Cyberbullying is any kind of bullying that takes place over digital devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones.
The bully harms the bullied on the Internet, damaging his/her online reputation by spreading messages through the social media such as Facebook, Instagram Twitter, etc., posting in blogs or sending information via e-mail, SMS, smartphone applications like WhatsApp or WeChat.
One of the first steps of the cyberbullying used to be a bully who insults or threats the victim by saying he or she will leak information that will damage his/her reputation. The information sent by the stalker about the harassed may be true, but in this case, it will be leaked on purpose due to the fact of being negative or harmful for the interest of the harassed or it might be directly false. If so, it becomes misinformation.
For instance, a girl receives a message via WhatsApp with a link to a website that includes some pictures of her naked. A stalker asks her to do his homework or he will send this link to her friends and family.
Some of the regular cyberbullying tactics that the stalker will do to the victim are:
- insulting or offending others via internet
- asking the victims to harms their selves or to commit suicide
- creating a website or a blog that includes embarrassing information about the victim
- hacking social media profiles, often called ´sockpuppet“
- leaking private data from the victim
- nude photo sharing
- jealousy bullying
- religious, racial or sexual orientation-based harassment
In general, the cyberbully, also known as cyberstalker will be someone close to the cybervictim: a classmate, someone from cultural or sportive activities and most of the times there will be a group of bullies and not only an individual. This kind of behaviour is very painful to the cybervictim because of the next characteristics:
- Persistency: We live in a 24/7 connected world, where the communication never stops.
- Permanency: Most of the information published on the Internet remains in the Internet and is public. Moreover, once the cyberbullying has started, the bullies do not use to stop, but they increase their attacks.
- Hide: The victims do not want to talk about the assaults due to the fear, so it is difficult to notice for the parents, the teachers and other authorities.
Usually, when minors are suffering of cyberbullying harassment, they withdraw into their selves and it affects not only their lives on the Internet, but also to their way of living in the real world.
The cybervictims do not want to keep going to the places where these traumatic experiences are happening to them. They often leave the activities they used to love, they even start skipping their classes pretending to feel sick, what jeopardizes their scholar results, and sometimes they even really get ill due to eating disorders or depressions.
They will increase or decrease the use of the devices and they will become more protective about their privacy, not letting anyone home seeing what they are doing on social media in particular or the Internet in general. Sometimes they even shut their profiles down and create new ones.
In order to prevent cyberbullying, there are some strategies we can deploy:
- Parents and teachers should talk to the children about cyberbullying, reinforcing and rewarding the good behaviour towards others and not only focusing on the bully, but also on the bystanders.
- Adults must seat clear rules about what content must be seen and shared and the amount of time spent in social media. Moreover, they must set the expectations about the right digital behaviour.
- At school teachers can create an anonymous “bullying mail box”, which the students might use to tell they are experiencing this problem and to trigger the cyberbullying protocols.
- Parents and teachers must always keep an eye on any change in mood of the children, no matter how slight it might be.