Cyberbullying is a broad topic giving rise to a wide range of issues, emotions and questions. In our Cyberbullying series, we provide a practical analysis of one of online life’s big problems.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using online technologies to hurt, intimidate or coerce another user. It often takes the following forms:
abusive or threatening texts, emails or comments
hurtful comments, messages, images or videos
imitating others online
excluding others online
humiliating others online by posting comments, photos or videos
posting personal information, photos or videos of others without their consent
spreading nasty online gossip and chat
creating fake accounts to trick someone or humiliate them
Cyberbullies can come up with new ways of hurting, intimidating or coerce others, so keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.
How is cyberbullying different from face to face bullying?
Cyberbullying is a type of bullying. However, it differs from face to face bullying in a number of ways:
Any Place & Time: Cyberbullying can happen any day and at any time of the day. It can also happen anywhere. As a result, the victim may feel there is no safe place to go to.
Public & Ongoing: Cyberbullying tends to occur before a much larger audience than face to face bullying. Depending on what platform and under what settings it occurs, until the content is taken down, it can potentially be seen by anyone online. In some cases, the audience is encouraged to gang up against the victim, making the matter worse.
Less fear, less remorseful: Cyberbullies have the option to be anonymous and therefore are less afraid of being caught (which does not mean they cannot be caught). Further, cyberbullies may not always see the consequences of their act, especially the emotional consequences on the victim’s face. As a result, they tend to feel less remorseful than face to face bullies.
What do we know about victims and perpetrators?
More than 33% of young people report being victim of online bullying.
An Australian survey conducted over the period June 2016 – June 2017, revealed the following numbers:
20% of Australian young people reported being socially excluded, threatened or abused online;
55% of them asked for help from their parents and 28% from their friends;
38% blocked the offender’s social media account;
12% reported it to the relevant platform;
20% Australian young people (15% of kids, 24% of teens) admitted behaving in a negative way to a peer online — including behaviours which fall within the definition of cyberbullying such as calling them names, deliberately excluding them, or spreading lies or rumours. This reveals a potential effect of cyberbullying as, of these young people, more than 90% had had a negative online experience themselves.
What are the effects of cyberbullying?
The effects of cyberbullying are multiple and varied, this list is not exhaustive:
In their daily life, victims may have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, have trouble concentrating, and have trouble with school work.
Socially, victims may feel different from everyone else, rejected by friends or other people or alone, like there is no one to help.
Emotionally, victims may feel down, sad, anxious, stressed, depressed, scared, lonely, unsafe, ashamed, embarrassed, and powerless.
What are the signs telling that a child is likely to be cyberbullied?
The signs indicating that a young person is being cyberbullied may be different with each case. These are the most common signs to look out for:
At school and in their social circles
avoidance of school or clubs and usual social activities
unexpected changes in friendship groups
a decline in their school work
Around connected devices
being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
avoiding using the internet or their mobile phone
becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use
changes in personality, becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry
appearing lonelier or distressed
changes in their sleep patterns
a decline in their physical health
In our upcoming articles, we will go through an action plan to respond to cyberbullying and see how to take it a step further, to empower the next generation be proactive rather than simply reactive to bullying. We will then make it fun with a family game you can play to ensure you are all on top of a sound knowledge and good skills to deal with cyberbullying – because don’t forget: these tips can help adult victims of cyberbullying too!