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Cyberbullying and Digital Abuse

Cyberbullying

Technology is a great way to meet new people and to interact with your friends. But unfortunately, people can use the same tool that keeps us connected to bully or harass others.  While bullying isn’t new, with new technological advancements, we run into new issues with old problems.

Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through technology, like by phones or social media.  A bully could reach a victim through a group text, a messaging app, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or even through online gaming, the possibilities are endless.

Check out this video titled What is Bullying from AMAZE

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying comes in many different forms.  Below is a list of types of cyberbullying someone may see or experience:

  • Flaming – Online fights, name calling, and similar actions
  • Disparaging – Posts or messages that target someone.  This could include posts that target someone based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
  • Exclusion – Leaving someone out of a game or group chat, or any other social media activity.
  • Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
  • Trickery – Tricking someone into telling you something private and then outing them.
  • 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.

Important Facts

  • 59 percent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online (Pew Research Center).
  • Name calling is a common form of cyberbullying. Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of teenagers have been called names on the internet or through their cellphone.
  • A third of adolescents said that misinformation had been spread about them online (Pew Research Center).
  • LGBTQ students are at an increased risk of being bullied at school or online

 

Consequences

Cyber Bullying, just like traditional bullying, can have real world consequences for the bully, and the victim.  Some of the consequences of cyberbullying are as follows:

  • Legal Consequences: A person that bullies someone online could suffer legal consequences. This can be a legal gray area in your state.  Some states do not have specific anti-cyberbullying laws, but a perpetrator can still be prosecuted under other existing laws.
  • School Consequences: School policies and procedures may vary on bullying and cyberbullying, but there could still be consequences for these offences, including legal ones.
  • Mental Health: Bullying increases adolescents risk for depression, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and it can impact academics as well. For LGBTQ youth, that risk is even higher (Stopbullying.gov).
  • It’s hard to escape: With traditional bullying, a bully was not likely to knock on your door in the middle of the night, but with cyberbullying, a perpetrator can reach out and harass a victim 24/7, plus they have the ability to do this anonymously.
  • Content Posted is hard to get rid of: Hopefully, if you reach out to a media website or app, then they would be able to take down disparaging content, but considering the large scope of social media providers available, this could be a daunting task.  When something is posted online, then it is saved on the server of the website.  You no longer own the content you posted, and neither does a bully that posts content about you.  Large sites or apps are generally better about helping with reports of abuse than smaller ones are, so be cautious about what platforms you are part of.  These can be lengthy, but reading a company’s privacy policies can help you determine if that particular site of interest is right for you.
  • Future consequences: Anything you post online could be found and used against you.  So if you are bullying someone online, this could jeopardize future employment and educational opportunities.  In fact, a Career Builder survey found that 70 percent of employers admit to using social media to help them determine if a candidate is right for the job, 54 percent of employers reported that they decided not to hire a candidate because of their social media profiles, nearly half of employers check current employees profiles, with over a third of employers having sanctioned or fired a worker due to inappropriate content (prnewswire.com). For education, 36 percent of college admission staff searched their applicant’s digital footprints (Kaplan).

 

What you can do if you are being cyberbullied

Life is hard, especially for teenagers.  There is so much to worry about, and bullying can make all of that worse.  You have the right to be safe, respected, and you don’t deserve to be bullied or harassed, whether that be online or in person.  Consider the following information if you are dealing with bullying or cyberbullying:

  • 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. Some social media sites have divisions that investigate forms of abuse, including cyberbullying.
  • If you or someone you know is in an immediate risk of danger or harm, then call 911
  • If someone has committed a crime, then contact your local law enforcement
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or our crisis line

Additional Resources

  • Visit Stopbullying.gov for more information about bullying, laws, and additional resources for help.
  • Visit AMAZE for more great information on topics related to teenagers.
  • Visit our Social Media, and Sexting page for more information.

Digital Abuse

Technology allows us to stay connected.  Whether you are re-connecting with a lost friend from elementary school, video chatting with a partner that is far away, or making new connections with people that you’ve never met, technology allows us to reach out and touch people in ways that would have been impossible before these advancements.

While technology has done a lot of good in changing the dating landscape, it is important to think about some of the things that could go wrong online, particularly in a relationship.  Identifying potential problems will help you avoid these in the first place, will help you handle a situation if it happens to you, and will make you better equipped to identify signs of digital abuse in the relationships of those that you care about.

Digital Abuse is abuse that occurs through the use of technology such as texting and social media.  This often happens in the context of a dating relationship, but not always.  Unfortunately, digital abuse is fairly common.  1 in 4 teenagers that are in a relationship have experienced digital abuse or harassment (Urban Institute).  Digital abuse is a serious matter that may spill over into other types of abuse.  According to the Urban Institute 96 percent of teens that have experienced digital abuse have also experienced other forms of violence or abuse from their partners.

 

Digitizing Abuse Infographic

Check out this video titled Intimate Partner Violence from AMAZE

Signs of digital abuse

Knowing what digital abuse looks like can help you determine if steps should be taken to set boundaries, end the relationship, or seek further help.  Below are some signs of digital abuse:

  • Your partner sends or posts negative, insulting, or threatening messages directed towards you.
  • Your partner tries to control who you interact with online.
  • Your partner tries to get you to post content that you are uncomfortable with.
  • Your partner sends you unwanted sexual pictures, sends pictures of you without your permission, or insists you send them pictures.
  • Your partner steals or demands to be given your password.
  • Your partner constantly uses social media to keep an eye on what you are doing.

Your digital relationship rights

You have a say in what happens in your relationships online, just like you should have in person:

  • You have the right to control your own content. No one should try to force you into posting what you don’t want to post, to try to change or control what you say online, or to post unwanted content on your behalf
  • You can step away. Your partner should not pressure you into replying within a specific time frame, nor should they get mad if you choose to take a break from social media, or if you choose to delete your accounts all together
  • You have the right to privacy. Your partner should not pressure you into sharing your password with them.
  • You have the right to speak to whoever you want to. Your partner should not try to control who you talk to online, nor should they use this against you
  • You do not have to send any picture or message that you are uncomfortable sending
  • Lastly, you have the right to end any relationship that you are uncomfortable with and at any time.

Consequences

Digital abuse, just like any other form of abuse, can have serious consequences for both the perpetrator and the victim.  If a person is invading your privacy, hurting you, stalking you, harassing you, or doing other similar things, then there could be legal consequences for them.  Like mentioned in the Cyber- Bullying section, anything that is posted online is saved on the server of the website, so this information could be next than impossible to delete or get back, resulting in future consequences for the perpetrator, like lost educational or employment opportunities.  Those who experience teen dating violence are greatly impacted.  They are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, to use drugs and alcohol, to exhibit antisocial behaviors, and to think about suicide (CDC).

How to get help

If you are being abused in any capacity, then it’s important to seek help.

  • Talk to an adult. This can be a parent, an older sibling, a teacher, law enforcement, a counselor, a member of a religious institution, or any other adult that you trust and has proven that they are trustworthy.
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • If you have been hurt or a crime has been committed, then call 911 if it is safe to do so.
  • You can visit loveisrespect.org, call 1-866-331-9474, or text: LOVEIS TO 22522 if you are unable to speak safely.  This is a good resource for information, help, and to connect you with local resources.

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