency of attacks. The sooner you act, the faster you’ll contain the situation. Here are some useful tips:

  • Don’t delete texts or emails. These are evidence. Even if sent anonymously, they can be tracked.
  • Don’t reply or react to cyberbullying. It shows you’ve been affected, and this is exactly what bullies want to see.
  • Block instant messages or emails.
  • Talk to trusted adults. If bullying is happening at school, tell a teacher even if bullying is occurring outside of school time.
  • Most internet service providers and cell phone operators have established mechanisms for dealing with cyberbullying. Contact them and see what they can do.

Lastly, don’t forget to help yourself. Never leave personal details like passwords, or your address, lying around. Learning how to block and filter messages can quickly stem the flow of cyberbullying.

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