For the many victims of cyberbullying in the United Kingdom it can feel like the torment and torture will never end. However, there are several things that victims and witnesses of cyberbullying can do to stop these heinous acts of humiliation that cause emotional distress. In some cases, it is as simple as telling the cyberbully to stop. But in most, it is not that easy.
Since the access to victims is not limited to a British school yard or classroom, cyberbullying can occur anytime of the day or night. Making it possible for the bully to torture the victim around the clock, even when they are not in the same vicinity. That is why it is important to properly define cyberbullying in order to get a handle on when and how it occurs.
According to Childline, cyberbullying, aka online bullying, is “when a person or a group of people uses the Internet, email, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else.”
Whether the bully uses a computer or harasses a victim in person, the goal of the bully is the same. He or she purposely makes statements or conducts himself or herself in a manner that intentionally inflicts pain and distress in the victim. The only difference is that a piece of technology is involved.
Types of cyberbullying
Just like in-person bullying, there are many different types of cyberbullying. These acts of harassment are intended to cause harm, emotionally and socially, against British teens. It is the bully’s goal to isolate the victim from their friends and family through online resources.
Types of cyberbullying include:
- Sending texts that are threatening
- Making calls that are silent, a hoax and/or abusive
- Sharing videos or photos that are embarrassing via smart phone or through a website
- Altering photos or videos to be embarrassing and then sharing via smart phone or through a website
- Broadcasting embarrassing or unsuitable materials that is threatening or intended to manipulate the victim
- Leaving hurtful messages intended to isolate the victim from friends on social media forums or sending mass messages/texts
- Outing someone by posting confidential information online
- Stealing ones identity to cause harm in their name
- Intentionally excluding others from online games or groups
- Creating hate sites online against an individual
- Posting menacing messages in local British chat rooms with the intent of embarrassing the victim
- Setting up and/or voting in an insulting poll online
- Forwarding someone’s sext messages in effort to pressure them into having sex or to embarrass in front of peers
All of the above listed acts can cause emotional and social distress in a victim’s life. In some cases, the victim becomes isolated and could lose friends because of what is posted or said by the cyberbully.
Cyberbullying occurs mostly because the bully feels a sense of being anonymous because he or she is not face-to-face with the victim. There are many different types of cyberbullying occurring today throughout the UK, mostly due to the fact that there are so many different online platforms that are easily accessible and often hide the true identity of the bully.
Online platforms commonly used by cyberbullies include:
- Smart phones, through phone calls, texting, online access and messaging services
- Social networking sites, such as Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter
- Video/photo hosting sites, such as YouTube
- Instant messaging/chat rooms, available through BBM, MSN, Facebook and Twitter
- Blogs, such as creating a blog with the sole intention of writing harmful content about the victim
- Websites, such as those designed to encourage others to isolate or cause harm to the victim
These are just a few of the more popular online platforms bullies use harass victims through technology. There are many more, including those available through British schools and their websites.
There are many consequences of cyberbullying, both for the victim and the bully. Cyberbullying has been linked to causing emotional distress in victims, which leads to other consequences as the victim ages. Some consequences of cyberbullying among victims include:
- Social isolation
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Violent behavior
- Emotional outbursts
- Drop in grades
- Continued stomach pain
- Sleeping disorders
- Frequent headaches
- Drop in interest in activities once enjoyed being a part of
- Being a victim in an abusive relationship
- Being an abuser in another relationship
- Fear of using social media
- Anxiety when the phone rings
Consequences for the bully include:
- Facing legal charges in a British court
- Emotional issues
- Continued behavior with a new victim
- Being an abuser in a relationship
In most cases a cyberbully relies on the fact that the victim will not report his or her acts to someone. That is why the number one way to help prevent and stop these acts from continuing is to report cyberbullying to parents, teachers and in severe cases, law British law enforcement.
If you are being harassed online by a cyberbully, it is imperative you find someone you can trust to help. Finding someone to help you will increase your confidence and support you when dealing with the situation. People you can talk to include a close friend, an adult or a counselor.
Dealing with cyberbullying
It is more common now for British teens to communicate through social media sites and other forms of technology, such as smart phones, tablets and computers. Here are some tips from the Kent Police on how to deal with cyberbullying:
- Do not reply to messages received
- Keep and document all harassing messages that have been sent to you
- Avoid answering the phone from blocked numbers and/or numbers you are not familiar with
- Change phone number, email and social media log in information
- Do not freely give out the new phone number
- Do not deal with this on your own
- Do not retaliate by posting something about the bully online
- Protect your accounts by changing all passwords
- Block the cyberbully on your phone and all online accounts
- Tell the person to stop
- Talk with your parents, speak with school officials and/or call the police about the harassment
There is no stopping cyberbullies from starting these acts of harassment. However, there are ways to deal with a cyberbully and hopefully prevent any future harassment from occurring.
In an effort to help British parents to stop cyberbullying, it is important they pay attention and work with their children. Here are some tips for parents:
- Talking with children about being responsible while interacting online
- Remind children that once something (photo, video or comment) is posted/shared, it cannot be taken back
- Encourage children to share with you if something happens online that upsets or bothers them
- Support the victim if you see signs of cyberbullying
- Report activity to authorities with your child
- Monitor online activity
- Assure the child it is not his or her fault
SafeNetwork suggests having a full understanding of how the Internet works will help prevent online bullying. It is imperative that parents in the UK work together with educators to teach children responsible Internet usage. Online safety advice offered by SafeNetwork includes:
- Know potential risks
- Never sext
- Never send, post or share inappropriate photos or videos
- Never let anyone take inappropriate photos of videos that could possibly be shared by another
- Know how to properly use social media
- Know where cyberbullying can occur – chat rooms, social media forums, gaming forums, blogs, etc.
- Continually change and update passwords on social media accounts
- Put a lock on your smart phone
One of the biggest questions about the increased growth in online bullying is – ” Is cyberbullying illegal in the UK?” Let’s find out.
According to the Kent Police, there is no law that specifically makes cyberbullying illegal. However, acts associated with cyberbullying can be considered a criminal offense under a variety of other British laws. These laws include:
- Protection from Harassment Act of 1997
- Malicious Communications Act of 1988
- Communications Act of 2003
- Obscene Publications Acts of 1959
- Computer Misuse Act of 1990
It is important to report any bullying activity you are witness to or are aware of to the proper authorities. In some severe cases, even witnesses who do nothing, can be held responsible for the consequences of cyberbullying acts.
Because it is the bully’s goal to inflict emotional, social and sometimes physical harm to the victim, cyberbullyig needs to be taken serious. Everyone in the UK needs to work together to stop, prevent and bring awareness to these acts. Together, we can help prevent future acts of online harassment from occurring. Nobody should have to go through cyberbullying alone.