Cyberbullying: What can we do about online bullies?.
If you’ve been harassed online, might want to know what you can do to prevent it, or are afraid it could happen to you or your child, listen, we’ll help!
Online harassment, in other words cyberbullying, has become a well-known concept in the media in recent years. We have read about it mostly in tragic cases that have drawn attention to the serious consequences of online harassment. Just remember Amanda Toddra, 15, who committed suicide after her bully flooded the web with intimate pictures of the young girl taking pictures of her via webcam. A similarly tragic fate befell 13-year-old Megan Meier, whom her ex-girlfriend and her mother wanted to joke about by creating a fake profile that got into her trust and then sent her rough messages. The series of tragedies recently continued with the death of 18-year-old Brandy Vela, who was unable to take up the fight against her bullies. This case is unprecedented, as the attacks continued on the girl’s commemorative side and her parents were not spared.
What could make anyone bombard their victim (and indirectly their family) with messages like “you finally did it,” “my face when you shoot yourself in front of your family,” supplemented with a smiling smiley? It is inconceivable to many of us who can do this after a terrible tragedy, causing so much pain to the relatives of the victim. The perpetrators, if more than one person was behind the messages, could have done so on personal motives and probably knew the family.
Often, this form of revenge is chosen by those who have themselves been victims of cyberbullying in the past and have experienced on their own skin the serious damage it causes.
However, this does not absolve the perpetrator from the act; we can only put an end to online harassment if we rethink our intentions and deal properly with any harm we may suffer. We also need to differentiate between trolling and harassment to recognize in time what we are facing.
Trolling or harassment?
Just reading the title of the article, I feel we need to clarify these two concepts, as trolls and bullies cannot be put under one hat.
A troll is a user who takes pleasure in attacking members of a given forum or group with offensive posts by picking up random posts, kicking off the current topic, the unity of the community.
He thinks it’s fun, funny; you can scold anyone for themselves and toast the innocent user without intent on personal insult (although we may not feel that way). Most of the time, it doesn’t always annoy the same group members, but you may come across a member whose posts you regularly find objectionable.
The online bully, on the other hand, purposefully singles out his or her victim, whom in most cases he or she knows personally.
He deliberately wants to harm him, so he keeps him in check, for example with hurtful messages, embarrassing photos, stealing personal information, or in other ways.
Different ways of dealing with trolls and bullies have been suggested.
The easiest way to defeat a troll’s attack is to not react to their insults.
It’s hard to stop, but it’s the most effective method against them, as trolls quickly lose interest in prickly if they don’t get enough attention. Hence the saying, “Don’t feed the trolls!” If you are annoyed on a regular basis, please contact the site moderator, who will expel them from the group shortly.
However, if you have encountered a bully, you need to approach the problem in a different way. It also depends on how you got hurt. Here are some examples of what you can do in such cases:
1. I received hurtful, untrue messages.
This is the most common form of online harassment. Since in most cases the victim does not know the perpetrator (the perpetrator most likely knows the victim), it is worth checking the security settings from whom you can receive a message. On social networking sites, you usually have the option not to receive messages from strangers. On the other hand, you can protect yourself from unknown pests by not marking as acquaintances those you don’t really know, because you don’t know the intent to contact you and, in the case of a pseudonym, who they are. If you are still bombarded with hurtful messages, try to ignore them, just like with trolls. No matter how hard it is, overcome temptation and don’t react to personal insults either. The harassers will stop messaging because they see they couldn’t hurt you (since you don’t care about them, they don’t see your suffering, even though that was their goal). It doesn’t work, they think, so they stop.
2. I put up an awkward photo of me on a public forum / tagged me in a picture I’m not proud of.
Contact the moderator of the page immediately and ask them to delete the post. Based on experience, it will act quickly in your interest. If an incident occurs on a social networking site, such as a friend uploading an awkward photo of you, ask them to delete it immediately. If you refuse, you can contact the site’s operators, but this may take a long time.
3. My data has been misused / my personal account has been hacked.
It is important that you pay attention to security (for example, pay attention to your passwords). Download software that serves this purpose and check the settings. If your personal account has been compromised and your information has been compromised, please change your password and contact the site operator for assistance.
Who can I turn to for help?
If you feel you can’t cope with the problem alone, ask your friends or adults you trust for help. It could be a relative, a teacher, a school psychologist. If you think you can’t turn to anyone with this problem, but you need immediate help, call the central number of the Hungarian Spiritual First Aid Telephone Services Association (116-123), where they are available 24 hours a day.
Unfortunately, relatively few dare to tell their parents that they have been the victim of online harassment.
Some are ashamed to admit it, while others are afraid of being punished for it (e.g., their phone is confiscated, parents are banned from the internet). However, parental mediation is sometimes essential. Especially if the victim recognizes the perpetrator behind the anonymous messages, as this may lead to a way of intervening (for example, notifying the class teacher or principal in the case of a fellow student), making the problem easier to deal with.
In Hungary, it is rare for a case to end with a police report, even though cyberbullying corresponds in many respects to harassment, which is a crime. Furthermore, some forms, such as the dissemination of expiring rumors, exhaust the notion of defamation, while misuse of personal data is also punishable. If there is no other way to end online harassment, you should consider this option as well.
Can I be a perpetrator?
We are already talking significantly less about this site, although it is just as important to learn about these precautions as it is to reduce the harm of becoming a victim.
The question of whether you can be a perpetrator calls for a kind of reaction: make it happen so that it doesn’t happen!
Do not take anonymous threats and insults lightly. You may just want to teach your partner a little bit about mocking or devouring your snack, but you never know what’s going on in his head while he reads your hurtful message. Your dissertation may have gone wrong that day, your parents are about to divorce, you have been struggling with depression for a long time, and it is your message that is the last straw that will lead you to your fatal decision.
Before sending a rough message to anyone from a sudden upset, stop for a minute and read it again as if you had received that message. How would you feel if you landed in your virtual account? What would you do? Well, you may not send it.
Keep in mind that the victims of cyberbullying are mostly depressed, anxious young people who have few friends, poor contact with their parents, and are often abused by their peers offline. Think about what you do to them if you hurt them too. If you’ve experienced for yourself what it’s like to fall victim to cyberbullying, you already know it. Help those who are being hurt in public groups, as you can stop the perpetrator with a supportive message and prevent a fight that many young people have already fallen victim to.
The article was written by Ágnes Zsila, a psychologist, writer and PhD student at the Doctoral School of Psychology at Eötvös Loránd University, who is an active participant in the research group of Prof. Zsolt Demetrovics.
Extra Life is a social responsibility section of SamaGame that aims to help young people and parents talk to professionals about issues that may affect you.
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