Cyberbullying, Online Harassment and Digital Abuse
Don’t feed the trolls.
We’ve heard this over and over again. It is a phrase that tells us not to engage with people online that are intentionally inflicting harm and cruelty towards others.
In today’s culture of digital cruelty and online shaming, no one is immune to online harassment. For years we have read about the research of youth and cyberbullying – in 2017 PEW Research Center revealed that 66% of adults have witnessed online harassment and 41% have been a victim of it. These are not small numbers considering adults should know better.
Help at all ages
Whether you are young or mature, if you’re being attacked online it can be emotionally debilitating. While you are dealing with the hurt, it’s important to preserve the evidence or ask a friend to help you.
- Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an external hard drive—but do save it.
- Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. Once you block them, be sure you have a friend monitoring them for you.
- Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform. Beware—some sites, especially those that seem to foster harassment and revenge porn, have been known to thumb their noses at victims and reprint emotional take down requests, so don’t get overwrought in your tone. Stick to boilerplate legalese.
- Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? Maybe you are fed up with the cyberslime an anonymous user is posting about you. To identify that person’s IP address, you will need to file
a crime report with law enforcement, says California Senior Officer Mike Bires.
- Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail. Report it to the appropriate authorities.
Talk, talk, talk
If you are a target of cyberbullying, one of the most important things you can do is tell someone. You need to know you are never alone. There are a vast amount of resources both online and offline to help you.
As someone that experienced online shame and abuse, I know the feeling of isolation and powerlessness over the internet. It’s not that way anymore. The floodgates are now open – many, many people are now stepping up and here to help.
The fact that many children do not tell their parents about the cyberbullying is an issue that continues to concern experts and advocates. Telling a parent is not only about reporting the bully so that steps can be taken, but it also helps preserve the child’s emotional health. We also need to be aware that the person that is the bully likely needs emotional help too.
The reason kids don’t tell their parents about online bullying may range from fear of having their lifeline removed (being shut off from the internet) and being ashamed of what is happening to retaliation from the bully or teasing by other kids. This is why offline parenting is so crucial to a child’s online life. Only parents can turn this statistic around.
- Communication is key.
- Offline chats are imperative to online safety.
- Go online with your child, be as interested in their cyber-life as you are in their school life.
- Remember, short chats are better than no chats at all.
- Your child will always be an app ahead of you, but will always need your parenting wisdom.
- Continue to remind your kids you are there for them – but it’s also okay for them to talk to any trusted adult. If someone is being harassed online, they have to tell someone. Don’t be hurt – but grateful they are sharing it with someone.