How to Stop Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying occurs when electronic communications such as text messages, emails, instant messages, and social media updates are used to threaten or humiliate someone. Its consequences can be just as serious as the effects of bullying that occurs in person. Learn how to recognize and address cyber bullying before it gets out of hand
Method 1 of 4: Know What to Look For
Look for signs of harassment. Cyber bullying often takes the form of one person harassing another through emails, instant messages, text messages or other modes of electronic communication. Harassment is taking place if the bully is directly contacting someone with one or more of the following types of messaging:
- Hateful or threatening verbal messages. This includes name-calling, attempts to control someone’s behavior by threatening to expose embarrassing information and/or threats of violence.
- Embarrassing or threatening images.
- An unending barrage of emails, instant messages, or texts, whether or not they are threatening in nature.
Look for signs of public humiliation. Another common form of cyber bullying happens when the bully harasses a target by way of public embarrassment, rather than directly contacting him or her. Cyber bullies may use these public tactics:
- Posting humiliating messages on a social media site, a blog, or another public space.
- Spreading rumors and gossip using social media, text messages and other tools.
- Sharing pictures that are embarrassing or explicit in nature, or are altered with the intent to humiliate, on social media websites and through text messaging.
- Creating a website filled with defamatory images, insults, and rumors about the target.
Look for signs of impersonation. A less obvious, but equally harmful form of cyberbullying takes place when the bully attacks someone by impersonating him or her as a way to bring about humiliation or punishment. In this case it is more difficult to identify the perpetrator.
- In some cases the bully may create a screen name nearly identical to the screen name used by someone, then use that name to create embarrassing or threatening situations for him or her.
- The bully may steal the target’s password, hack his or her accounts, and send embarrassing message to others or make expensive purchases.
Method 2 of 4: Take Immediate Action
Attempt to identify the cause. Some bullies start out as a friend, an ex, or someone else you know well. If it seems possible to have a reasonable discussion with the person, consider asking him or her to stop. Have the conversation in person, not through email or text.
- Keep in mind there may not always be a reason for cyber bullying, or one that is straightforward. Sometimes people lash out on others because of their own insecurities. In any case, it is not your fault.
- If you don’t know who the bully is, or if you’re being bullied by a group of people, attempting to talk it out probably won’t work. You may need to take a stronger action.
Stop responding to the bully’s messages. If talking it out won’t work, don’t directly respond to the text messages, instant messages, emails or other communications you may have received from the bully. Bullies want to elicit a reaction from their targets, so firing back a text will only make things worse.
- Don’t threaten the bully to get back at him or her. Sending a threatening message out of exasperation will only provoke the bully to keep up the bad behavior, and it may get you in trouble, too.
Save the evidence. File away every email, text, instant message, web address, and other evidence you collect from the bully. Record the time and date that each message was sent. Having as much information as possible about the bully’s behavior will help you determine how to stop his or her behavior.
Block the bully. Immediately put an end to the bully’s most invasive threats by blocking that person from direct communication with you. Once you’ve made sure all prior messages have been saved, take the following steps to protect yourself:
- Delete the person from your email contacts and block instant messaging communication.
- Delete the person from your social networks and prevent them from getting in contact with you again.
- Block the person from your phone.
Change your account settings. Prevent the person from finding a new way to contact you by limiting the amount of personal information you make available online. Take the following measures to protect yourself:
- Don’t reveal your address, phone number and whereabouts online. Social media sites make it easy for people to contact you in a lot of different ways, but they all have privacy settings you can employ to keep certain people from bothering you. Change your settings so that only close friends are able to contact you.
- Consider changing your screen name and other online identification. If you’ve been using the same screen name for years, the bully may be able to find a way to continue harassing you by posing as someone else. Eliminate the possibility by changing your screen name, as well as your profile picture and other information that makes you easy to find online.
