Thursday, 30 January 2020

How to protect yourself and others from cyberbullying

With most of the world’s population now using the internet and social media on a daily basis, cyberbullying has become widespread in today’s society. Not only is this form of online bullying targeted at children, but adults can also find themselves becoming the victims of online abuse.

How to recognise cyberbullying

In order to tackle this serious issue, we must first learn to recognise the signs of cyberbullying so that we can take necessary steps to avoid and prevent it.

Cyberbullying is when someone uses digital technology such as the internet, social media, mobile phones and gaming platforms to upset, abuse, threaten, slander or harass an individual. For example:

  • Abusive, threatening or offensive messages
  • Posting inciting messages in online forums or communities
  • Spreading rumours online
  • Posting private and personal images of another person without their consent
  • Creating fake social media profiles to smear someone’s character or harass them

This kind of intentionally cruel, aggressive and abusive behaviour can have a severely damaging effect on the person that’s being targeted, and they might experience anxiety, stress or depression. A study undertaken by the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Swansea showed that cyberbullying increases the risk of suicide, mental disorders and self-harm. This is a serious issue but there are ways to protect yourself from cyberbullying.

Ways to protect yourself

Tell someone – Although bullies often use threatening tactics so their victim will be too afraid to tell anyone, you must speak up about it. Talk to a schoolteacher, an adult that you can confide in or the police.

Save evidence – Make sure you keep any evidence of cyberbullying. Take screenshots of online messages or posts they have made and save any emails that you’ve received.

Don’t reply – It might be tempting to retaliate or respond to the bully, but try to resist and ignore anything they send to you. Bullies aim to get a reaction and if you don’t fall into their trap, they are less likely to continue harassing you.

Block them – Fortunately we are able to block specific people from most online platforms, including mobile phones, social media accounts and emails. Make sure you only accept people who you know on your accounts and only give out your phone number to those that you trust.

Keep your life private – It can be tempting to post personal information and photographs on social media but unless you are sure this won’t be shared by someone else without your consent, try to keep your life private.

Don’t take it personally – Even though you might be receiving messages that are aimed directly at you, remember that cyberbullies are usually unhappy with their own lives which is why they take pleasure in harassing others. It might be that they’re insecure or jealous, but their bullying tactics say more about them as a person than you.

Remove your profile – If the bully still finds a way of abusing you even though you’ve blocked them from online accounts (maybe they’ve set up a fake profile), you can always remove your own profile or account so that they have no way of contacting you.

Avoid the internet – It may seem difficult at first to totally abandon social media but take some time out from the online world. Instead, spend time doing a hobby that you enjoy, an outdoor activity or just being with close friends in a social situation. This will help take your mind off the cyberbully and once they realise you’re not responding or available online, they might decide to leave you alone.

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