Cyberbullying Awareness and Avoidance Resource GuideThe following resource guide makes it harder for cyber bullies, and easier for their victims to find solace and recover after being flamed, stalked and generally embarrassed online.
We have heard of bullying in high schools and universities. Some have been unlucky enough to be at the receiving end of the harsh treatment imposed by bullies. This is the traditional form of bullying, and since the invention of the internet, this previously mild and physical form of abuse has been taken to a whole new level. Bullies now taunt their victims through harsh words and mass incitement. The bully has become a gang on the internet that builds up just for the purpose of putting down an unsuspecting person.
The worst part of bullying is that there has never been a permanent solution to it yet. Over the years, one third of the school children in the U.S. have experienced bullying in one way or the other. They have either been the victim, the executor of the abuse, or have watched as someone else gets bullied right in front of them.
People do nothing about this because, as they put it, ‘that is just the way it is’. It is deeply rooted into the mentality of almost everyone that there will always be bullies in the schools in life and now on the internet. This adds up to about 5.7 million school-going children all the over America who have been part of a bullying in one way or the other.
On the other hand, 64 percent of the children have been the victims of bullying but have failed to report this for several reasons; including threats from their bullies and fear of a repeat experience. These statistics are alarming enough as it is, but this trend is only going to continue if people are not going to question the status quo.
What is Cyberbullying?
The feeling the victim gets after they have been cyber bullied is indescribable. It’s something that only a true victim of cyber bullying can even begin to comprehend. Experts have, however, tried to define cyber in an attempt to fully understand it, maybe even get a permanent solution for it.
Cyber bullying has been defined as the infliction of harm willfully and repeatedly by using internet devices such as the computer and other mobile devices. This definition was coined by the Cyber bullying Research Center, meant to include only the actions that are done with some form of deliberate intention rather than purely accidental coincidences.
The actions of a true cyber bully will show some form of behavioral pattern, yet the isolated abuses do not count as cyber bullying. The actions must also cause harm, either physical or emotional, to the victim of the abuse for them to count as cyber bullying.
Lastly, cyber bullying must be electronic. This is the only factor that separates it from the traditional form of bullying, but seeing as they both inflict the same amount of harm on their victims, both cyber bullying and the traditional form of bullying cause irreversible damage to their victims.
Spotting Cyber Bullies
It is an insidious form of abuse which is usually not taken as seriously as other known forms of abuse, even though it causes just as much harm to its victims. The internet is a vast place with millions of ways for a bully to hide their identity from the public. With this to their advantage, bullies can say and do anything.
The internet – being virtual – does not show the hurt and pain inflicted in the victims of abuse. Bullies are therefore not always bad people, but given the nature of the internet, they have no way of knowing the actual amount of pain they cause to the person at the other end of the screen. Cyber bullies just type and get up to go on with their lives, leaving the victims of their abuse feeling hurt and unable to move on.
Some victims will even go as far as killing themselves, and since the cyberbully will most likely not be aware of the consequences of their actions, they will keep on bullying and causing even more harm.
There are a lot of videos that show the true ugly side of cyber bullying. College students are especially opinionated and tend to spit out words without any filter, all the while causing pain to someone else.
Two such videos talk about the real world examples of cyber bullying among college students. Students give their testimonials about how they have encountered cyber bullies on the internet and still managed to live through the haunting experience.
People hear of cyber bullying and think that it is some simple and stupid joke. Most disregard this form of abuse, taking it as a mere word and not a serious offense that can happen to anyone. The ones who have been at the receiving end know cyber bullying is just as tangible as the action of cyber bullying itself.
The Truth About Cyberbullying
It is one thing to condemn this form of abuse, but no-one ever realizes the extent to which it affects people until they look at the statistics, or rather, the facts of cyber bullying. For instance in 2011 alone, 37 percent of students in colleges were victims of bullying. Out of this, 22 percent experienced cyber bullying, while the remaining 15 percent were victims of traditional forms of bullying. It is almost like bullying is being takes mainstream now.
The statistics get even more depressing when 38 percent of the same college students thought that their schools did not take the problem of bullying as a serious one. Bullying is thought to be part of life in schools, yet it does not have to be; no one understands this more than the victims.
One seventh of girls have been bullied online. The bullies usually target the girls younger than 22 but older than 13. Cyber bullying takes place all over the internet, on social networking sites (one quarter of the bullied college students reported to have been abused on social sites), through emails and text messages. The statistics further revealed that 21 percent of students have been bullied while texting, 16 percent of them have been bullied while emailing, and 13 percent have fallen victim to cyber bullies while interacting on instant messaging sites.
When asked, a higher population of the youth believe that cyber bulling is so common because it is easier to go unpunished, unlike traditional bullying where the bullies are usually suspended from schools or worse. It is also true that females are more at the receiving end of insults and other verbal forms of abuse on the internet. Males do not fall victims as much as females do.
