My Posts

What Is Cyberbullying and How to Respond to It?

By Orgesta Tolaj


8 February 2024


© freepik

In this digital age, cyberbullying has become an increasingly prevalent issue. With the rise of social media and online platforms, it is essential to understand what cyberbullying is and how to respond to it effectively. It is crucial to recognize the signs, understand their impact on individuals, and know how to respond effectively. By raising awareness and equipping ourselves with the right tools, we can create a safer and more compassionate online environment for everyone. Here’s how you can get started.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying refers to the act of using the internet or technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. While it primarily involves tweens and teens, adults can also be victims of cyberbullying and public shaming. Cyberbullying has more significant effects compared to traditional bullying because hurtful messages reach an unlimited audience and are often preserved online. Even if a mean post is deleted, it may still be available in screenshots or shared messages. Victims often don’t know who is bullying them, making it difficult to stop.

What Are the Types of Cyberbullying?

The majority of online harassment among children can be categorized into five main types. These include:

1. Inappropriate / Nude Photos

Cyberbullies often use photographs, including embarrassing or inappropriate images shared privately or taken without consent, to shame their targets. These images are distributed online through social media, photo-sharing sites, mass emails, or text messages. This behavior, termed “sexting,” can quickly spread to numerous individuals, sometimes leading to blackmail. Additionally, cyberbullies may engage in slut-shaming, criticizing individuals, typically girls, for their appearance, behavior, or relationships.

2. Videos

Videos are commonly utilized in online bullying to shame and embarrass targets. Cyberbullies may upload humiliating videos to platforms like YouTube, share them through mass emails or text messages, or create incidents to provoke emotional reactions and record them, known as “cyberbaiting.”Additionally, they may capture and share bullying incidents involving physical harm or embarrassing moments in school or the community to further torment the target.

© freepik

3. Harassing Someone

Online bullying often involves harassing individuals using technology to torment them. This can include engaging in “warning wars,” where individuals misuse reporting features to get others in trouble, or participating in “text wars” by sending numerous hurtful texts. Cyberbullies may also post rude comments on gaming sites or social media platforms. Additionally, tactics like “subtweeting” and “vaguebooking” involve indirectly targeting someone with mean words, while direct harassment can occur through text messages, instant messaging, or email.

4. Creating Harassing Websites

Cyberbullies sometimes create websites, blogs, or polls to harass others. They may conduct internet polls with hurtful questions or create websites or blogs that contain embarrassing or insulting content about the target. This can include personal information, pictures, rumors, lies, or gossip, which may put the victim at risk of contact with predators.

5. Impersonating Someone

Impersonation is a common form of cyberbullying where one person pretends to be another online. This can be done by hacking into the target’s account or creating a similar username to post offensive content or chat with others while pretending to be the victim. Catfishing, where someone pretends to be someone else to start a fake relationship, is also a form of impersonation used for cyberbullying.

How Can You Respond to or Deal With Cyberbullying?

These are three proper ways to respond:

1. Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

One of the biggest mistakes tweens and teens make when facing cyberbullying is responding with a post that fights back or tries to explain. Cyberbullies often seek this type of interaction. Ignoring the posts and blocking the person can help the situation fade away, as responding only escalates it. It’s important to report the cyberbully to the appropriate authorities, such as the social media provider, school, or police if threats are involved or cyberbullying laws are violated.

2. Gather Proof

In cases of cyberbullying, it’s crucial to save evidence such as screenshots or copies of hurtful messages and photos. Even though the initial reaction might be to delete everything, preserving evidence is necessary for legal action. However, if the posts involve sexual bullying or nudity, they should be deleted immediately to avoid legal issues. Report incidents promptly and provide evidence to the authorities, but refrain from keeping copies of sexual posts to avoid legal complications.

© freepik

3. Notify Higher-Ups

Reporting cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities is crucial, even if it occurs off school grounds. Schools may have the authority to intervene, and it’s important to reference their bullying policies. If school officials are unresponsive, it’s advisable to remind them of their policies. Checking state laws on bullying and cyberbullying is also recommended, as some behaviors may warrant criminal charges. Additionally, threats of violence, stalking, or suicide should be reported to the police immediately, especially if harassment persists over time or is based on factors like race, religion, or disability.

Is There Any Way to Prevent Cyberbullying?

Preventing cyberbullying involves implementing safety measures for your child and maintaining an ongoing dialogue about safe social media usage. Here’s how you can do that:

1. Set Social Media Limits

Encourage your child to limit their social media posts and time online to reduce the attention they may attract from cyberbullies. By posting fewer selfies or self-reflective content, they can minimize material for cyberbullies to exploit. Teach them to set personal boundaries and use tools like timers to effectively manage their social media usage.

2. Use Device Protection Methods

Help your child utilize privacy tools and settings available on social media platforms to keep their accounts private, prevent photo sharing, and require approval for posts. Emphasize the importance of strong passwords for protecting their accounts and devices. Encourage them not to share passwords with anyone, even friends. Additionally, advise them to log out of social media and email accounts when using public computers to prevent unauthorized access and potential cyberbullying incidents.

3. Tell Kids to “Think” Before They “Post”

Teach your child to think carefully before posting anything online, as impulsive posts or comments can lead to cyberbullying. Even if they delete a post, it can still be exploited if someone takes a screenshot. Encourage them to be cautious and slow to post. Additionally, show them how to schedule posts, allowing time for reflection and the opportunity to edit or delete before the post goes live.

© freepik

4. Remain Private

Encourage your child never to share personal information online, such as their address, school, or last name, as this can make them vulnerable to cyberbullies. Similarly, while sharing locations with friends is common, it can also pose risks, allowing individuals with malicious intentions to track their whereabouts. Stress the importance of being cautious about sharing location details to avoid potential stalking or exploitation by cyberbullies.

What steps would you take to prevent and respond to cyberbullying?

You might also want to read: How to Talk to Your Child About Bullying

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!