Being cyberbullyied can make you feel helpless, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and seek help. The most important thing to do is to talk to an adult you trust as soon as you realize there is a problem.
How to React to Cyberbullying:
▪ Ignore—Dr Sameer Hinduja and Dr. Justin W. Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center advise victims not to respond to “minor teasing or name calling” if they can avoid it. Sometimes bullies are encouraged by seeing a reaction.
▪ Record—Keep a record of bullying messages you receive—in hard copy. If you can show an adult either the messages themselves or a diary of when you received them, it may be easier to verify what went on and who the bully was.
▪ Reach out—Your parents, a favorite teacher, school administrators, counselors, and even police officers can help you deal with cyberbullying. Your state laws or your school’s policies may have rules against cyberbullying that these trusted adults can enlist to help you. It’s also helpful to talk to friends or a counselor so you can get their support when you are feeling upset by hurtful comments. There is no reason to suffer alone when you are the target of bullying.
▪ Cut off the bully—The National Crime Prevention Council advises victims to stop all communication with the bully when possible. You may be able to block their phone number so you no longer receive their calls or texts. If that’s not possible, you might consider changing phone numbers. Facebook and Messenger providers allow you to block other users so that they can no longer interact with you. If for some reason it’s not possible to block a cyberbully, you can always screen their calls and delete their messages without opening them.
WHAT NOT TO DO
▪ Sink to the bully’s level. Starting your own cyberbullying campaign against the bully will get you nowhere, especially if you end up breaking state laws or school rules.
▪ Forward bullying content or messages. If someone sends you a bullying message, forwarding it to a friend only expands the problem. You never know how far an email chain can go.
▪ Believe the bully. Don’t let bullies destroy your self-esteem. No one deserves to be harassed. Cyberbullies’ cowardly and destructive actions are often more about their own problems than they are about you. When bullying gets you down, talk about it with someone you trust who can build you back up.
When cyberbullying involves these activities it is considered a crime and should be reported to law enforcement:
- Threats of violence
- Child pornography or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
- Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
- Stalking and hate crimes
Some states consider other forms of cyberbullying criminal. Consult your state’s laws and law enforcement for additional guidance.
- Cyberbullying can create a disruptive environment at school and is often related to in-person bullying. The school can use the information to help inform prevention and response strategies.
- In many states, schools are required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy. Some state laws also cover off-campus behavior that creates a hostile school environment.