Cyberbullying in the Digital World
As communication technology continues to advance, people become increasingly connected through the web and social media. 95% of teens are connected to the internet, and 85% are social media users. While there are many benefits to our high levels of connectedness via social media, there is also a dark side: cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through communication technology. There are endless avenues for bullying to reach a target: group text, other messaging apps, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, Discord, online gaming chats and far more. Youths who experience cyberbullying have a higher risk of developing social anxiety or depression, having suicidal thoughts, self-harming, developing eating disorders and performing poorly in school.
With the technological advancements and vast popularity of social media platforms, young people often stay connected online which increases the opportunity for cyberbullying. Since opportunities for cyberbullying are continuously growing, it is important that we understand the different types of cyberbullying and ways to combat it.
The strongest classifier of cyberbullying is hurtful language. But there are many different forms of cyberbullying. Here are the definitions to help you identify what type of cyberbullying you might be experiencing and what to look out for:
- Flaming – online fights, name calling and similar actions
- Disparaging – posts or messages that target someone. These may include posts that target people based on their identities, posts that attribute false identities to people, or posts that make hurtful jokes about someone (i.e. making an insulting meme using someone’s photo).
- Exclusion – leaving someone out of a game or group chat, or any other social media activity, with or without their knowledge of the group
- Outing – sharing someone’s secrets or private information without their allowance
- Impersonation – pretending to be someone you are not (also known as Catfishing)
- Harassment – repeatedly sending malicious messages
- Cyberstalking – continuously harassing and disparaging, including threats of physical harm
Getting away from cyberbullying isn’t as simple as just turning of your phone or creating new accounts on social media. Just like any other bullying, it needs to be taken seriously and combated at its source. Here are some ways to help combat cyberbullying:
- Know that your feelings are valid. You might be unsure whether the way you are being treated is “bullying” or not. If you are unsure, trust your feelings. You know better than anyone else how someone else’s actions are affecting you.
- Talk to a trusted adult. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, coach or any other trustworthy adult that you know. These people can help you and help determine if you need to take additional steps.
- Block, Document and Report. Many sites have blocking features, and this can help alleviate the frequency of bullying instances. Document instances of bullying and contact the sites’ administrators.
- If you or someone you know is in an immediate risk of danger of harm, call 911.
- If someone has committed a crime, contact your local law enforcement.
- If you are experiencing emotional distress, mental health or suicide crisis, call, text or chat with the 988 Lifeline.
- Help others. If you are not the one being cyberbullied, help your loved one get away from their bully. Develop a strong understanding of what cyberbullying is, offer them encouragement and share insights on how to block, document and report bullies. Offer the hope that bullying isn’t forever, and help them adopt useful coping skills to stay emotionally healthy.