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Cyberbullying: How to (Safely) Navigate the World Wide Web

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Growing up and living in a safe environment should be a standard of living for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s a privilege. The Internet, with its limitless potential, imposes new dangers upon us that wherein we have little to no experience. Children are the most vulnerable to attacks by strangers and this is no different in the virtual world. We need to start shedding light on cyberbullying and how to avoid and prevent it.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying entails the use of electronic communication to harass and bully a person by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. This can occur over a gamut of channels, including social media, online forums, email, or video game platforms.

The omnipresence of digital devices and the ease they’ve facilitated in accessing the internet has caused a major rise in this form of bullying. Data from Do Something reveals the following.

  1. 43% of kids have experienced cyberbullying. Many of them having been bullied repeatedly.
  2. 70% of students report witnessing the issue online.
  3. 81% acknowledge that online bullying is much easier to get away with than its offline counterpart.
  4. Nearly 68% of students agree that the issue has become a serious problem. Moreover, it appears that girls are more susceptible to being bullied online, they are twice as likely to experience or instigate cyberbullying.

There is a silver lining though. Despite the 90% of teenagers admitting they ignore bullying seen online, 84% have witnessed others addressing bullies and telling them to stop their inappropriate and abusive behavior.

A New Concern for the Parents

Cyberbullying has caused major concerns for parents and teachers especially. Many initiatives and campaigns are raising awareness about it in an attempt to prevent more instances of bullying online.

It appears that the most bullying happens through mobile phones. The problem is we carry them everywhere and have constant access to the internet. Because of our continued use of phones and social media, cyberbullying has become virtually inescapable.

Research has shown that cyberbullying causes low self-esteem, distress, and anxiety. Young students have started to avoid school or simply refuse to attend class. They also may begin avoiding people, becoming reclusive, and begin developing early signs of depression at a much earlier age than previous generations. A deeply troubling aspect is that these incredibly young victims are beginning to inflict self-harm and are two to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and consider taking their own lives.

The effects of cyber bullying can lead to depression

Various Forms of Cyberbullying

The definition of cyberbullying in an ever-evolving digital age has become more fluid and in turn difficult to recognize. The guide below has identified and compiled the many forms of cyberbullying in order to prevent its harmful effects from ever coming to fruition.  

Exclusion

Intentionally leaving someone out of a group on social media can be considered abusive. It can be particularly hard on teenagers, who find belonging to a group of peers directly linked to self-esteem. Exclusion can cause a lot of distress to a young person, whose character, social skills and confidence are still forming.

Flaming

Flaming is defined as an act in which someone is being derogatory towards someone else. This can often happen during heated discussions. Someone may start using aggressive language, be condescending, threatening or insulting. If this occurs in an online chat or in a comments section on an Instagram page, the owner of the page or chat can and should remove or block the bully. If there is no moderator or the person is not being removed, it is safest to just leave the discussion yourself.

Harassment

Harassment is unwanted, intrusive, and offensive communication. It is best not to get involved. Ignoring harassment rather than engaging can be the fastest way to shut it down.  

Impersonation and “Frapping” (popularized as “Catfishing”)

Pretending to be another person, posting content or commenting on someone’s behalf can all be categorized as “frapping” which is tantamount to impersonation or catfishing.  This form of cyberbullying is deceitful and manipulative. It can compromise the reputation and integrity of the impersonated individual as well as harming those who believe to be communicating with her.  It’s important to protect your personal details so as not to become an open target.

Trickery and Outing

Someone online has gained your trust and access to private information and is holding it over you. Once tricksters get access to personal details they may “out” someone by posting their sensitive information to deliberately cause embarrassment, stress, or humiliation. Although the essence of the Internet is sharing information, in the digital age it is important to be guarded with sensitive details, files or photos you wouldn’t want to be made public.

Happy Slapping

This involves physically attacking a victim, usually in groups while filming or taking pictures of the scene with an intention to later post them online. Happy Slapping is illegal and considered a serious offense.

Trolling

Trolls seek to incite disruption, usually on social media by using provocative language to instigate a heated reaction. They are aiming to make people angry and are determined to incite negative emotions. Trolling is different from flaming because usually, a reaction will stop a troll’s comments whereas it may not with “getting flamed.”

Cyberstalking

The act of persecution is on the more aggressive end of the bullying spectrum. Many or all areas of the victim’s life are invaded (school, work, home, social circles). The offender might blackmail, threaten, or post sensitive data including sexually explicit photos or videos of the victim. Stalking, whether real or virtual is a serious offense that can be punishable by the law.

If anything you encounter on the internet strikes you as harmful or something you recognize as a form of cyberbullying, it is important to address it, take action, and seek help.  Building strong bonds within the community you live in can also positively affect your sense of security. One of the most effective bully preventatives is to leave the virtual world behind and focus on strengthening personal relationships with parents, teachers, and friends.  No matter how alone you may feel in the virtual world, you’re never as alone as you think.

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