The internet has allowed society to stay connected in more ways than ever before. We can speak to strangers across the globe, connect with loved ones in an instant, and share our lives publicly. As much as the internet has connected us in positive, eye-opening ways, its interactive nature has also created a new problem for active users everywhere – cyberbullying. Though the problem is becoming all too common, many out there don’t fully understand the ins and outs of cyberbullying. Let’s take a deep dive into the phenomenon.
What is Cyberbullying
Just like it sounds, cyberbullying is when bullies take their insults and ill will to the internet. According to StopBullying.gov, “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.” The key objective of cyberbullying is to embarrass the subject of the attack, though sometimes the bully can view the act as justified revenge or simply non-intentional.
Types of Cyberbullies
Evolved from the classic schoolyard bullies of old, these cyberbullies can actually take a variety of forms depending on their attack vector and intent. In fact, there are said to be four types of cyberbullies: the Vengeful Angel, the Power Hungry Cyberbully, Revenge of the Nerds/Inadvertent Cyberbully, and Mean Girls. The Vengeful Angel bullies in order to protect the weak/other victims, and often take the action to protect a loved or friend. The Power Hungry archetype, however, is just a nasty, unkind person who wants to display dominance and control over others. Then there’s the Inadvertent Cyberbully, who are usually the ones getting bullied online or in real life and are typically trying to enact some form of justice or revenge anonymously from the web. Mean Girls are the opposite – and take their online actions in order to impress a group of friends or gain social status.
Not only is there a variety in the kind of bullies across the web, but also a plethora of types of cyberbullying techniques these meanies use to bother their victims. First and foremost, there’s Harassment, which involves repeated, offensive messages sent to a victim by a bully on some type of online medium. These messages can be rude, personal, and even threatening, with one recent example emerging between two wives of professional hockey players. Similar to harassment is Flaming – an online fight conducted via emails, social media messages, chat rooms, you name it.
Then there are very targeted attacks, named Exclusion and Outing. With Exclusion, cyberbullies select one individual to single out. Exclusion is a popular method, with examples popping up everywhere, from high students in Iowa to well-known celebrities. With Outing, these harassers share private information, photos, and videos of a single person to humiliate them online. There’s also the anonymous angle, AKA Masquerading, where a cyberbully creates a fake online identity to belittle, harass, and degrade their victim – which a nurse in New Zealand was a victim of for a whopping 5 years.
Next Steps for Both Parents and Kids
Typically, cyberbullying is a common occurrence amongst teens who are navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school and high school. But that doesn’t mean its exclusive to teens, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps parents and kids alike can do to stop cyberbullying in its tracks.
If you’re the subject of cyberbullying, the first thing you need to do is block the bully. Then, make sure you collect evidence – take screenshots, print the proof, do whatever you can do have material to back up your claim. It depends on the type of cyberbullying at work, but you can also use the internet to your advantage and look up relevant resources/hotlines/support to aid with your issue.
If you’re a parent, the most important thing is communication. Make yourself available as a resource and remind your kids that they can tell you anything that’s happening in their online world. Beyond that, continuously weave cybersecurity into your family discussions. Remind kids of the simple steps they can take to be safe online, and make sure they know when to flag a cyberbully or online scheme.
There are also technical avenues you can take to protect your kid online. Look into solutions that will help you monitor your family’s online interactions, such as McAfee Safe Family. This solution, for instance, can help you set rules and time limits for apps and websites and see what your kids are up to at a glance. Of course, these solutions are not the be-all and end-all for stopping cyberbullying, but they can help.
Now, there’s still a lot more research that has to be done to fully understand the cyberbullying problem society is faced with. So as this problem continues to evolve, so must the research, solutions, and regulations that will be created to combat the issue. With the right proactive action, people everywhere can stand up to cyberbullies.