The 81 percent of young people who believe that it is easier to get away with cyber bullying than in real life are not wrong either. Cyber bullying is gaining popularity because it is so much easier to go unpunished.
The In’s and Out’s of Cyberbullying
What has been priory discussed has been the overview of cyber bullying. Going into depth, we find that this previously subtle act confined to primary and high schools has been transformed to a deadly weapon that is accessible to almost anyone these days, small children included. Adults and college students have an excuse to be mean to each other now that the internet has so many platforms where people can be bullied. Looking at court cases, it is no longer murders and robberies that are alarming, it is cyber bullying.
Frankly, it is a little sad how people think they are simply expressing their opinions when in fact they are crushing someone else’s will to live. There has been a case about a woman from Missouri who created fake MySpace profile for the sole purpose of defending her middle school daughter against her nemesis. This woman attacked the victim simply because she could. No one can forget the 40-year-old man who was sued for posting derogatory messages on Craigslist concerning her ex-girlfriend.
The trend is only going to get worse. Sitting in front of their keyboards, college students can say, bring down, and build up anything on the internet by simply using 140 characters, sometimes less. Bullies are made without even knowing they are being made.
There is something thrilling about mass opinion that sucks someone in until they completely lose who they were before all the attention. Cyber bullies sometimes do not even know they are doing something wrong. To avoid being entangled in a situation that was never meant to happen in the first place, one should be aware of the actions that can be classified as cyber bullying and try to stay away from them. These actions include:
1. Saying cruel things and directing them at someone else on the internet.
2. Posting offensive and embarrassing messages through someone else’s account by hacking into it.
3. Gaining access to the personal information of an unsuspecting victim, usually by tricking them into telling it to you.
4. Developing full websites or social media accounts simply to make fun and offend someone else.
Cyber bullies usually just think that they are having fun when in fact they are committing serious crimes that could get them an actual jail time. The above information is what people should know about cyber bullying so as to avoid being the unknowing bully or the unsuspecting victim. There is still more to be said on this area.
The Five W's of Cyberbulling
The 5 W’s of cyber bullying describes the where, when, who, why, and what of cyber bullying. This in-depth process is discussed in more detail below.
It is important to understand where the bullying takes place. Cyber bullies hide online because that is the place with the least amount of supervision. There are people of all kinds on the internet, each of them susceptible to one form of abuse or the other.
There is a wide market variety of cyber bullies to choose from, so people are advised to be careful when surfing the net. Traditionally, bullies would attack their victims on the bus ride home, during the lunch hour, in the school bathroom, or on the playground. The playing field has now been taken online, making it harder for the bullies to be flushed out and brought to justice.
People often wonder why the bullies pick them out of all the millions of people on the internet. Most people bully because of feelings of jealousy, fear, distrust and the overall need for a cool or popular image.
Bullies may feel their behavior will make fellow students respect them or think they are funny, or they may not be held accountable for their unacceptable behavior by their parents. In addition, students who face physical, mental, or verbal abuse at home tend to copy these behaviors and interact with their classmates the same way, just to channel their vulnerability.
Twenty-eight percent of school children are bullied on a regular basis, yet bullying is more prevalent in some ages than others. Over 44% of the students in middle school have been made fun of, or worse still, called names, while 27% indicate that they have been threatened by classmates at some point. This is according to data obtained from a study conducted by NoBullying in 2015. 37% of those in the sixth grade report being bullied, but only 22% high school seniors faced abuse at school. These statistics were recorded by a research conducted by the National Center for Education.
Ethnicity and race are among the driving force, though the study indicated that minorities are likely to experience the same bullying, regardless of ethnic background. Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are at a much higher risk for being targeted. 3% of LGBT students missed at least one day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe, while 10.6 percent missed four or more days in the same time-frame.
So just what does bullying look like? Forms of harassment within the internet include abusive text messages and attacks via social media. This is in addition to the face to face aggression that students have to deal with today. Bullying takes many different forms, and while all children may be prone to mischievous or mean behavior at times – WebMD notes one of the defining features of bullying is repetition. Bullying is many things, but it is not an isolated incident.
Types of Cyberbullying
To break it further down, we will find even more to be said about cyber bullying. This abuse can be categorized into different types depending on the intensity, the frequency and the means by which the bully taunts their victim. The different types of cyber bullying are:
This takes place in the most public of online spaces where victims are attacked by one or more bullies simply by posting their opinions. Victims are insulted and cruel images are sent to them. Flaming might even go as far as threatening the life of a victim.
Exclusion involves the discrimination of one single person from most of the online activity being engaged in by most people. A person is usually targeted and singled out of a group. This person is then deliberately left out of chats and messaging chains. They are ignored and sometimes openly insulted and talked about.