- Create new accounts. If you fear someone else is impersonating you, it might be necessary to create new accounts so that that person is no longer able to pretend to be you. Notify your friends and family that you have a new email address, social media page, and so on.
Method 3 of 4: Get Outside Help
Don’t wait too long to ask for help. You might be tempted to let the bullying run its course instead of bringing attention to the problem, but if you do that the bully will get the message that there’s no penalty for putting someone else in danger. Don’t assume the problem will go away on its own; speak up immediately to put a stop to it.
- If you’re a child or teenager, ask an adult for help. Your parents, teachers, principal and school counselor are all in a position to put a stop to the situation before it goes any further.
- If you’re a parent, take the situation seriously and address it immediately. Cyber bullying has often had tragic consequences.
Talk to your school administrators. Every school has a policy for dealing with bullying, and more and more schools have a specific plan for putting a stop to cyber bullying. Some states require this by law. No matter what your school’s individual policy might be, it’s the administrators’ job to resolve the situation.
- If you’re a child or teenager, know that taking this issue to the school is the right thing to do. Other kids at the school may be experiencing cyber bullying, too; the school needs to be made aware of the problem to take steps to end it.
- If you’re a parent, set up a meeting with the school principal or dean to address the problem head-on.
Report the bully to your service providers. Cyber bullying usually violates the terms of service laid out by social media sites, cell phone providers, and other service providers. Read up on your providers’ policies and take steps to report threatening behavior.
- You may have to send your records of the cyber bully’s messages to the provider as proof you are being bullied.
- The provider may decide to penalize the person as a result of your report.
Get law enforcement involved. In some cases cyber bullying may be classified as a crime, which places it beyond the jurisdiction of the school and service providers. If the cyber bullying involves one of the following elements, call your local police department:
- Stalking and use of intimidation.
- Threats of violence or death.
- Sexually explicit photos or descriptions of a minor, which is considered child pornography.
- Secretly-recorded photos or videos that were taken without the subject’s knowledge.
- Hate-related communications or actions.
Method 4 of 4: Prevent Cyber Bullying
Never share information online if it could be used against you. Cyber bullies often use pictures, status updates, and personal information they find online to harass their targets. It’s fine to share a little information about yourself online, but never reveal something you don’t want the whole world to know.
- Don’t take an explicit photo of yourself to send to someone else, and never let someone else take an explicit photo of you. You may be in love with your significant other now, but if you break up, you won’t have control over what happens to those pictures. Many cases of cyber bullying involve former significant others trying to get revenge on their exes by distributing explicit pictures.
- Personal information sent through private emails, texts and instant messages could land in the hands of a cyber bully. Try not to discuss embarrassing or deeply personal information online. Even if you’re only telling a friend, you never know how the information might get out. It’s best to discuss serious matters in person.
Watch your tone when you communicate online. Sometimes online communications can be misread by the recipient, leading to a conflict that can escalate into a bullying situation. Be respectful to people with whom you communicate online to avoid making enemies. If a conflict develops, try to resolve it in person.
- A good rule of thumb is to be as polite to someone online as you would be in person.
- Don’t send messages when you’re feeling angry or emotional. They are more likely to be taken the wrong way by the recipient.
Don’t participate in cyber bullying behavior. Even if all of your friends are doing it, cyber bullying is still wrong. People choosing to go along with the crowd in cases of cyber bullying is what makes these types of attacks so effective and damaging. Your behavior can influence other people’s actions; make it clear that you don’t stand for cyber bullying by setting a good example for others.
- If your friends start teasing someone online or via text, don’t participate. Ask them to stop, and let them know that cyber bullying has the same dangerous consequences as in-person bullying does.
- Don’t take photos or video of someone else without their knowledge and permission. It’s against the law to secretly record someone else’s behavior when they believe no one is watching.
- Even if you take photos or video of someone with their permission, don’t distribute them unless the person agrees to it. Never distribute photos or videos that could be considered explicit, humiliating or could somehow be used against the person.