Bullies Who Hide Behind a Screen
Wouldn't it be nice if all you had to do to defeat online bullies was to just get offline? Well, as we all know, things aren't always that easy.
Even on this site, I get a lot of nasty comments and hateful emails from people who seem to take issue with the simple fact that a site offering support to GLBT teens exists.
Now most of these comments come from anonymous strangers, and don't make me feel personally attacked. That is a lot different than hearing hateful things from someone from your soccer team or who goes to your school.
But whether the bullying or awful comments come from someone you know, or from some stranger living half way around the world, one thing is true: the barrier provided by the Internet allows some people to be incredibly cruel in ways they probably wouldn't be if they were standing right in front of the person they were bashing.
Still just because the bully might be protected by a barrier, that doesn't mean that your feelings will be.
What is Cyberbullying
As the Guide to Teen Advice describes it, "Cyberbullying is any harassment that occurs via the Internet. Vicious forum posts, name calling in chat rooms, posting fake profiles on web sites, and mean or cruel email messages are all ways of cyberbullying."
Some ways that cyberbullying happens are:
- When the perpetrators say nasty things to the victim online either privately or in a public space.
- When someone posts unattractive or unflattering pictures or videos of another person.
- When someone creates a fake profile of another person.
- When people or groups to gang up on a victim online.
- When someone gets a victim's password and uses it to send fake messages or post fake comments.
These are just a few examples of cyberbullying. Unfortunately, bullies can be really creative, and have probably thought of a lot of other ways to harass people online.
What You Can Do
The first thing you should do is decide if you want to engage with the bully. In some cases you may feel that calling the person out, or telling him or her to stop is appropriate and safe. In others this won't be the case.
The Guide to Family Computing also advises that victims of cyberbullying, "Cancel social networking, email and cell phone accounts and open new accounts. Share the new information with smaller groups of friends. Unfriend or block the people who are involved in the bullying. Don’t let the bullies follow you into your own home by reading their comments online."
You should be sure to document the bullying. That can mean getting a screen grab of the page. About.com's guide to Computing has a really easy to follow video that demonstrates how to do this. Also make sure to save bullying messages and emails.
If someone is bullying you through a social network like Facebook, you can block that person and report him or her to the site's administrator. If you think the bullying is serious enough, you may also choose to report it to your school's administration or to the police.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Being the victim of cyberbullying has many negative effects. Many victims develop low self-esteem. Some become self-hating. In extreme cases, a young person might consider suicide. Additionally, learning and school work can be seriously affected.
If you are a victim, please reach out to an adult who you trust and seek help!