Cyber bullying is the name given to bullying which happens whilst using modern forms of communication, such as texting, instant messaging or via the internet. Cyber bullying is becoming more and more common as young people become better connected with one another. Almost half of all teenagers state that they have received upsetting messages on their social media profiles, whereas over 6 out of 10 say that they have received abusive communications through instant messaging apps on their smartphones. If you think that you are being cyber bullied then you should take the following steps.
Report It to the Platform. Most social media platforms have policies which set out the types of content and messages which can be shared on that site. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with this policy if you are going to use the site. Not only will this help you to identify whether a communication has breached this policy, but it will also help to prevent you from sending anything that might be banned.
If you think that someone has sent you a message or content which breaches this policy (i.e bullying) then you should report it to that platform. To support your case, you can send your evidence to the platform along with the relevant section of their anti-bullying or harassment policy. Examples of things which are banned by Facebook include; pages that are designed to shame individuals, photos or videos of bullying, digitally manipulated images designed to degrade an individual, sharing personal information to harass people, and repeatedly spamming people with unwanted messages, friend requests or pokes.
YouTube ban video content which includes hate speech, graphic violence and nudity. Videos on YouTube include flagging buttons which allow viewers to quickly mark content as inappropriate.
Block or Unfollow. If you start to receive bullying or harassing content from a specific user, you should block and unfollow them wherever possible. This should stop you from being notified of their comments and posts. Most social media sites and apps have some form of blocking system, although it may be possible for malicious users to circumnavigate this provision. It is likely that bullies will get bored of attacking you if they do not get a rise or response to their comments.
Report it to the Police. If you become the subject of repeat harassment or bullying online, then you are within your rights to report the problem to the police. Because social media is still relatively new, some police officers may struggle to help you at first, but you are advised to keep trying. More and more police officers are now being trained in how to deal with online crimes.
Wherever possible, keep copies of the material that constitutes cyber bullying. Take screencaps or print off the messages to show to the officer who is handling your case. Do not edit the messages or try to distort the context in which they were sent to you. Bullying and harassment over social media is most likely to be covered by the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Harassment Act of 1997, or the Communications Act of 2003. If the police are struggling to help you with your complaint, you can try to suggest that these laws may have been broken.
Privacy Setting. Be aware of your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. If you are able to, you should get a trusted friend or adult to “privacy test” your accounts for you. This will allow you to find out which parts of your profile can be seen by other users. Some sites, such as Facebook, have features that allow you to do your own privacy tests.
Avoid posting your email address, phone number or home address online, because this can allow strangers to get in contact with you in a lot of different ways. It is also a good idea to be careful about using automated location settings, because people can also use this information against you.
Think before you post any personal content to social media. Once it has been uploaded you lose a lot of control over it. Other people can misuse your content once it is in the public sphere. It is also possible that embarrassing content may come back to haunt you later on, even if you think that it is funny or harmless now. For example, a future employer may not think that drunken images are as funny as you think that they are.
Deleting your Accounts. If bullying or harassment becomes extreme, you may need to consider deleting your accounts. Each individual platform should have a clear policy set out explaining how you can remove yourself from that forum. Although deleting your accounts will help to stop you from receiving malicious communications, it may leave you feeling more isolated from your other friends.