Harassment occurs usually when one or more bullies continuously attack the same person over a long period of time. Harassment might be over one social site, or it might extend across all internet platforms where a victim is targeted and taunted over and over again.
In cyber stalking, two or more bullies gang up against one victim, and after gathering enough information on this victim, the bullies threaten their victim continuously and violently. Cyber stalking can very easily turn into the traditional form of bullying when the bullies cross from the internet into the physical world to taunt their victims some more.
In this form of abuse, the bully, or bullies, take personal information of their victim from the internet and release it to the public, exposing them and their secrets alike to the outside world. This information may be in form of pictures, videos or general rumors about their victims.
Bullies do this for the purpose of exposing a certain secret about their victims, or merely to embarrass them in front of a large enough audience. Bullies also out their victims with screenshots and sexual information designed to embarrass them even more.
The bully creates a fake account online and pretends to be someone that they are not so as to trick the other party into trusting them. They can also seek to harass their victims under an anonymous identity so that it is easier to get away with the crime. His masquerade scheme can go as far as the bully pretending to be the spouse of the victim and talk to them about their private affairs.
Sometimes, more than often, the bullies can impersonate the victim, hacking into the latter’s online account and accessing their private information. The bully mostly does this so as to post something embarrassing on the internet via the account of the victim, once again leaving the latter in a place of total humiliation while they get away completely unpunished.
Sexual Harassment Cyberbullying
Those whose sexual orientation is different from what is traditionally considered right are the target victims of many online bullies. Some people have different sexual practices from others, and for this reason, cyber bullies take the time to bring them down and tell them what they are doing wrong in a harsh and offensive way.
The LGBT community is attacked daily, making the members of this community feel unwanted, unloved and unappreciated. This is a special kind of bullying where a specific kind of society is targeted. They are made to feel less than the average human being, sometimes even stalked and attacked physically on the streets by the same cyber bullies.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Having discussed the entire process and the different types of bullying, it is time we moved on to the effects of this cruel act. These effects stay with some victims for as long as they live, never allowing them a moment of peace.
The kind of damage that a careless person with a mobile device can cause to another human being by simply typing a 64-character comment astonishes. School is already hard enough as it is; students do not need to be dealing with more tough situations during their time on the internet.
College is supposed to be a fun place where people come to discover themselves, build their careers, and start their lives. It is simply a dream, but with cyber bullying, this supposed fun experience can quickly turn south and cause pain; for some, maybe even death. The impact maybe long-lasting; some of the effects of cyber bullying include:
Studies have confirmed that girls who have been cyber bullied are three times more likely to succumb to clinical depression at some point in their life. If the bullying experience involves sexual content, the chances of the female victims experiencing depression are six times higher.
This depression does not however, only apply to the victims of cyber bullying. The bullies themselves can also suffer from depression, mostly after they realize what they have done to their victims. The bullies may even end up becoming alcoholics in the process.
Clinical depression is not an attractive condition to suffer from. This condition can affect even adults who fall prey to online bullying.
College students who are bullied will not have the strength or the will to focus on their studies. Their emotions will be affected, something that will affect their concentration and hence lower their grades. Victims will feel angry, stressed, and sad all the time; factors that have been known to decrease levels of productivity.
Some victims of cyber-attacks have gone as far as killing themselves. When someone is bullied continuously, especially by a large crowd of people and over a long period of time, the pressure they feel from the embarrassment and humiliation may often drive them to commit suicide. This may also be partly informed by the fact that most victims of cyber bullying are usually diagnosed with clinical depression.
Victims of Cyberbullying
For college students being bullied, there is help that is offered to help with the recovery process. But there is still one vital question that still needs an answer; just what is someone supposed to do after they have been bullied? Cyber bullying attacks affects someone in a surreal fashion such that they do not believe, not even for a split second, that they are being abused and that the consequences of that abuse will stick with them for a long time to come. Victims of this abuse soon come to realize just what they have been dragged into; they soon come to feel trapped and preyed upon by their bullies.
The only thing that can help the victims is to have the knowledge that there is an alternative approach to dealing with the whole cyber bullying situation. There is a way that you as a victim can help the authorities catch the anonymous person that bullied you online. Here is how you can make cruel and malice face behind a keyboard known to the whole world.
Keep The Evidence
Do not ever delete the messages and the pictures or videos, if any, that your bully sends to you. Keep this as evidence and use it to help the authorities track down exact location, and probably even the net move of a cyber bully.
Talk About It
Talking about the horrible experience you are going through with someone that you trust will help you get over it quicker. This will also give you the courage you need to take back control of your internet connections.
Specifically Block Out the Bully
The good thing about the internet is that it gives you the option to only interact with a select few. If you have a bully, then keep blocking them. They might create another account and keep on stalking you, but you should keep on blocking them to avoid further trouble with them.
