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How to stop cyber bullying: Information, facts and tips to deal with online bullies and internet trolls
This post looks at information and facts about cyber bullying followed by non-textbook but extremely practical tips on how to stop cyber bullying. A bully could be an internet troll sending taunting tweets, a fake Facebook profile posting embarrassing pictures, a classmate sending threatening messages on instant messenger or even a colleague sending harassing emails. The effects of cyber bullying can be as evil as the real thing – embarrassment, humiliation, harassment, emotional scarring, physical harm and more. Read on for a real life approach to bullying on the internet.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying happens when someone is bullied via the internet. This includes show of hostility, threats, deliberate and repeated harassment or showing intention of harm. The victim may or may not know the bully, who could remain anonymous unless authorities require the bully to be traced. There are laws regarding online harassment and there have been instances of people being charged for malicious behavior on the internet.
Cyber bullying: How does it happen?
Cyber bullying can happen through emails, forums, internet groups, online chat rooms, tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook and other ways and means of communicating on the internet. Unlike traditional bullying which was in some ways limited to schools and colleges, online bullying knows no boundaries of age, gender, time or location. Internet is a global playground where anyone and everyone with a computer or mobile device with an internet connection can come and play.
Cyber bullying: Information and facts
To put across the vast footprint of cyber bullying, let's take a look at a very recent study by Microsoft. The study was compiled together in a report that had responses from youth aged 8 to 17, from 25 countries worldwide. It emerged that nearly 4 out of 10 respondents worldwide had faced cyber bullying and more than half worried that they will be bullied online in the future. Some key findings of the Microsoft study pertaining to United States include:
1) 95% of youth surveyed had been bullied either online or offline.
2) 33% of respondents were very or somewhat worried about online bullying and nearly 3 out of every 10 youth had already been bullied online.
3) Education and formal policies in schools have little effect and fail to curb cyber bullying.
4) Boys are slightly less likely to be targets of online bullying.
5) Online bullying is more rampant among older children.
6) Parents in US are more likely to protect their children from cyber bullying as 66% of them monitor the use of their children's computer.
7) 7 out of every 10 respondents in the age group of 8 to 17 believed that they were twice as more likely to be bullied if they bully someone else online. 4 out of 10 believed that they would be cyber bullied if they spent more than 10 hours a week online.
8) In the age group of 13 to 17, 57% of children believed that they would be unable to get into a college of their choice if their online reputation was damaged. 52% believed that their job prospects would be hurt.
9) Nearly 4 out of every 10 respondents aged 13 to 17 feared that they would be embarrassed, lose their friends and upset their parents if their online reputation was damaged.
10) 93% of youth between 13 to 17 years of age have actively taken steps to protect their online identities. 90% admit that all negative consequences of online presence are due to their own mismanagement.
How to stop cyber bullying?
Just like bullying in real life, dealing with online bullies is tricky as every situation is different from others. However there are some common do's and don'ts when it comes to learning how to stop cyber bullying.
1) Don't give an immediate reply to the internet bully: Avoid a knee jerk reaction
Just because a troll decides to make you a target of senseless messages, does not mean that you need to stoop down to his/her level and replay back. If you receive a hateful tweet or an insulting message on Facebook, it is in your best interest to avoid an immediate reply. Take your time and think of what you want to do. This critical time period will allow you to make an informed decision.
2) Continue interacting with your online friends as usual but with caution
Just because someone is trying to bully you online, does not mean that you should cut off communication with your other online friends. Continue interacting with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other messengers that you use. But while doing so, maintain caution and do not post anything that you bully can take advantage of, for example, your phone number.
3) Try to identify the bully: Don't assume that a prolife is real
It does not take a lot of effort to create a fake profile, which makes the cyber bully's life easier. If you receive messages from an anonymous troll or a profile that seems fake, try to identify the real person behind it. Look at message patterns, think about the time of the messages, read in-between the lines and try to find similarities in the writing style with anyone you know.
Identification of an online bully can go a long way in averting unfavorable circumstances. Little did 13 year old Megan Meier from Missouri know that the guy harassing her on MySpace was actually a fake profile made by the mother of one of her friends. Fed up with taunts like 'The world would be a better place without you', Megan committed suicide in October 2006 by hanging herself.
So stop assuming that a profile is real and don't take everyone you meet on face value, especially strangers. Do your homework before you engage in any kind of conversation with someone who seems to be crossing the line.
4) Cut off your contact with the bully
Don't scar and damage your online reputation by indulging in mindless tweets or posts with the troll who is harassing you online. Remember that the messages you post, tweet or send will be there forever. Your conversations could even be used in the courts if your case takes a nasty turn. So it is in your best interest to refrain from conversations with the bully, subject to your discretion. If you wish, you can even block them as most instant messengers and social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace allow you to block other users.
Always remember that if you ever decide to confront your bully by taking him/her to any kind of authority, it is vital that you have refrained from making any wrongful statements yourself. A clean chat/message record will work in your favor while abusive rants could work against you. Even if you have a strong urge to indulge in a war of words with someone online, think "Can this be used against me in the future?"
5) Maintain a log of messages sent by your online bully
Whether or not you are planning to stop the cyber bullying that you are facing by going to authorities, it is a great idea to keep a log of all the messages sent to you. Keep a separate folder and archive all the conversations and messages that were sent to harass, insult or taunt you.
13 year old Ryan Halligan from Vermont committed suicide in 2003 but there was no suicide note found. However his father found a string of saved messages and conversations from his computer. These included chat logs from online messengers and many other conversations with the girl and guy who bullied him.
Not that you want to plan for dire circumstances like these, a complete archive of messages, conversations and screenshots will be very handy to make your case if your situation takes an ugly turn.
6) Report to the authorities if online bullying does not stop
Online bullying could take a turn for the worst if bullies decide to play out the game in real life. If you think that there seems to be no end to the bullying or there is a perceived threat of physical harm, report it to the authorities.
Bullying in school can be reported to the parents and principal. Workplace bullying can be brought to the notice of managers. And any other type of cyber bullying which is on the verge of taking a violent turn in real life, can be reported to the police.
7) Don't start feeling bad about yourself: Success is the best way to silence bullies
It is natural for even the best of us to feel sad if someone sends abusive, humiliating or insulting messages. It makes matters even worse when it is up there on social media for everyone to look at. For example, it would be normal for someone to feel bad if a cyber bully posted an embarrassing picture on Facebook or a humiliating tweet on Twitter.
But don't let this get to you. Instead, use it as a source of motivation and push yourself harder to succeed at what you are doing in life. As a metaphor in real life, think of it as motivation to lose weight, if someone called you fat.
British female weightlifter Zoe Smith had recently been subject to the vicious remarks of internet trolls who tweeted that she looked like a she was a bloke and that she was a lesbian. Zoe competed in the London Olympics and broke an Olympic record as she lifted twice her own weight. Amidst celebrations, she slammed her critics and her bullies and said "I gave it to them on the platform. It's two fingers up to them, basically. What are you doing with your life? I've just competed at the Olympics! Have some of that, trolls!" As you can see, success is the best way to silence bullies, online or offline.