What can you do if you’re threatened online?
Picture the scene: You happily post a new photo of yourself on Instagram only to find a few hours later that someone has made mean and hurtful comments and shared it. They’ve edited it with weird filters, added cruel words or emojis, or turned it into a meme, and reposted it. Hundreds of their followers that you don’t know have laughed and liked it.
Imagine the hurt, the embarrassment, and the humiliation. Sadly, that feeling is experienced regularly (by people of all ages) and is just one kind of cyberbullying that leaves many feeling depressed, scared, and isolated. Bullying has been around forever but cyberbullying is new. Before everyone had phones and the internet, teenagers who were bullied at school could leave their tormentors behind at the end of the day. Cyberbullying can follow you home and continue even when you’re alone in your bedroom.
WHAT COUNTS AS CYBERBULLYING?
Cyberbullying is any kind of bullying that takes place online or through phones or tablets. Places such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are supposed to be safe, fun places to be, but sadly some people choose to use them to threaten, harass, embarrass, or upset another person. Sometimes it’s anonymous or done using fake profiles, which makes it even scarier. Often, the cyberbully will excuse their behavior as “joking”—but it is never a joke if the other person is upset. Other examples of cyberbullying include:
- Sending or posting threatening, abusive messages and comments.
- Stealing passwords and posing as the victim. Sometimes, bullies trick people into revealing information and then post it on other sites or share it.
- Creating websites, profiles, or blogs either posing as the target or making hateful or cruel untrue comments about them.
What can you do if you are being cyberbullied?
1.) Tell someone. Like face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can make you feel low, anxious, and helpless. Too often, people are scared to open up about what’s going on for fear it will make it worse, but it is important to let someone know. No one has the right to bully you—you have the right to feel safe online and people can help you stop the bullying. Tell a parent or a trusted adult, perhaps a teacher or School Counselor.
2.) Save or take a screenshot of all the messages if you can so the adults helping you can ensure the bully is dealt with properly. It may be that the police get involved and they will need evidence.
3.) Report harassing comments and fake profiles on whatever social media platform you use. There are always ways to report content.
How can you stop it from happening to you?
You have a right to feel safe on social media while using your phones and visiting websites but sadly, there will always be bullies out there. You can, however, protect yourself in some ways. One key piece of advice is—think before you post! You probably hear this a lot but it’s true. Don’t share passwords, photos, or information you wouldn’t want your grandma or teachers to see or know online, not even with friends. This doesn’t mean you can’t post photos, just always be careful who you share with and consider who is on your friends list too. Is there anyone who might want to repost or share your information or picture in a way that might be hurtful? Also, look into the privacy controls on the websites or messaging programs you use—you can control who sees your profile and who can contact you.
What can you do if you think you know cyberbullying is going on?
Report it! You can pass on any harassment you see to the social media site but you can also tell a trusted adult about what is going on. Help the person being bullied. Send them a private message and tell them you don’t agree with what is happening. If you are brave and it is safe to do so, post a positive comment publicly to the target.
How can you ensure you aren’t accused of being a cyberbully?
When you make comments about someone else, imagine how you’d feel if someone said that about you. Often people make offensive comments online without meaning to be hurtful, but “joking” can be misinterpreted or easily turned into something more serious. Don’t participate, like, or share posts that bully another person.
If you think you are or have been a cyberbully . . . STOP!!!! Your actions are hurting someone. If you post abuse about anyone online or if you send threats, you can be traced by the police and could be guilty of a criminal offense. Often, there is a reason in someone’s past that pushes them toward becoming a bully. If you think this is you, you can change. Tell an adult and ask for their help.