Each week we’ll share tips and advice on a unique topic, with this particular article focusing on the most common types of cyberbullying and how to prevent them.
Although both are equally horrible for the victim, there is a stark difference between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying.
Cyberbullying is when a person is bullied via their mobile phones or across internet platforms, which can lead to victims being contacted regardless of where they are or what time it is. The digital nature of this form of bullying also means that the abuse can reach a wide audience very quickly, leading to further humiliation and intimidation of the victim.
On top of this, the ability to remain anonymous on the internet means that bullies can continue their harmful behaviour undetected and unpunished.
To help increase awareness and prevention, we’ve rounded up the most common types of cyberbullying and how they occur.
Text and email
Texting has fast become one of the main ways in which both adults and young people communicate, and is therefore a hotbed for antisocial behaviour. Once bullies get hold of a victim’s phone number, which is made easier if they already know each other, they can send very abusive and often threatening messages. This most often occurs as an extension of face-to-face bullying, usually with roots in school or another space where the two parties interact. Text bullying also means that a victim is reached at all hours of the day, making it almost impossible to escape the intimidation.
Email or instant messaging
Likewise, instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook make it very easy for bullies to threaten young people. By simply adding a person on Facebook or finding a username, cyberbullies can easily send harmful messages and images to their victims. Group chats and attacks on individuals can also occur via these sites, meaning that a young person can feel even more isolated and alone.
Despite the age restrictions on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, young people are attracted to social media and many have their own accounts. Again, bullying can spill onto these social networks either by direct comments on an individual’s profile, or by posting humiliating videos and hurtful images of the victim. This sort of content often gets shared and viewed by people across the world, so can gain an extremely large audience in a very short amount of time, adding to the harmful impact of the bullying and causing unparalleled distress for the victim.
Images have rapidly become a key way of communicating online, so it is inevitable that some people abuse them. Photos of victims can be quickly shared across sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, again meaning that the cyberbullying reaches complete strangers across the globe. Intimidation by image-sharing certainly adds to the stress that the individual experiences, often resulting in them being reluctant to come forward or ask for help.
Online gaming allows children and young people to play against their friends and interact with fellow gamers from the comfort of their homes. However, this could quickly lead to a cyberbullying situation, where individuals are blocked, ignored or personally excluded from multiplayer games. Abusive messages can also be sent to users via live chats and during gameplay, meaning that victims can experience bullying from the usually safe space of their bedrooms.
What to do
The solution isn’t necessarily to ban your child from using the above platforms, as this in itself could cause them to feel out of touch and isolated. Instead, talk to them about cyberbullying and the risks that text, email, social media and so on can pose.
It’s also worth looking into privacy and security settings of each website and app, as well as helping your child understand not to share inappropriate or embarrassing images online.
Even if an image is shared by your child with their friends, a bully may be able to get access and use it for other purposes. Similarly, whilst Snapchat makes an image viewable for only a few seconds, a bully could take a screenshot and save it for future use.
In the event that cyberbullying is already taking place, please read our article on the top 10 anti-bullying apps, which help with everything from prevention to recovery. It’s also worth taking a screenshot of the cyberbully’s messages before blocking their number or social media accounts, as this may be required as evidence if the situation continues.
Finally, if you know a parent, child or teacher that could benefit from this information, please share it with them. Together we can keep children safe and happy at home and school.