Is it me or is cyberbullying going out of control. With the tragic death of the teenager Ronan Hughes, 17, from Co Tyrone who took his own life after being dubed into posting images on the internet, to 14-year-old Laurena Woods, from Ashbourne Co Meath who thankfully found, was alleged to have gone missing to meet someone she was communicating with online. If only we could put old heads on young shoulders. Think about it we all took risks at times, however when it comes to online versus real world the risks are more significant. The bottom line is that when online you think you are talking to a 17 year old girl with an interest in clothes and fashion, you can be talking to a predatory male 38 year old male with completely different motives.
Bullying can happen anywhere. Talking to John (details changed to protect identity) an adult client of mine when he was describing the terrible bullying he experienced in school he noted “At least when school finished at 4.00” it was over, I got a break until the next day”. Modern technology has gifted us many benefits but alas so it has created cyber-bullying.
Most kids have been teased by a brother or sister or a friend at some point. When it’s done in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, and both kids find it funny, then it’s fine. But when teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop.
Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumours about them. It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and future relationships.
What is cyberbullying, exactly?
Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by individuals or groups using mobile phone (voice or text messages) or the internet (email, postings, Instant Messages, etc). Most often cyberbullies spread rumours, make threats or harass. It can include written messages, photographs, videos or voice messages. This type of bullying is just as harmful and upsetting as face to face bullying.
Tactics Most Often Used By Teen Cyberbullies
- Pretend they are other people online to trick others
- Trick children into revealing personal information
- Send or forward mean text messages
- Spread lies and rumours about victims
- Post pictures of victims without their consent
The people who are bullying may choose to set up ‘groups’ in an online social network. This type of cyberbullying is referred to as “mobbing” where a target is selected and bullied (mobbed) by a pack of people. How cruel and relentless. Every group has a ringleader who incites supporters, copycats and unenlightened, inexperienced, immature or emotionally needy individuals to continue the cyberbullying.
The Impact of Cyberbullying
Being subjected to bullying causes you to feel: upset, threatened, humiliated, and vulnerable. Bullying can cause physical, mental and emotional pain and can make you feel alone, scared, angry, confused or sad. All of these may affect your emotional life.
Many people who experience bullying may fear reprisals if they tell someone. This can become harder as people grow older. They become more and more isolated, experience depression and, in extreme cases, can harm themselves or attempt suicide.
- Teach your children to respect others and to take a stand against bullying of all kinds
- Be careful online and remember that words have the power to heal and hurt.
- Ask yourself, could these words be picked up the wrong way or cause upset? Is this photo suitable for lots of people to see?
- If you post something online and ‘comments’ or ‘chat’ becomes cruel, remove your posts so you are not part of a negative situation.
- Know that you are as responsible for saying things online or by text in cyberspace as well as in the real world. If it comes down to it, the source of the abuse, the computer or phone being used, can be identified by the Gardaí.
TOP TEN TIPS OF WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEEN CYBERBULLIED.
Mary 12 years says to her mum “I’ve been getting mean emails from some girls in my class. Sometimes I get abusive text messages from numbers I don’t recognise. What should I do?
- TELL – Tell someone. Talk to a parent, teacher, friend or someone you can trust.
- BLOCK – Keep your details private and block people. Get a new phone sim and make your new number private.
- LOG – Keep a log. While messages may be cruel, you will need to have some proof of what has been happening. This will be helpful if the Gardaí or someone in authority need to help. If you don’t want to keep seeing the messages you could put texts in ‘saved messages’. Forward emails onto the adult you have talked to.
- If you are receiving abusive texts, give your phone to an adult to monitor for an evening or over a weekend. Don’t reply to abusive emails or texts. Giving a response may make the situation worse.
- If you are on a social network, change your ‘privacy settings’ so that your web pages are secure and only accessed by people you know. Check the privacy settings. If you have been getting nasty IMs (instant messages), change your online status to ‘hidden’ so other internet users will not know you’re online.
- Be careful about the passwords you use online. Keep this private. You could change your password every month or so to be extra safe.
- If you know the user name of the person bullying, you can block them from your profile.
- Start fresh by setting up a new email address, user name or profile. Ask someone for help if you’re not sure how.
- Don’t add people you don’t know to your list of online friends. Be wary of strangers online.
- Log off. You can choose to walk away by logging off or switching off. By doing this, you will feel in control of the situation.