The Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” is true in so many contexts – even in the world of cyber-bullying, where attacks can come from unexpected places and at surprising times. Talking to your kids about Internet safety and encouraging healthy technology usage is undeniably valuable, but it can’t protect you 100% from potential threats. By putting some thought into how you might react to a cyber-bully, you and your family can make plans and, if it’s ever necessary, put those plans into action.
The Purpose of Cyber-Bullying
Like other types of bullying, the goal of a cyber-bully is to exert power over the victim. Bullies want to feel important, and they do this by inflicting pain – emotional, physical, mental, etc. In the cyber-bullying world, they also want to destroy a victim’s reputation. Because things posted on the Internet have the ability to swiftly reproduce and last into perpetuity, it’s easier than ever to spread malicious rumors, and the effects of an attack can linger for years.
What Can you Do to Protect Yourself?
First, do not engage with the bully. Doing so will only escalate the situation and draw attention to them. If someone attempts to draw you into a conflict online, the safest bet is always to take a deep breath and walk away. Otherwise, you risk drawing additional people into the conflict or saying something that could later be taken out of context and used against you. Many bullies become bored and leave in search of a new target when their victim refuses to engage.
Next, follow these steps to isolate the event and prevent it from spreading:
- Block or silence the bully across all forms of media, including Facebook and text message. You may also need to block some of the bully’s friends or associates to prevent them from fanning the flames.
- Be careful about who you befriend on social media, and what those people have access to. Understand that some accounts may be “sock puppets,” or fake online identities used by bullies to have closer access to you.
- Report offensive posts, images or videos to the hosting site, social media site, etc. If someone has posted a compromising photo or video of you without your permission, you often have recourse for getting it taken down.
- If you feel that your safety is threatened, contact the police.
Planning in advance how you might react to a cyber-bullying threat will help you to respond better if you ever find yourself in that situation. Discuss this plan – and the other Internet safety tips we’ve talked about this month – with your family. Together, we can all do our part to reduce the power of cyber-bullying!