Classroom | Cyberbullying: What is it and what can we do?
CandleX works with schools to build resilience and mental health awareness in the Beijing community. Beijing-based counsellor Katie shares with us her tips for dealing with cyberbullying.
With the increasing popularity of social media and online presence, it seems natural that bullying is alive and well in the online community. This is a threat that might even be hard to recognize, as cyberbullying doesn’t typically include the physical threats that classic bullying does. Even scarier, the psychological effects of online bullying could be even worse. Victims don’t know when the next attack could come, or even how to protect themselves, as it is simpler than ever to change user names or remain anonymous. We dive into this new form of bullying to explain who is at risk, what it is, where is can occur, how it poses a threat, and when you are the most vulnerable.
Although certain age groups (14-16 years old) and populations (LGBT, special needs, etc) are more vulnerable to cyberbullying, anyone can be a target. So, what is cyber bullying? The definition is broad, and includes posting comments or rumors online that are mean, harmful, or embarrassing, threatening to hurt or encouraging someone to hurt themselves, posting mean or harmful videos or pictures (including if an individual asks for a photo to be taken down and the poster refuses), posting mean or hurtful comments about race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics, creating a mean webpage about someone, or doxing. Doxing is a form of harassment used for revenge that would invade someone’s personal privacy, like making personal information public or posting links to social media accounts. This can include if a girlfriend sends a nude picture to her boyfriend, they break up, and the boyfriend posts or shares the photos with others. All of these carry huge consequences, emotionally and beyond.
People who are victims of bullying, including cyberbullying, are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol.
Cyberbullying may lead to depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor school or work performance, and even suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying can become overwhelming quickly, as media can be shared anonymously and forwarded to many people in just a few clicks. In some countries, cyberbullying or some forms are illegal. This is especially true if you are underage. Nearly 50% of teens have been victims of this specific form of bullying, especially if the bullying involves nude pictures or threatening language. This may seem overwhelming, but there are steps that you can take. If you are being bullied, tell your parent or someone you trust. If you are a parent and want to talk to your child about if they are being bullied, encourage them to tell you right away if they are being bullied, and reassure them that you won’t take away their electronics if they come to you with online problems. It is important to remember (and tell your child, if applicable) to not respond to threats or bullying comments, but to make copies of the threats or comments. After you have done this, block the bully. You can often report them to the social media site, if this occurs on platforms like Instagram or Facebook.
It is not your fault if you are bullied.
Most of the time, it’s nothing to do with you. Bullies are often trying to make themselves feel important, so picking on someone makes them feel powerful. In some cases, this bullying behavior has been learned from others around them. They may have experienced these types of bullying, but as the victim, which makes them think this behavior is normal. It is important to keep in mind that these bullies might have been victims themselves at some point, and are lashing out in retaliation of some sort. This does not excuse the behavior, and certainly does not make it ok. Remember that you are not alone, and you can follow the steps outlined above. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to or if you would like to seek professional advice, there are options for you. In China, you can reach Lifeline Shanghai at 400-821-1215 or CandleX for support groups and additional resources.
Article by Katie McLeod