Today's post is the second in a series about healthy social media enjoyment and how to avoid cyberbullying. This is a new phenomenon that is affecting preteens and adolescents in ways that are difficult to keep up with. Be sure to catch up by reading Part 1 of the series, which delves into healthy social media enjoyment, and make sure to stay tuned for Part 3 of the series, which will describe signs that your teenager might be dealing with cyberbullying (directed towards parents.) I hope you enjoy this series...
Cyberbullying is a serious and devastating experience. While there may be a typical idea of what cyberbullying looks like, there are many different forms. It is important to be cognizant of the ways that cyberbullies operate, so as to be prepared and protective of yourself. Here, I will briefly describe several (though not all) types of cyberbullying.
1 | “Catfish” is not just a sea-dweller
There is so much new internet slang constantly circulating, that it can sometimes be hard to keep track. The term “catfishing” describes a situation in which someone operates a false profile online in order to talk to you, and convince you that they are someone else. This can have several motives, but they are never good. One situation could be if someone in your life pretends to be the person you are romantically interested in. This could be embarrassing if you unknowingly divulge private information to this third party. Another situation could be more serious, involving a predator attempting to attract people using this false identity. While “catfishing” can range from personal embarrassment to even violence or death, it is EXTREMELY important to ensure that you know who you are talking to online. Chatrooms can be an easy façade for catfishing. Do not accept friend requests from people that you do not know… a higher friend count is not worth sacrificing your confidence or even life.
2 | There’s no one else like you…but there might be imposters
While some cyberbullies impersonate someone else in order to talk to you, sometimes people can impersonate you, and say things that you never would on your own. This is also a form of cyberbullying because it is falsely putting words in your mouth, and possibly misrepresenting you in an unfair way. While there is a possible way to avoid being “catfished” in some situations, unfortunately, cyberbullies may choose their targets at random if they choose to impersonate you. However, this problem could be combatted through verification and testimonies from friends and family that this imposter is not actually you, if the situation becomes serious.
3 | Consent is always key
A very hurtful form of cyberbullying is someone posting photos or information about you without your consent. We all have parts of our lives that we would rather not share on the Internet, and if someone disrespects those wishes directly or doesn’t acknowledge them at all, that is absolutely unacceptable. This kind of cyberbullying could range from embarrassment to more serious consequences, such as losing a job or other forms of punishment. Fortunately, most social media sites have an option to report posts as “inappropriate” for various reasons, which is a good option in situations like these.
4 | Blackmail is never okay
An unfortunate and particularly stressful kind of cyberbullying is virtual blackmail. Related to the above point, blackmailing occurs when someone holds information or media that they know you don’t want posted online, and then threaten to release it if you do not comply with their wishes. Cyberbullying of this form is extremely stressful because it puts a false sense of responsibility on the victim. However, the person being blackmailed is not at fault. In situations such as these, it is best to reach out to a parent, teacher, or someone of authority that you can trust, in order to rectify the situation with the least amount of damage.
5 | Cyberbullying does not have to be directed at a single person
One Internet activity that many people engage in is jokes at the expense of others. However, this can be a form of cyberbullying when it perpetuates cruel stereotypes. To make fun of blondes for being “dumb,” or condemning people for their weight, or participate in any other joke of the sort, is to indirectly bully any people who meet these physical characteristics. Your feelings are valid, and if you are offended by an Internet joke, you have every right to be. Just because a case of cyberbullying is not pointed directly at you, it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less. In cases such as these, however difficult it may be, refusing to engage in pages or with people who post these jokes can be very beneficial. As stated in an earlier blog post, taking a break from social media is vital to mental wellbeing.
6 | Exactly what you’d think
Perhaps the form of cyberbullying that comes to mind the easiest is when people directly say hurtful things to you from behind the protection of a screen. Sometimes people who are insecure about themselves tend to lash out towards others. However, they are sometimes not even confident to confront anyone in person, so they send cruel things online. When dealing with cyberbullying of this type, as with verbal bullying in person, it is important to keep in mind that someone else’s opinions do not define you. The only opinion about you that matters, is yours.
Cyberbullying is no laughing matter, and while this post does provide several small tips, it is important to seek help if you are experiencing cyberbullying. Never be afraid to seek help, because you deserve all the happiness you can get. You can seek aid from professional websites and phone services, such as:
about the author
Hi! I'm Jackie, a psychology undergrad at Vanderbilt who loves dogs more than just about anything. When I'm not busy mentoring, you can find me playing or watching volleyball, playing the violin or, of course, watching a ton of Netflix!