Cyberbullying – it affects loads of people of every age and it must be stopped.
If you follow Game Of Thrones you will know the actor Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and you’ll also know that she is fearlessly awesome, so it came as a shock when the 17-year-old admitted, like countless other celebrities, that she too had suffered at the hands of cyberbullies.
Harassed on social media sites like Formspring and AskFM following her fame, Maisie was spurred to star in the one-off drama Cyberbully that aired last week (Thursday 15th January 2015) on Channel 4 to help raise awareness of the growing phenomenon.
Many think this issue only affects young people who explore the dark corners of the internet, but cyberbullying is something that can happen to anybody of any age on almost any website. It ranges from women being afraid of an attack of revenge porn (now illegal in the UK) to celebrities (again it’s mainly women) having images leaked of them and posted online, or people making passive-aggressive Facebook posts or tweets about you.
I have written a list of tips, facts, and things to help you handle cyberbullying if it happens to you or someone you know.
1. It can happen anywhere
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying which takes place online or through a mobile phone. Websites such as, Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram and Snapchat etc. are all prime locations for cyberbullies. Instant messaging services and email also get used too.
2. It can happen to anyone
According to the website dosomething.org 68% of teenagers agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem. It can happen for any reason, from fans of One Direction attacking anyone who speaks ill of them (ask singer Lorde), to people commenting on a bikini picture in a negative manor.
3. It comes in many different forms
Typical problems experienced by victims online include the spread of gossip or rumours, stolen identity or “Catfishing”, threats or blackmail and videos and images being posted without consent.
It still happens on mobile phones too, it’s not simply a case of logging out as many people think is the solution. You can still get text messages, or anonymous phone calls, abusive voice messages and stolen identities are all common and what’s more, illegal. Incessant contact can count as harassment under the 1997 Harassment Act.
4. It’s not just for strangers.
Cyberbullying is a form of violence, control and power that one person exerts over another – this can often turn into domestic violence and vice versa. Domestic Violence London reported that 40% of people under 25 where subjected to relationship abuse in person or online.
Shifts in culture are leading to a greater number of online and long distance relationships. Just because it’s happening through a screen doesn’t mean it’s not abuse – if you’re made to feel uncomfortable or get upset by what your partner is saying, talk to someone.
5. You can be a victim and perpetrator
You may have been upset about a comment left about you online or have been harassed through the internet but have you stopped to think that you maybe guilty too?
You may never dream of calling yourself a cyberbully but leaving a catty comment here or there may be doing more damage than you thought to the person on the other end. At risk as sounding like your mother, the phrase, “Treat others as you wish to be treated” comes into play here, whether you’re online or off!
6. How to protect yourself
Keep all private information to yourself no matter what – don’t post pictures that may giveaway where you live, your address, bank details (it sounds obvious but you’d be surprised the amount of people who post photos of concert tickets or booking confirmations with their bank numbers/address on.)
Choose a super safe password and write it down somewhere very secure. Pick a mixture of numbers and letters and don’t forget to use a capital letter somewhere.
Set all your accounts to private – then you control who sees what you post and who comments. Also many apps have geotagging or location services, if left on people will know where you are when you post so you may want to switch that off.
7. What to do if you’re hacked
If you think your account has been hacked, change your password immediately. If you can’t log in, most social media operators have a password reset tool (try the relevant support site or ‘help’ button), which sends a new password to your email address or mobile. Just make sure you keep your email and mobile number up-to-date for the providers to send you a new password.
8. How to make it stop
Number one rule: Do not feed the trolls!
Take a screenshot and save any abuse you get – do not delete the evidence.
Don’t reply to any abusive comments, it can be hard but it’s better in the long run. Trolls (people who spreads negativity online for fun) feed off the attention – give then none and they’ll go away.
9. How to report it
Most social networking sites prohibit abusive behaviours, including bullying, harassment, impersonation and identity theft.
If you need to make a complaint, see which terms and conditions have been breached, take a screenshot of the comment or photo as evidence and get in touch with the site operators. You can report bullying on Facebook easily and Twitter provide lots of information on dealing with unwanted behaviour online.
If you’re receiving upsetting or inappropriate texts and/or calls, report the bullying to your mobile network provider. You can easily change your number if you’re repeatedly bullied through your phone or have unrecognised numbers blocked (iPhone have a block button too).
10. Help is at hand
If you’re suffering from bullying of any kind there are loads of people you can talk to and even though you may feel like it, you are not alone. Meic is an anonymous service you can phone, text or instant message for any reason what-so-ever if you need to speak with someone 24/7, for anyone 25 or under in Wales. Cybersmile is a fully confidential, professional resource for anyone going through pain related to the internet, from anxiety about social media to full-blown online harassment.
Tell someone you trust, so they can help you get to the bottom of what’s happening and decide how best to address it – don’t suffer alone! If you’d prefer to talk to someone you don’t know, call The Samaritans for help.
If you receive serious or repeated threats, the police should be called on 999. If they cannot provide the right help, they can put you in touch with the right people to address the situation.