Cyberbullying is bullying. The difference is that cyberbullying is bullying through the use of technology. Various forms of technology could be social media, text messaging and emails. Cyberbullying can be persistent and the victim has little recourse in their efforts to escape. Cyberbullying can have a large audience and may consist of complete strangers or anonymous bullies.
If an adult is involved this may be determined to be harassment or cyberstalking and can lead to legal implications.
When cyberbullying takes place on social media it can create a negative online reputation that may be posted publicly. This can permanently affect the victim’s life.
Some tactics used by cyberbullies may include:
- Posting mean or hurtful pictures or videos
- Posting comments that are mean or embarrassing
- Faking a person’s identity in order to post personal or false information.
- Threats to hurt someone or to encourage self-harm or suicide
- Posting personal information such as address, email address and social media links
If you become aware of cyberbullying you will need to talk about it with the victim and/or the perpetrator. Ask for it to stop. Document the activity. Report it to the school. You can also report it to the social media platform to assist with removal. If a crime has taken place then it may become necessary to involve law enforcement. Try to intervene and support the victim.
Parents and educators should talk to children about their digital behaviors and online reputations. They need to understand what cyberbullying is and its effects. Set rules and boundaries for children to follow. Model positive and respectful behavior. Teach them that if they are witness to cyberbullying that they should not participate. Do not respond negatively or retaliate.
It’s important to pay attention to a child who suddenly exhibits a change in their digital or social behaviors. Recognize if the child is hiding their devices or social media accounts, becomes mood or depressed or avoids social situations. These are signs of possible cyberbullying.