Before we begin, let me tell you a story:
Back in 2013, there was a 14-year-old girl who woke up one morning and saw an insulting and demeaning Facebook status about her. The content of the status was hurtful, insulting, and degraded her and her family in every possible way. Upon seeing the Facebook status, the girl was scared, worried, and full of fear as all she could remember was that she had unintentionally upset one of the girls at her school the day before. On the first day, she ignored the status in hope that it would go away; however, it did not. The next day, the Facebook posts continued. This time it was not one Facebook status, but several, and there was also hurtful comments underneath. Every day new posts appeared, making the girl so scared and worried. At school, she tried as hard as she could to avoid the bully and her friends. At home, she spent most of her time worrying what would happen to her at school the next day and wondering how long the Facebook posts and comments would continue. After around two weeks the posts ended, but the experience left her traumatised. She became very sensitive about Facebook statuses and felt distressed whenever comments or posts were made about her on social media.
Does the story sound familiar to you? Have you experienced something similar or have you seen someone being the victim? If you answered “yes”, there is a chance that you have witnessed an act of cyber bullying. So, here is some information that you should know about cyber bullying so you can help the victims.
What is cyber bullying and why do people do it?
Cyber bullying is an act of bullying using social to spread threats or insulting messages and rumours directly or indirectly about a victim via social networks, chat rooms, or blogs (Gabriel, 2019; Vitelli, 2018). It is an aggressive behaviour that is repetitive and intentional. The reasons why people engage in cyber bullying can vary. The reason to cyber bully someone can be fuelled by ones’ anger, revenge, or frustration towards the victim. It can be because the individuals want to entertain themselves, seek attention, or simply engage in cyber bullying out of boredom (Unicef, 2019). The exact reasons why people cyber bully is hard to determine, however, what is for sure is that it is easy to do as the internet allows us to hide behind our screen while hurting others.
What are the consequences of cyber bullying?
With just one click, you can post or send hurtful content towards your targeted victim. However, before you do, you should know the impacts it could have on the victims. Just like traditional bullying, cyber bullying can cause psychological distress to the victim including depression, anxiety, and insomnia (Aboujaoude, 2015). On top of psychological distress, cyber victims are also at risk of receiving poor grades, having low self-esteem, health problems, and engaging in alcohol and drugs use. At its worst, cyber bullying could lead victims to commit suicide.
How to help in preventing cyber bullying?
There is no universal way to deal with cyber bullying as the causes are different; therefore, it also requires various solutions. Even so, here are some suggestions so you can help to prevent and respond to cyber bullying:
- Only 1 out of 10 victims are likely to report their abuse. If you are the victim of cyber bullying, speak up, reach out for help from people that you can trust or feel comfortable discussing about it with. Do not ignore the situation because just as the story I told above, cyber bullying would not stop even if you ignore it. Remember that your mental wellbeing comes first.
- If you witness someone being cyber bullied, report it. In addition, try to console the victims and reach out to them, you would never know the difference it could make.
- Sometimes cyber bullies do not realise the effect their behaviour is having. Therefore, before you post or send insulting content online, stop and think for a minute the consequences that your content could have. Ask yourself how would you feel if you are the subject of the content and how would you react.
All in all, the key action in preventing cyber bullying and creating a safer environment online is to be “kind” online. Try to “think” before you post or share. Reach out and report when you suspect someone is being cyber bullied. Remember the story of the 14 year-old girl above before you decide to engage in cyber bullying.
Join the #ENDviolence online campaign to make online space a safe environment!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.