Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying which has started happening a lot on social networking sites, online forums and by email or text.
Examples of cyberbullying behaviour are:
- abusive messages or slagging on Facebook, Twitter etc
- offensive comments on videos or posts
- spreading rumours online
- hacking into your online accounts
- posting offensive images
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone – think about all the Youtube comment pages or gossip sites that are full of people putting other people down. Whoever’s doing it can act anonymously and can say things they’d never say in real life. It’s important to remember it’s just as serious as face-to-face bullying and no one should have to deal with it. It’s really important to learn how to protect yourself online and how to respond if you or a friend is having a tough time with it.
How to avoid it
- Never give out your passwords – always keep your passwords and PIN numbers to yourself, and make a habit of logging out of your email/Facebook page if you’re using a public computer.
- Pick your friends carefully – remember whatever you post online can be seen by everyone who’s got access to your page or the discussion board. If it’s Facebook, only make friends with people you’re ok sharing information with.
- Use Netiquette – be polite to other people online. Think about what you’re saying and whether it might be hurtful or embarrass them in public, even if it’s funny.
- Don’t send a message to someone else when you’re angry – wait until you’ve calmed down and had time to think. Once you’ve sent it, you can’t take it back.
- Don’t forget that nothing is permanently deleted. Even sites like Snapchat which claims to remove seen files can’t guarantee this. Everyone knows how to screen-grab a snapchat, but people claim to know how to retrieve snapchats which should’ve vanished.
How to deal with it
- Don’t reply – even though you might really want to, don’t rise to the bait and reply to messages from someone who’s bullying you. They want to know that they’ve got you worried and upset. Chances are if you never reply they’ll get bored and leave you alone.
- Learn how to manage your social media platforms. If you look at the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of a website or app you’ll be able to find out how to report or stop unwanted users from targeting your page.
- Go offline – if you feel like it’s invading every bit of your life, remember you can turn off your computer and your phone anytime. Ditch virtual reality for some actual reality for a while.
- Inform your phone company or Internet Service Provider (ISP)– they can block texts, calls or online messages from specific people.
- Change your contact details – get a new user name, a new email address, a new mobile number and only give them to your closest friends. This doesn’t mean you’re giving in, you’re just getting on with your own life.
- Tell someone – if it’s bothering you, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to someone about it. If you’re worried your parents will freak out, you could talk to a friend, a teacher you trust or a youth worker. Check face-to-face help for more.
- Inform the Gardaí – if the messages are ever threatening or it’s getting really serious, tell the Gardaí. It’s against the law to threaten people, and the Gardaí can put a stop to it. They’re there to keep you safe, and they generally want to know about stuff like this.
- Keep a record – you don’t have to read the messages, but keep them and keep a record of the time and date. This can act as evidence if you ever need it, and can help the Gardaí or your ISP find out where the messages are coming from.
Fore more information on what to do about bullying, see what to do if you’re being bullied.