Cyberbullying 101: 10 Steps To Prevent or Stop Harassment on the Web

Cyberbullying is pervasive these days.

Anyone who uses the internet to engage with others is a potential bully or target. Cyberbullying is the act of insulting, isolating, threatening, or harassing someone via the internet or with a cell phone. Internet bullying is distinguished from other behaviors such as rudeness or being, because it is intentional, ongoing, and involves an imbalance of power. It can cause lasting emotional, even physical harm. Fortunately, there are steps that people can take to prevent online bullying.

1. Know That Cyber Harassment Laws Can Protect You

There are several laws on the local, state, and federal level that are designed to protect you from online bullying. Here are some things to know:

  • Offenders Who Violate Law May Face a Stiff Sentence For Cyber Bullying

Depending on the nature of their conduct, violators could be fined, placed on probation, forced to community service, or even face jail time. Those placed on probation could have internet privileges removed or restricted as part of the conditions for their probation.

  • Threats of Violence And Extortion Attempts Are Taken Very Seriously By Police

If bullying escalates into threats of doing physical harm, or the you are the victim or an extortion attempt, law enforcement will be their with cyber harassment help.

If someone creates a spoof account pretending to be you, that may fall into the category of identity theft. The same applies if someone gains your trust, gets you to reveal personal information, and then shares that information with others. Check the laws in your area.

2. Use The Technology That is Available to You

There are many tools that you can use to protect yourself from online bullying and it’s effects. The first is to use the tools provided on most social networking sites. These enable you to block specific users, tighten your privacy restrictions, and even hide posts from specific people.

3. Know How to Stand up For Yourself

People who engage in Facebook cyberbullying or other forms of internet harassment usually enjoy seeing an emotional reaction. For example, they may post a lie about you or claim that you have a romantic interest in someone who you dislike. Their goal is to get you visibly upset and emotional, and to get you twisting in the wind defending yourself against their untruth.

Don’t get involved in back and forth conversations or get emotional. Instead, respond with a terse ‘that’s not true’ or ‘knock it off’. Then, say nothing more and use the unfriend, block, hide post, or other options.

4. Be Wary About What You Share Online

While it is never the victim’s fault if embarrassing or personal information is shared about them, discretion is always a good idea. Before you post something on line, or share a confidence in a text or private message, think twice. Could this be used to abuse you later? How well do you know the person on the other end of the conversation?

5. Don’t Engage Collect Evidence

The more you engage with someone who is bullying you online, the more you risk stooping to their level and exhibiting behavior that could also be labeled as bullying and harassment. For example, if you go to a site moderator for cyber harassment help, and they see that both you and your bully have been insulting one another, they may categorize it as a mutual conflict. As a result both of you could be penalized or you could be told to settle it yourself.

Instead of engaging with your bully, focus on gathering evidence. Save emails and text messages. Use a tool that allows you to take screenshots of posts so that you have them in case they are edited or deleted.

Steps 6-10 on the next page..


6. Get Emotional Support

According to cyber harassment statistics 40% of people have experienced online harassment or other abuse. This means you are not alone. If you can, find a friend or family member that you can confide in. Also, remember that counseling is an option. It’s traumatizing to be a victim of cyber bullying, and sometimes professional help is needed.

7. Be Thoughtful in Your Response

This is especially good advice for younger internet users. When you are targeted by a bully, your initial instinct may be to respond in kind. Instead, try to calm down and think of constructive ways that you can deal with your own situation and help your community at large. For example, you could approach your school about forming a peer group to prevent cyber bullying. Here are a few things you could try:

  • Make a List of Cyber Bullying Websites Where Young People Can Get More Information
  • Team up With Creative Students to Write a Cyber Bullying PSA
  • Encourage Students to Participate in an Essay Writing Scholarship Contest
  • Invite Experts to Speak to Students and Staff About Cyberbullying.

8. Rely on Your Friends Offline

For many, the emotional impact of cyberbullying can be reduced significantly by fostering positive relationships and interactions offline. It’s much easier to be hurt by online behavior if your socialization is primarily or entirely done online. Consider building a social circle offline to balance things out.

9. Google Yourself

How do you know what to do about cyber harassment if you aren’t even aware it’s happening? Some online bullying is done covertly. The bully never approaches you directly, instead they find other ways to smear your reputation. They may create fake web pages or accounts in your name, then engage in embarrassing or unacceptable behavior to make you look bad. Another technique that is fairly common is the ‘slam page’. These are websites that are made to ‘slam’ a person.

Because of this, it is a good idea to Google yourself frequently. Start with your first and last name, but don’t stop there. You should also include your email address, employer, and social media handles in your search as well. This will help you to find attempts to demean or slander you behind your back.

10. Protect Your Accounts

Take care to keep your online accounts safe. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Always log out of your accounts when you use a public computer. Lock your phone. Use multi factor authentication whenever it’s available. This will stop bullies from getting into your accounts, changing information, posting on your behalf, or finding personal information about you.

Conclusion

 

By following the ten steps above, you can protect yourself from internet bullies. You will be able to recognize bullying, know how to react to it, deal with the effects of online harassment, and form a strategy to make it stop.

About the Author
Author: Amanda Sparks
Amanda Sparks, professional writer and researcher from Chicago, psychologist, bullying prevention specialist. Former editor at Chicago Tribune, now an independent consultant.

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