The age of technology brings a lot of benefits to our everyday lives, helping us connect, communicate, learn and form friendships through various social networking sites and platforms. However, with our increasing presence online, we may be susceptible to negative forms of social behaviour and harassment. Cyber bullying is one form of negative online social interaction which affects a large number of young people through a variety of different methods and forms. When an individual or group uses the internet, mobile phones, or other technology to intentionally hurt or intimidate another person or group of people, this is cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying can happen to anyone at different times in their lives. It can be upsetting and stressful, it can cause anxiety and depression, and can impact on different areas of your life including self-esteem, relationships, work and study. If you have experienced or witnessed cyber bullying it is important to know that there is help available and to understand your rights.
Cyber bullying is an extended form of traditional bullying, incorporating any kind of bullying or harassment done using technology. Blogs, emails, social networking sites, instant messaging, websites, forums, polls, wikis, picture messages, gaming, and chat rooms are all places where cyber bullying can occur, often causing distress and embarrassment to those on the receiving end.
Being aware of the different ways that cyber bullying can be used can help you to stay safe and informed online and to ensure that you don’t become involved in perpetrating or participating in this behaviour. Some of the main forms of cyber bullying include cyber stalking, harassment, outing, and flaming.
Ever feel like you’re being inappropriately followed online? Cyber stalking is a form of harassment involving the virtual stalking of individuals or groups of people. It is intimidating and includes threats of harm, often involving a fear that virtual stalking could become real stalking. Cyber stalking is intrusive on a person’s privacy and can cause anxiety and distress in those being harassed.
ADVICE: Cyberstalking is a crime and it can be reported. Find out more about the security features on your phone, chatrooms and social networking sites which can help you block communication from people you don’t want to communicate with at http://www.communications.gov.au/easyguide
Harassment is the sending of offensive, threatening or intimidating messages to an individual or group. Often the person perpetrating the harassment will repeatedly send messages at odd times of day and night, meaning that the harassment is usually not a one-off incident.
ADVICE: Try to keep a record of any harassment you may receive, or get a trusted friend or family member to hang on to the records for you. Speaking to a family member or trusted adult can help you deal with harassment and find ways to respond or seek legal advice.
Have you ever told someone something personal or sensitive and discovered they’ve spread your private information amongst an unwanted audience? In the online world, outing is the public display, posting, or forwarding of personal messages or images, especially containing sensitive or personal information or images that are sexual in nature (Check out our post on sexting) . Outing can include things like reading out saved messages on someone’s mobile phone or IM chat history, printing out copies of messages or spreading them across different social circles via email. The effects of outing online can feel even more upsetting or humiliating than similar real-life situations, as the physical documentation of the communication can seem more permanent and difficult to prevent from being spread around.
ADVICE: Those who participate in outing are committing an act of cyber bullying and can face serious legal penalty for their behaviour. However, it is important to be aware of ways you can protect yourself against these kinds of attacks to prevent them from happening. Make sure to think about what you are sending/posting before you do so, even if it is to a friend or partner. The consequences of posting or sending personal information online can be very different to a face-to-face chat, as the stuff you put on the internet can stay there for a long time.
Getting a little too hot in here? Flaming is a heated or intense argument that occurs online, often using offensive or intimidating language. Flaming can be private or public, and usually takes place in chat rooms, over instant messages or email. Some signs of flaming include the use of capital letters as well as images and symbols that add emotional anger or intensity to the messages.
ADVICE: As tempting as it may sometimes be, it is really important to never send a reply to anyone when you’re angry. Take some time out, log off, and wait a period of time to cool down before you reply. Remember that what you say online stays there, so have a good think about the way you respond or if you really need to respond to the message at all.
Cyber bullying can affect people in different ways, and is often associated with feelings of helplessness, sadness and fear. If you’re experiencing a form of cyber bullying you may:
Noticed a friend or loved one withdrawing or acting differently? Know what signs to look for to help recognise whether cyber bullying is happening to someone you know:
Dealing with cyber bullying may seem like a daunting or impossible task. Experiences of bullying can make us feel powerless, overwhelmed and alone; however there are many steps, support networks, helplines you can engage with to help you deal with the harassment you’re facing.
Remember, cyber bullying is a crime and can be reported. No one deserves to be harassed, intimidated, threatened, or embarrassed whether offline or online.