Cyber Bullying

The Internet is a powerful tool. It can be used to spread information, reach vast audiences, deliver marketing messages and connect people from across the world. But it can also be used to hurt. In recent years, cyber-bullying among young people is on the rise – and it’s a serious problem.

Text MessagingWhat is Cyber-Bullying?

Cyber-bullying is a catch-all term for harassment and other malicious acts committed with technology — email, text messaging, websites, social media etc. Some common cyber-bullying attacks include:

  • Spreading rumors through social media
  • “Doxxing” or posting a person’s private information online to solicit harassment toward that person
  • Spreading of embarrassing photos or videos
  • Making threats, either publicly or privately, through technological means

The goal of cyber-bullying is usually to humiliate the victim or ruin their reputation. And the Internet is uniquely well-equipped for this task, because the Internet never forgets. Once something has been posted online, it can quickly spread, and it’s often impossible to erase it completely. This means that the effects of cyber-bullying can linger for years after the incident, affecting a person’s life in surprising ways.

Who is Affected?

Perhaps most surprisingly, cyber-bullying is not an activity limited to young people. While teenagers are frequently the perpetrators and victims of cyber-bullying attacks, adults have been known to do it as well in order to discredit people they dislike.

The fall-out can be tremendous. Once information begins to go viral, it can snowball, and people who don’t even know the victim can get involved in the attacks. Take for example the famous recent case against video game developer Zoe Quinn. What began as one angry, reputation-damaging rant on a blog spread like wildfire, with literally thousands of people harassing Quinn, sending death threats, posting private information, and otherwise working to destroy her credibility – and she’s hardly the first person, or the last, to suffer this kind of online attack.

What Can You Do?

There are a few things you can do to keep yourself and your kids protected:

  • Teach your children about basic Internet safety. Remind them that things posted on the Internet can be there forever, and that anyone might be able to see what they say or do. Teach them not to disclose personal information about themselves or others and to ask you for help or permission if they have a question about whether it’s a good idea to do something online.
  • Install monitoring programs. It’s always a good idea to know what your kids are doing online. Tell them you are monitoring their Internet usage and discuss the reasons why with them. Engage them in conversation about what they’re doing online and with whom. This can help you identify potential threats and problems.
  • Create a cyber-bully response plan. Put some thought into what you would do if targeted by a bully. In most cases, your best response is silence. Do not respond or fight back – this gives the bully the attention they want. Instead, block them on all channels of communication, and report offending posts, images or videos to the hosting site, social media site etc. If you feel a threat to your safety, call the police.

If you or your child does become the victim of a cyber-bullying attack, and you are unable to have damaging material removed, you have some other options. Reputation management services are available that will help you to “bury” unwanted information in search engines and provide a better face to the Internet at large – something that can be a lifesaver when applying for jobs or otherwise submitting your online life to scrutiny. Cares About Safety – Online and Off

Ignoring cyber-bullying won’t make it go away. You never know if you or your child might end up on the receiving end of an attack. That’s why stands against cyber-bullying. This is everyone’s problem, and we can all do our part to bring a stop to it.