Cyberbullying is a growing problem in Wales. In recent years, there were 6,169 of reported cases of cyberbullying, trolling, and online harassment in Gwent, North Wales and South Wales. Communications Watchdog Ofcom reports that 1 in 10 people aged 12-15 have experienced cyberbullying. Unlike other forms of bullying, online abuse can follow victims in what should be safe spaces. And now that bullies are no longer confined to streets and schoolyards, what can we do to protect ourselves from online bullying?
What Does Cyberbullying Look Like?
Cyberbullying can occur in a single instance or over an extended period of time. It can be public or private, and because most people bring their smart devices with them wherever they go, it’s not restricted to one place. Because of its insidious nature, it’s difficult for an outsider to spot the signs of cyberbullying. But it’s sadly quite common. In the UK, almost half of all girls and 40 percent of boys have experienced some kind of abuse on social media.
Cyberbullying can quickly consume all aspects of the victim’s life. Before online harassment, bullied victims could take solace in the privacy of their homes, but now, they often feel forced to endure online abuse at home, as this is where they are more likely to go online. So what can victims do to escape cyberbullying? The first thing you should remember is that it isn’t your fault and it will pass. Bullies often single out people who are different from the crowd, but it’s this kind of individuality that is celebrated later in life. According to research from Oxford Open Learning Trust, one in three adults who were bullied in school claim it has impacted their self-confidence negatively. Cyberbullying can also induce feelings of powerlessness and loss of sleep, and can also result in depression and panic attacks. If you’re being cyberbullied, remember that you don’t have to put up with it. Here’s what you can do to address the problem.
While it’s easy to lash out and retaliate in response to online abuse, this will only encourage your bullies. Cyberbullies thrive on attention and want to get a reaction out of you. 36 percent of UK teens confront their cyberbullies and ask them to stop, but this approach isn’t always successful. Sometimes, engaging with the bully might make the situation even worse, so it’s better not to engage. But not responding to the abuse doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the problem. Instead, you can take action by reporting the cyberbully.
Blocking the bully is seen by 70 percent of teens as the most effective way to deal with online harassment, according to TechJury. Furthermore, some forms of cyberbullying, such as threatening messages and calls, can be reported to the police. If you’re a student, you can report the abuse to the school, which is responsible for protecting you from any type of bullying. You can also report the bully to service providers to get the account suspended, and make sure to document the abuse so you have evidence to make the complaint.
Talk to an adult you trust — like a teacher or parent — about your problem. Only 11 percent of UK teens talk to their parents about cyberbullying, but letting the adults around you know about your situation will allow them to support you better and look out for your safety. They could also help you report the cyberbully to authorities and make sure that the problem doesn’t persist.
Take A Break From Tech
It’s no accident that young people who spend 5 or more hours on the internet a day are at higher risk for depression and anxiety compared to teens who only spend an hour online. Taking a break from technology when you’re home can improve your living conditions and decrease anxiety triggers. With your freed up time, commit to taking care of your mental health — you could do this by writing in a journal, meditating, having a warm bath, or talking to a trusted loved one offline and telling them about your problems.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself and to not let the bullies destroy your sense of self-worth. Though this is easier said than done, remember that the abusive behaviour of bullies has little to do with you, and has more to do with their own hang-ups and issues. Listen to the people who love you — you’re amazing and the bullies can’t change that.