Helping you get through tough times

Protecting yourself online

Here is the last in the three part cyber bullying series by Lucie Corcoran.

This post focuses on how to protect yourself while you are online.

We know how cyberbullies can attack and what actions can make you vulnerable to cyberbullies, how do you protect yourself online?

There are a number of things you can do:

  • Firstly, only give out your mobile number or email address to people that you know and trust.
  • If you use websites like bebo or facebook or myspace, do not post personal information such as your phone number, your address or email address. It is better not to include your last name in your username if you can help it.
  • Social networking sites will usually allow you to set your profile so that only friends that you have accepted or chosen are allowed to view your page.
  • Do not communicate anything online if you don’t want the world to know about it!! No matter how careful you are about protecting yourself online, you cannot control what other people will do with information you give them. For instance, if you disclose something private and confidential to someone on msn, you cannot stop them from forwarding it to everyone they know.
  • Remember that you are responsible for anything you post or display online. Do not behave in a way that will make somebody else uncomfortable or embarrassed.
  • Always be careful when chatting to a stranger online. Even if you feel they are no danger to you, do not disclose personal information such as; where you live, information about your family, or private details about yourself.

How to respond to cyber bullying

You can use the tips above to limit the risks of cyberbullying or other online abuse. However, there is nothing to stop someone cyberbullying you if they set their mind to it. So, how should you respond if this happens?

There are a number of actions you can take.

  • The number one rule is: do not retaliate.
  • You can send the cyberbully an assertive, non-emotional message telling them to stop. Only try this strategy once. Do not persist if it doesn’t work. Change your plan.
  • You can ignore but also block the cyberbully. So ignore their behaviour but try to block their contact. There is usually an option to block a person on social networking sites or instant messaging accounts.
  • You can change your username, mobile number or email address depending on how the person contacted you.
  • You can file a complaint. On bebo and facebook you can click a link to report abuse if you are offended by a photo or comment. You can also contact your mobile phone network provider to have a phone number blocked. You can block or filter emails from specific addresses by changing your settings. (Google “email block” for more info).
  • Always save evidence of cyberbullying where possible. Although your first reaction will be to delete offensive material, you may need it if the problem continues. You can do this by saving a screenshot of a webpage, saving an email into a folder, saving your IM conversations.
  • If you are upset by cyberbullying try to confide in someone who can help.
  • If you find you cannot get the cyberbullying to stop then you should contact the guards or a solicitor. You will have more chance of success if you can show them evidence of harassment.
  • If you witness someone else being cyberbullied try to be supportive. Do not contact the cyberbully if you feel this could make you the next target. But don’t stand by and do nothing. You can offer the victim words of support. If you feel there is a threat to the victim’s safety or if you think the bullying could be extremely distressing then try to save evidence such as a screen shot of the webpage and report the problem to a parent,  teacher or if necessary the guards.

Read more about cyber bullying.

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