Any type of bullying that takes place online or through tablets, phones and laptops can be referred to as cyberbullying. Many people will have a very positive online experience and will really enjoy using messenger, chatrooms, gaming sites and social networking sites like XBox Live, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Others will not have such a positive experience, though, so it’s important that we all know what to do if something goes sour online.
Most young people will witness or experience cyberbullying at some point – it’s a major issue on the Internet. In Ditch the Label’s 2017 Bullying Survey, it was found that 17% of young people had experienced cyberbullying at some point, and 69% had said something abusive to another person online. Cyberbullying can go viral very fast, as it happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Why Is Cyberbullying such a Big Issue?
Comments, photos, posts and other online content shared by young people can often be viewed by strangers as well as friends, thanks to the prevalence of digital forums and social media. People can accidentally create a sort of permanent public record of their actions, behaviour and views through the content they share online, whether that’s mean, hurtful content or personal information.
Prospective employers, clubs, colleges, schools and anyone else who may be interested in researching an individual – either at the time of posting or years in the future – can all gain access to this public online footprint. Both those doing the bullying or participating in it and those who are being bullied can have their online reputations permanently damaged.
There are a number of other factors that make cyberbullying particularly worrying when compared to other forms of bullying. Cyberbullying is…
- Non-stop. It can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief, as devices like phones and computers allow them to be contacted instantly and constantly at any time of day.
- Easily hidden. Cyberbullying is often harder to recognise as it can’t be overheard or spotted by parents and teachers who aren’t in the same online communities as their children and pupils.
- Permanent. If it isn’t reported and removed, most of the information communicated electronically is permanent and public. A negative online reputation can have impacts later in life, such as in college admissions and employment.
Cyberbullying will often take shape in more ways than one – like offline bullying, there are many ways to bully someone online. Types of cyberbullying include:
Exclusion: Intentionally leaving someone out of an online engagement like a group chat, gaming site or online app. This form of social bullying is very common both online and off.
Fake profiles: Some bullies will break into another person’s social media account or email with the intention of using that account to send embarrassing or cruel material to their contacts. In some cases, the bully will even set up a fake profile to impersonate the individual, and it can be really difficult to have these accounts removed.
Flaming: Getting into online arguments and fights by purposely using very offensive and unnecessary language. The perpetrator will enjoy the fact that it causes someone to get distressed, as they have done this to get a reaction.
Harassment: The act of being abusive and sending someone rude, hurtful and offensive messages. Chat rooms, posts and photos can become littered with humiliating or mean comments. Gaming sites are also common places for people to be explicitly offensive.
Outing and Trickery: Tricking someone into revealing personal and secret information, and/or sharing information about that person. This can also be done using videos and private messages.
Rumours: Intentionally spreading damaging, false and fake information about another person. Some bullies will share photos of the victim as a way of spreading false gossip and rumours. This type can take place on an app or a website. For the purpose of bullying, some will even alter photos before posting them online. Stalking: Engaging in online activities that make someone fear for their safety, such as repeatedly sending messages that threaten harassment, breached security or harm. Depending on what the bully is doing, these actions can actually be illegal.
Gossipping and Making Up Rumours
In some cases, something nasty that’s been posted about you can be read and shared by a large number of people, seemingly within seconds. This is easily one of the worst aspects of social networking and messaging sites.
It’s often a good idea to keep personal information and secrets to yourself, as many people who are bullied online find that the cruellest rumours are the ones spread by people who used to be their friends. If it’d embarrass you for other people to find out about something, it’s probably safest to keep it to yourself.
Writing and sharing malicious and untrue content about other people online can be classed as harassment.
The Impact of Cyberbullying
Stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression can occur as a result of long-term, persistent or severe cyberbullying – for both the victim and the bully. Some kids have even turned to suicide, though these cases are rarer. Suicidal thoughts, attempts and completed suicides are all more common in children who bully or who are bullied.
For the bully, the worst form of punishment they get will usually be getting removed from a sports team or getting detention at school. However, some types of cyberbullying are considered to be crimes, and some bullies end up being punished through the legal system.
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For more information about bullying, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to Bullying which offers some answers as to why children are bullied and how parents can stop it from happening as well as providing some proven methods on how to help the bullied child boost their plummeting self-esteem.