In this digital age of online harassment, no one is safe from cyberbullying anymore: 41% of adults have faced online harassment while “1.7 million children have reported being cyberbullied in one school year alone.” We’ve entered an age of faux anonymity that has lead to a rise in the belief of consequence free abuse. Without any sort of repercussions, some see it as an invitation to do everything they’re unable to do in “real” life, as there are real life consequences they can’t squirrel away from as easily as they do online.

Adults and teens alike think they can hide behind an online handle and post abuse with nothing tying them to their words.

It’s sadly a common belief that words have no ‘real’ weight online – that they stay on the internet and have no effect on real life at all. It’s this thought that bullies use to justify their abuse. It’s also this thought that has victims not reporting online abuse, for fear of being seen as ‘overreacting’, or a ‘baby’. However, cyberbullying an extremely serious matter, one that can and has lead to victims taking their own life, such as in the cases of Amanda Todd and Ryan Halligan.

So what can we do, as adults and parents, to help stop this culture of online harassment? Cultivate a counter-culture of empathy, understanding and teaching.

  • Empathy
    • Show by doing. You’re children retain what they see and hear you do and say, so check yourself before you act out in front of them. Instead of responding with emotional anger, pause. Ask yourself why you’re angry at someone. Ask yourself why they’re acting the way they are. Ask yourself is responding going to achieve anything. Remember, you’re the standard by which your child is going to act, so by making sure you react (and act) in a mature way teaches them when and how to do so too.
  • Understanding
    • Try and understand where the cyberbully is coming from. Are they simply there to troll you? Are they jealous of you? Are they upset by what content you post? Understand if there is a need for you to respond or take what they say to heart in any way. Understand you can have a Zero Troll Policy and can block them immediately. Understand the victim. Understand their feelings, why they’re upset, why they’re allowed to be upset.
  • Teaching
    • Teach why this digital age of no accountability abuse isn’t sustainable. Teach kids and other adults how empathy and compassion is a much better alternative. Teach that online actions have real life consequences, and we should always act with awareness of this fact. Teach by example: do not get caught up in this culture of shaming and abusing for Retweets or Likes. Teach to not share as much online, to be wary of what you do. Teach that we shouldn’t blame victims for bullies actions, and that we should have endless compassion and patience for them.

What we put out into the world, we get back. If we teach empathy and understanding, and that actions do have consequences both online and in real life, then we will surely get rid of this troll culture that plagues the internet.

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