Filter People Out
There is also the option of limiting who and who does not view your account. You should take your account private and control who sees it and who doesn’t see it so as to increase the chances of blocking out cyber bullies.
Say No To Revenge
It is tempting to revenge and say something cruel to the bully after they have said something cruel to you. If you do this, it makes you just as much of a bully as they are. You should learn to take the high road, and instead of stooping to their level and be insulting and abusive, you should ignore their comments.
Report Bullying to Authorities
Many sites will not tolerate bullying; report the bullies to the site administrators, along with the evidence you compiled. Point out the sections of the terms of service that are pertinent.
Talk To School Management
If you are a college student and you are being cyber bullied, then you should first report the abuse to your school management. If the bully also goes to your college, then the management can easily flush them out and finally give you piece of mind and restful browsing experiences.
Talk To Law Enforcement
Some cyber bullying cases can get really serious. Some can get physical and violent, going as far a threatening the livelihood of the victim. If things go this far and they just won’t stop, then you should make sure to contact a law enforcement agency before it is too late.
Helping the Victims of Cyberbullying
In case you have a friend who is being bullied online, there is help available for them too. If you are watching from the perspective of a bystander, it is easy to realize that someone is being cyber bullied even if they do not realize it themselves yet. The family and friends of the victim are usually the first to notice when the said victim is being bullied, and in such cases, they are able to provide them with the necessary help and support they need to get through the process.
You can know a victim of a cyberbully from the reactions whenever they receive a call of a text message. They are usually nervous and fearful when using the internet, and after they see the bully post nasty comments about them, they become withdrawn and may eventually fall into depression. When this happens, you as a family member, a friend or a simply concerned person can do the following:
Give Them Support
Cyber bullying can make someone have a low self-esteem, double checking their every action because of what the bully has made them believe. In such situations, it helps if the victim has a friend to share their insecurities with.
Take Charge of the Situation
Sometimes is can become too much for even you to bear. In such cases, even when the victim does not think it is right, you should inform a figure of authority so they can help put an end to the bullying.
Do Not Revenge
It is truly tempting to bully the bullies just for the satisfaction of it. Someone who has been bullied is usually not in their right state of mind and may want to do irrational things. Make sure to keep watch of their moves to prevent any feedback from them that maybe passed as revenge bullying. When you retaliate, you are stooping to the same level as the bully; making you just as bad as him or her, if not worse.
Stand Up To the Oppressor
You can be the defender of the bullied victim and call the bully out on their actions. Tell them that it is wrong to practice cyber bullying, and that they should stop or risk facing consequences from the authorities.
Report the Bully Immediately
Being there for a victim of cyber bullying requires that you report the crime immediately. This way, there are higher chances of catching the bully before they escape or delete their account, or worse still, find another victim and harass them. You should remember to do the following three things while reporting the cyberbully:
- Start immediately
- Make copies of texts, emails, screenshots of message boards and instant messages, and anything else that supports your case before presenting it to the authorities so as to make their work of locating and apprehending the bully easier.
- Don’t engage with the bullies, no matter how much you would wish to give them a piece of your mind.
Questions to Understand Cyberbullying
To fully understand what is meant by cyber bullying, one may try to answer the questions described below. The guide will help you distinguish the accidental hurtful comments from the homegrown cyber bully who has probably been stalking a victim for months. These are the questions:
- Have you just been blocked on social media by a person you thought was your friend?
- Has an embarrassing picture or story or rumor about you been spread around on the internet?
- Have you noticed regular comments from an anonymous user on almost all, or even all of your social media accounts?
- Have you recently had an argument that got way out of hand on your social media board?
- Have your friends pushed you aside, probably even cut you away from their discussion chain links and have now made you the subject of their discussion, talking about you behind your back?
If the answers to all these questions are yes, then chances are that you are being cyber bullied and you do not even know it. The accidental hurtful comment is an isolated event that will most probably not happen ever again, but for cyber bullying, a victim is taunted continuously and constantly by the people that used to talk to him or her. A victim of cyber bullying will feel the distance between themselves and the rest of the internet community that they would usually interact with.
While considering if others are bullying you, you should also try and consider if you are cyber bullying others. To find the answer to this, try and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you ever hurt another student on purpose?
- Have you destroyed or stolen another person’s property?
- Have you ever left out a fellow student from an activity or group on purpose?
- Do kids find you threatening or scary?
- Have you ever commented rudely on a person’s ability, appearance, or race?
- Have you ever any technology to post embarrassing or start rumors about someone?
- Do you like making others upset?
- Do you feel cooler or more popular when your friends see you treating someone else poorly?
These questions were prepared by the National Education Association to help prevent, maybe even find a permanent solution, to cyber bullying.