How to Deal With Cyberbullying

How to Deal With Cyberbullying

10th April 2019

For me, bullying is one of the lowest human behaviours. As a victim of bullying as a child, I am deeply distressed to see anyone else go through the turmoil that occurs because of the actions of another. So, to see the glory of modern technology being used for such villainous purposes is particularly upsetting.

Online bullying is so commonplace today, thanks to the prevalence of Social Media and Online Messaging apps. Let’s face it, we all know it is much easier to be mean when you are not face-to-face with the person in question. Online bullies also rarely face any real consequences of their actions, and often feel that there will be no repercussions to their behaviour. They can hide behind fake accounts and spread hate causing lasting damage to others. Some bullies claim that they were not aware that their behaviour constituted bullying or claim that it was ‘just a joke’, but any act of aggression that aims to make the recipient feel bad about themselves or weak, constitutes bullying.

Verbal and online bullying can be less obvious than traditional physical bullying but teasing, name calling, taunting and any demeaning comments are all ways that the bullies use to get power over you. For many, it is like something out of a slap-stick movie, it is funny and they move on; they forget that words really do hurt!

Any act of aggression that aims to make the recipient feel bad about themselves or weak, constitutes bullying.

The most difficult kind of bully to pinpoint is the one who subtly picks away at you, while doing other work perceived as good/generous/gracious to promote their position within the community and make themselves more powerful. They make you question your value and try to assert control over you, without you even realising what is actually happening.

The impact of cyberbullying can be horrific and is often extremely distressing for the victim. Sufferers of bullying can experience low self-esteem, anxiety, mental health issues, sleep difficulties, depression etc. Along with the added guilt they carry for not being able to stop it themselves. Most people, especially children would never report bullying. Usually because they are afraid to, or because they don’t think it can be stopped. So, it is our responsibility to learn how to spot the signs and what to do about any suspected concerns.

If someone you know becomes withdrawn or stressed for no other obvious reason, or they show signs of anxiety then cyberbullying could be the cause. If a child is reluctant to attend school, starts using their technology significantly more or less, or seems to be changing their normal social routines, then that can be a clue to something that is happening. Victims of cyberbullying will also usually be very secretive about their mobile devices or accounts and they may overreact if you pick up their phone for example.

Methods to deal with Cyberbullying

For yourself:

  • Take screenshots of evidence and save them.
  • Keep a diary of all events, this could be combined with the screenshots in an electronic document.
  • Block the bully.
  • Don’t retaliate.
  • Remind yourself that these comments do not define you, they are not who you are.
  • Talk to your friends. If they are a true friend, they will give you encouragement and help.
  • If you can’t face talking to your friends then go to: https://www.childline.org.uk/
  • Report it to the website/application involved.
  • Spend less time online, to help gain some perspective.
  • If there has been any online sexual abuse or you believe you are in danger, you can contact your local police or file a report here: https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/

For your child:

  • Where possible, monitor your child’s social media accounts i.e. put data limits on their phone, use filtering so they can only go on approved website URLs, use parental controls on as many platforms as possible i.e. games consoles, tablets, YouTube etc.
  • Don’t let them isolate themselves.
  • Build up their confidence and self-respect with other things, to help them regain some positivity.
  • Get them to talk about the people/friends they do trust.
  • Bring up stories from the news about online cyber abuse, to help open up discussions or to show them they are not alone. Use celebrities as inspiration and any initiatives to stop cyber bullying.
  • Reduce the amount of time your children spend online.
  • If your child does confide in you, don’t overreact i.e. go stomping straight in to school. Work together and be the voice of reason.
  • Report it to the website/application/ISP involved as well as the school in a calm manner.

Remember that even if the bullying takes place outside of school, head teachers have the legal power to ensure that pupils behave outside of the school gates too. If you feel that a crime is being committed, remember you can also report it to your local police station. If there has been any online sexual abuse involved or you feel that your child is in danger you can also make a report here: https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/

By Emma Davis - Head of Testing & Training