The last 20 years has seen the rise in the wonderful world that is social media, without which I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But what happens when this amazing tool designed to connect people together is misused? Unfortunately, being concealed behind a screen seems to give people the confidence to say hurtful and direct things that would not be said in real life.
I touched on this subject a few weeks ago about being more mindful about what we say over the Internet and how written words are different from spoken ones. Leading on from this, this blog post is a practical guide for those of you out there experiencing cyber-bullying.
Cyber-bullying is when messages of threat, intimidation or upset are sent to another individual or group with the intent of causing hurt or harm. Unfortunately, wherever you go in life, there is always going to be someone who gets a little bit of pleasure from upsetting others, for whatever reason. But when this upset is coming at you through your phone or laptop, when you cannot even see the person, it can be so intimidating.
Here are a few advice points that I have written to help someone experiencing cyber bullying:
1.You do not deserve to be treated like that.
Firstly, remind yourself that you don’t deserve to be treated badly by ANYONE. That’s a general rule of life. No one has the right to make you feel bad about yourself. EVER. Tell yourself that it is not your fault that you are in this situation. If someone else chooses to say nasty things to you, that is their choice, but how you deal with the situation is totally your decision and in your control.
2.Don’t respond or retaliate.
This is an important one. However tempting it might be to let rip and put this bully in their place, don’t! Because A) throwing shade back makes you just as bad as them, but also B) it is not going to help the situation, it is 100% going to make it worse and more often than not, it is going to make the situation escalate. More often than not, bullies are looking for a reaction from you so they know they have upset you. Retaliating to hurtful texts is just playing into their hands.
3.Don’t take matters into your own hands.
In the world of social media, things very easily go viral. So don’t be tempted, instead of messaging back, to share the posts/text messages with as many people as possible to ‘make an example of the bullies.’ This is cyber bullying too. Plain and simple. Don’t sink to their level. You are better than that.
4.Save the evidence.
The best thing about cyber bullying is that everything is written down, meaning you can save, screenshot or print what has been said. It eliminates the ‘well, she said…’ ‘No I didn’t…’ argument because it is written down for all to see. Save the evidence of abusive messages with the date and time stamp on them if possible. If things escalate, then you have proof to support what you are saying.
5.Tell an trusted adult and think about your next move together.
Whatever is being sent to you, you must tell an adult. A parent, a teacher, a neighbour, anyone you trust. Not so they can sort the problem out for you but so you can talk through what you want to do together. Two heads are always better than one. It also gives you a good opportunity to calm down and talk through what has happened before you decide what to do next. Anything done in the heat of the moment is often regretted. Take some time and get someone else’s opinion.
A trusted adult on your side will also be able to give some support if you want to make your school aware of what is going on on social media or if it is a matter for the police to deal with. This obviously depends on your individual situation but it is something to consider with someone you can openly talk to.
6.Use the social media tools available.
As standard and as a tool to protect their users, all social media platforms have a ‘Report User’ function for you to make them aware of unwanted happenings. They can then decide if the bully needs a time out or if they have violated the platform rules and need their account disabling all together.
If this feels a bit drastic to you, you might feel like blocking the person from contacting you is a more appropriate action for your situation. You should probably do that anyway so they cannot make contact with you.
7.Resilience is learnt.
One positive outcome of cyber bullying is a built up resilience, which is a skill that will be super helpful later in life. If someone is sending you horrible messages, the best thing to do would really be to ignore it. As hard as that sounds, they will soon stop it if they get no reaction.
When a new message pops up from that dreaded account, don’t open it. Just delete it. Whatever it contains, it won’t be helpful or add joy to your life so you don’t need to see it. If it carries on, use a different social media platform to connect with your friends. Remove yourself from the situation. The bullies will soon get bored and move on. It can be so hard to think like this when you are in the middle of a horrible situation but I promise you, it will end at some point. Each time you ignore a message, it will strengthen you. It will get easier. It will make you laugh at how ridiculous they are. Cue funny picture about how silly online bullies are:
You are in control because you can walk away. Or turn off your phone in this case.
If you know someone who is being cyber bullied, be there for them. They would really appreciate someone to talk to about it. Quite often people don’t want someone to swoop in and save the day, just knowing there is someone there so they are not going through it alone is often just the support they need.
My final piece of advice, and it is an important one, is this:
Please, please, PLEASE think about the things you are sending to other people electronically, whether it is over social media or texts or emails. Even when you are sending things to people who are your friends. How often do we see in the news that a celebrity’s sex tape has been leaked, or naked pictures that were sent to a boyfriend have ended up on the Internet for the world to see? Once it is on the Internet, it will always be on the Internet, you loose control over who sees it or shares it. Please think before sending anything so that you don’t end up in a difficult situation in the future. Please protect yourself. As sad as it sounds, people who are your friends currently may not always be your friends. If you aren’t prepared to put it on a bulletin board for the world to see then don’t send it to anyone!