Cyber bullying is the name given to any form of bullying which occurs via modern forms of technology. This can include messaging via smartphones, tablets, instant messaging apps, on social media accounts, in chat rooms or via games consoles platforms.
Victims of cyber bullying can find it very difficult to escape from their tormentors, because people have online access for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Over 50% of young people in the United Kingdom say that have seen other people being bullied online and about 40% of teenagers feel as though they have been bullied via modern means of communication.
Threatening Behaviour Online and the Law. Although you may feel powerless if you are subject to abuse online, you can report ongoing threats to the police if you feel that you are the subject of harassment. Some people in the United Kingdom have reported that the police do not take online threats seriously, however you are advised to keep pushing if you do not get a positive first response from the officers that you speak to.
Online communications may be covered by the Harassment Act of 1997, the Malicious Communications Act of 1988 or the Communications Act of 2003. Separate legislation may also apply if blackmail has been threatened or if any indecent images have been shared online without the consent of the subject. Anyone who receives threatening or bullying messages online is advised to keep a record of the communications for evidence. If you are unable to print the messages off, try to take a screencap on your phone or use the ‘snipping tool’ attachment on your computer.
Types of Cyber Bullying. Cyber Bullying can take on a number of different formats; some of which are very similar to the ‘tactics’ used by offline bullies and some of which are unique to modern communication. Types of cyber bullying include;
Harassment. Online harassment is the act of repeatedly sending abusive, insulting, offensive or rude messages to a person over the internet. Messages can also be sent via text or social apps, such as WhatsApp or Snapchat. Other tactics which constitute harassment include; being explicitly offensive towards one person in an online multi-player gaming environment, and posting humiliating content about another web user.
Flaming. Flaming is the name given to the posting of extremely hurtful or offensive comments in order to provoke a reaction from web users. Posters gain enjoyment from the distress that they cause to others and the reaction that they get from their messages. Flamers often chose to target areas where there are plenty of vulnerable people, such as memorial pages.
Outing. When an internet user shares personal information or secrets about another web user, it is known as outing. Outing prevents the wronged party from having control over their own personal data. Outing often happens when two former friends or lovers fall out, however some cyber bullies also take pleasure in getting their victims to reveal secrets before forwarding them on to others. Sharing revenge porn is a form of outing which is illegal.
Impersonation. When someone uses another person’s data to create a fake social media profile for them. This profile can then be used for a variety of different things, including spreading malicious rumours and posting embarrassing fake content. Fake social media profiles can even be used as a way to bully a third party. It can be very difficult to persuade social media platforms to shut down fake profiles.
Malicious Rumours. It can be very easy for bullies to use the internet to spread malicious rumours and gossip about their victims. Once a rumour has been posted on to the internet, it can be very difficult to stop it from spreading. Even if the original poster deletes their message, there is still a digital footprint which cannot be erased. It is also impossible to reach all of the people who have seen the message in order to correct them.
Cyber Stalking. Cyber stalking is the act of using the internet to pursue a person or to give them unwanted attention. Some people may silently stalk their victims, but most will begin to contact their victims using various different types of media. The stalker may start to threaten their victim, including threats that make the victim concerned for their offline safety as well.
Exclusion. Exclusion is the act of using social media to wilfully exclude others from groups or online engagements. Exclusion online can lead to exclusion offline. This is a form of social or relational bullying which seeks to destroy the victim’s relationships by preventing them from enjoying human interaction. Online exclusion can include exclusion from; online apps, group chats, online gaming and private forums. Bullies may also make sure that their victims can see that they have also been excluded from offline social events.