A pounding in your chest, your palms sweat, you want to cry or punch something, you want to hide away from the world and never come out of your room again.
These are all common reactions young people have to be cyberbullied. The dictionary.com definition of cyberbullying is “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.”
However, victims are also often shamed, called sexually suggestive names, or even feel their reputation has been smeared with the distribution of photos they did not consent to appearing online or via text or app. No one has the right to share private nude photos of you or any minor. To do so is considered illegal and those who participate can face consequences like jail time or having to register as sexual predators for the rest of their lives.
Why is Online Bullying is so Dangerous:
The most dangerous part about online bullying is that the scars it leaves cannot always be seen with the naked eye. However, just like physical bullies in the past, online bullying is a terrifying, painful, and dangerous phenomenon which has increased with the use of social media and the Internet.
Imagine being at home in the privacy of your favorite place to relax and being jarred by hurtful messages on your phone. That is the reality for many teenagers. Not only are teens bullied ‘online’, but they are also frequently bullied directly through their cell phones, including text messages or sites like Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. While bullying used to be something a town or school’s resident bully might do, the emergence of texting, social media, and online interaction means that the perpetrator of bullying isn’t always the person you suspect. There are also people who pretend to be someone else, called catfish, that bully you without you knowing their true identity. Cyberbullying can even occur from “friends”, classmates, former friends or dates, acquaintances, or strangers. Here is what to do if you are being cyberbullied by a catfish or by someone you know.
Step 1: Remember You Are Not Alone
According to nobullying.com, 25% of teenagers report not only that they have been bullied via the internet or their phone, but worse they have experienced repeated episodes of bullying. If you think or suspect you have been a victim of online cyberbullying, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone.
Being treated unkindly by anyone online is wrong and there is a way to stop it if you involve a trusted adult, school official, or if needed, a lawyer or the authorities. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up and tell others about their bullying. Maybe the names or insults the bully is using feels embarrassing to share with others. Perhaps you worry people will judge you. You might even think your parents or school staff can’t possibly help.
If that is the case, remember that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. No one deserves to receive cruel, mean, hateful, insulting, or embarrassing comments online. Each and every time a person who is bullied speaks up, the world of bullies slowly take notice. As you protect yourself, others become more protected when they are bullied as well. Being bullied is not your fault. Even if you shared photos with someone you trusted or had a friendship or relationship that didn’t succeed, or even talked to a catfish you didn’t know, no one has the right to use those normal activities to hurt or shame you.
Step 2: Who And How To Get Help
Talk to your parents. If your parents are not helpful, try to talk to another trusted adult like a teacher or family friend. The most important part is to remember that bullying is wrong and if one person you talk to does not, or is not able to help you, keep trying to reach out.
A school counselor is an option, a family doctor. You can even pick up your phone book or call 211 for information on agencies that can help you if you are being bullied. Sometimes parents or schools are very helpful. Other times, the people who are the most closely involved may not realize just how serious the problem is.
Step 3: Protect Yourself
Part of protecting yourself might be deleting the apps or social media platforms you used, which your bully contacted you through. Phone numbers and texts can be blocked through settings in your phone, which you can figure out how to do with a quick Google search. Although it might be tempting to know what people are saying about you, you’ll feel better the sooner you stop that person (or persons) from having access to you. When you block someone, or a group of people, or disable an account they reached you through, you are sending a message that you are taking care of yourself. That is the first step in healing from a bully’s mistreatment.
Step 4: Proof
As you prepare to talk to family, school staff, a therapist, counselors, trusted adults, or an agency you’ve been referred through by dialing 211, consider taking a screenshot of the bullying you received online to show the people you are getting help from. This will let them see how serious the situation is and give the school or law enforcement evidence if they need to take legal action against the bully/bullies. However, don’t worry if you haven’t done this, it’s not required.
Step 5: Bullying Is Illegal
It is not legal to harass, stalk, or threaten someone. Someone sending out your private nude photos without your consent is now a crime called “revenge porn”. If you are a minor they will face even more serious charges. Courts take dangerous civil harassment very seriously and can lead to bullies having a restraining order from contacting or harassing you.
Step 6: Don’t Give Up
Things can improve. It may not feel that way if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or alone. However, know that is a result of being bullied and a normal reaction to being treated poorly. Still, it is important to get help for depression and anxiety as both can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thinking, poor school performance, or social alienation. Mental health coverage is provided through all insurance plans, per national laws. Talk to your parents to see if a therapist is right for you. Also, if you feel as if you cannot endure another day of bullying and/or have considered suicide, please get help immediately and call the National Suicide Hotline. It is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-273-8255. A caring neutral voice can be a welcome relief.
If you’d prefer to text someone over talking on the phone, consider using the Crisis Text Line by texting: 741741
You can and will help stop cyberbullies. No one deserves to be bullied, whether online or not!