The anonymity of the Internet makes it a hunting ground for CYBERBULLYING, defined as one child’s relentless online teasing, humiliating, ostracizing, harassing, or threatening of another.

Cyberbullying is a very real and serious issue as children have killed each other and committed suicide after having been involved in a cyberbullying incident.

To keep our children safe in cyberspace , it is very important  to educate them how to prevent the cyberbullying, and what to do if they are being cyberbullied.

How to Prevent Cyberbullying?

  • Don’t respond. If someone bullies you, remember that their reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants as it gives him or her sense of power over you. So, acting as if you don’t notice and don’t care is like giving no reaction at all, and this might stop a bully’s behavior.
  • Don’t retaliate. Getting back at the bully will turn you into one and reinforce the bully’s behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression. In addition, replying to that hurtful comment will only lead to trouble because anger, sadness, or any other strong emotion can cause you to do things you’ll later regret. And remember that what you say on the Internet, STAYS there, no matter what you do. It’s okay to be upset, but responding to the bully just as they have responded to you will fix nothing.
  • Block the bully. If the harassment is coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, do yourself a favor: Use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. In fact, you can avoid being cyberbullied if you give only certain people or groups access to such items as photos, birth date, religious views, and family information, among other things. In fact, never post personal contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don’t want anyone to have access to that information anyway.
  • Be a friend, not a bystander. Forwarding mean messages or just standing by and doing nothing empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell bullies to STOP, or let them know bullying is not cool – it is cruel abuse of fellow human beings. If you can’t stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behavior. Don’t be a cyberbully yourself. You know the old saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Indeed, even a few seconds of thinking about how another person might feel can put a big damper on aggression. That’s needed in this world.

How to Deal with Cyberbullying?

  • Save the evidence. The only good news about digital bullying is that the harassing messages can usually be captured, saved, printed out, and shown to someone who can help. Save evidence even if it is minor stuff – in case things escalate. Such obvious evidence can be helpful when intervening in a cyberbullying incident.
  • Try to identify the person doing it. Emails and screen names can temporarily disguise a bully. However, there are ways of figuring out the guilty party. First, write down the email or screen name you’ve received threats from. Check your Inbox- have you ever received ANYTHING from this person before? This may clue you in. If not, simply go to the email provider (after the @ part of the email) website, and search the screen name you have. If the profile is not blocked, you should be able to view this person’s name. When all else fails, get others involved. Let your parents or teachers know the situation. Most likely, they can track the IP address and get the exact location of the attacker.
  • Approach a bully in person. Cyberbullies are nothing when not behind their Internet mask. If you know who is cyberbullying you, talking to them about it upfront might scare them away. If this person seems not to be intimidated, or issues more violent or humiliating threats, contact an adult to intervene.
  • Be civil. Even if you don’t like a person, it’s a good idea to be decent and not sink to his or her level. By doing so, you will be doing yourself a favor. In fact, research shows that gossiping about and “trash talking” others increase your risk of being bullied.
  • Talk to a trusted adult. Many children consider it a form of self-defense to keep the crime or other abuse a secret. However, secrecy is exactly what the cyberbully prefers that you use. So, if you are being cyberbullied, the best thing to do is tell a trusted adult. Parents, a school counselor, teachers, and principals can all help to stop bullying. Don’t be afraid that the bully might call you a “snitch” for “ratting” him or her out. It is not right for anyone to feel humiliated or uncomfortable. In addition, talking to a trusted adult about cyberbullying can sometimes  result in bullies getting the help they need to change their harmful behavior.

Irina Fredericks, Ph.D., LMHC,  specializes in evidence-based assessment and counseling services for children, adolescents, and adults with Anxiety and Phobia problems. She offers her services in both Russian and English languages. The services are provided fully ONLINE via Skype and/or in person at Delta Psychological Group, a private practice located in Aventura, Florida. For more information or to contact Dr. Fredericks, please click here.

Written on July 21st, 2011 , Child Psychology Issues, Cyberbullying

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Dr. Irina Fredericks

Licensed Mental Health Counselor