Online, safety is key. You browse the internet with anti-virus programs, avoid suspicious email attachments and guard your personal information. But a quick click away or a program can’t protect you from the greatest online threat: cyberbullying. But what should you do when you encounter it? Here are a few tips from the experts on steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your business.
How to Recognize Cyberbullying
According to Stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology, including devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Cyber bullying can involve:
- Sending mean, vulgar or threatening messages or images by computer or phone.
- Posting sensitive, private information and/or false information about another person online.
- Pretending to be someone else in order to make a person look bad.
- Intentionally excluding someone from an online group.
The actions are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior intended to harm another. A cyberbully may be a person whom the target knows or an online stranger. A cyberbully may be anonymous and may solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family and Your Business From Cyberbullying
- Make the most of privacy settings. Investigate what measures you can take to keep content private on the websites you use. On Facebook and other social networking sites, you can adjust your settings so that only the people you select are able to see your personal information and posts. It’s important to check these privacy settings frequently, because sites sometimes change their policies.
- Think before you post. Never forget that the internet is public. What you put out there can never be erased. If you wouldn’t say something in a room full of strangers, don’t say it via internet. Even letting someone know sensitive or embarrassing information about you via email can have unforeseen consequences.
- Keep personal information personal. Don’t reveal identifying details about yourself—address, phone number, school, credit card number, etc.—online. Passwords exist for a reason; sharing them with friends is like passing out copies of your house key to friends and strangers alike.
- Educate yourself. Reading this article is a good starting point. Also check out other fact sheets and resource lists on the internet to get more information about how cyberbullying works and how to stop it.
- Educate others. Does your local school already have a policy against cyber-bullying? If you’re worried that your school administration isn’t doing enough to fight this problem, you could try speaking to school officials about your concerns and offering to help develop policies. If your school is already addressing the issue, see if you can help get the word out.
What to Do if You Are a Target or Witness Cyberbullying
- Know that it’s not your fault. What people call “bullying” is sometimes an argument between two people. But if someone is repeatedly cruel to you, that’s bullying. No one deserves to be treated cruelly.
- Don’t respond or retaliate. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you, and you don’t want to empower a bully. As for retaliating, getting back at a bully turns you into one – and can turn one mean act into a chain reaction. If you can, remove yourself from the situation. If you can’t, sometimes humor disarms or distracts a person from bullying.
- Save the evidence. The only good news about bullying online or on phones is that it can usually be captured and saved as evidence in case things escalate.
- Tell the person to stop. Make your position completely clear that you will not stand for this treatment any more.
- Reach out for help – especially if the behavior’s really getting to you. You deserve backup. See if there’s someone who can listen, help you process what’s going on and work through it.
- If someone you know is being bullied, take action. Just standing by can empower an aggressor and does nothing to help. The best thing you can do is try to stop the bullying by taking a stand against it. If you can’t stop it, support the person being bullied.
- Involve the police if the bullying is (or you suspect it might become) criminal. Statutes vary from state to state, but here are some good guidelines of what could be considered criminal:
- Threats of violence
- Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
- Harassment, stalking or hate crimes
- Child pornography
- Sexual exploitation
- Taking a photo image of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
In many ways, cyber bullying can be worse, more harmful, and harder to stop than traditional bullying. We hope that the information above helps you take steps to recognize, prevent and, if you do become the target of cyberbullying, stop the negative online attack.