Cyberbullying may take place online, but its impacts are real, and devastating. It’s time for us all to take responsibility and put a stop to it. Find out how.
Putting a stop to cyberbullying
Bullying in any form is unacceptable. Whether it’s in the playground or the workplace there’s simply no excuse. Bullying, when you drill down to the basics, is the repeated and systematic abuse of power by an individual or group over another with the intent to cause harm to that individual. The damage caused by bullying can be long-lasting and profound.
Studies have consistently found that childhood victims of bullying are at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression in adulthood, have poorer general health, and increased levels of suicidal ideation and completed suicides1.
It’s likely that most people reading this have experienced bullying, at some point in their life. For many of us there was one saving grace: when we returned home the bullying stopped and we had space to recover. With the rise of cyberbullying this ‘safe space’ is becoming smaller and smaller, invaded by text messages, social media alerts, and other digital media.
For teens and young adults, who increasingly live much of their social lives online, cyberbullying has become a real and very dangerous threat. Of course, cyberbullying can also impact older adults, because let’s face it bullying doesn’t stop once we leave school. This was thrown into sharp focus recently when Jesy Nelson of Little Mix revealed the abuse she’d suffered at the hands of online trolls drove her to attempt suicide. Even successful, famous adults can be driven into a pit of despair by the actions of cyberbullies.
We decided to partner with the Cybersmile Foundation because we feel so strongly about this issue. The Cybersmile Foundation raises awareness of cyberbullying and offers resources to help people fight back.
How common is cyberbullying?
Although cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon, there is a growing body of research on it. The Pew Research Centre conducted a study in 20182 that revealed:
- 59% of US teens surveyed had experienced at least one form of cyberbullying
- 25% had been sent explicit messages that were unsolicited
- 32% had been victims of online rumour spreading
- 7% had explicit images of themselves shared online
- 90% of those surveyed said that cyberbullying is a problem
The research also revealed that boys and girls are equally likely to experience cyberbullying in some form but that girls are more likely to be the victim of multiple forms. There is also a difference in the types of cyberbullying they experience. While threats of violence and name calling are found at near identical levels, girls are more likely to be the victims of rumour spreading and receiving explicit messages.
It’s also clear from the research by Pew that teens feel the only group trying to effectively tackle cyberbullying are parents. They take a dim view on the actions of social media companies (66% they handle the problem poorly) and politicians (79% feel the establishment fails them).
Cyberbullying and suicide
Self-harm and suicide are the gravest of problems caused by cyberbullying. Studies have found that victims of cyberbullying are at increased risk of both self-harm and suicide3. One study places the increase in risk of suicide at double the normal rate4.
One of the most troubling aspects of cyberbullying is the fact that once something is out on the web it can be near impossible to stop it spreading or existing somewhere else. So while playground bullying might be left behind (if never forgotten), there’s always the risk that cyberbullying becomes a permanent shadow across people’s lives, linked to their online profiles permanently or ready to reappear. This ever-present nature of cyberbullying takes a psychological toll on victims, wearing them down over time.
Fighting back against cyberbullying
We’re proud to work with the Cybersmile Foundation to help them in their fight against cyberbullying. All our work supporting them is given freely, and everyone at Organic brings their expertise to Cybersmile on various projects.
Their advice to teens experiencing cyberbullying is:
- STOP – Immediately stop replying or fighting back online and do not share any personal/private info. Replying may make things worse and you could be labelled as a Cyberbully.
- BLOCK – Block and report the cyberbully to the site administrator.
- TELL – Tell an adult such as a teacher or parent and keep telling someone until something is done about it.
- SCHOOL – Find out what your school can do about cyberbullying.
- PROOF – Do not delete any of the messages that have been sent to you. Show them to everyone you inform about the cyberbully as proof.
- PROTECTION – Protect yourself by not agreeing to meet anyone you speak to online, especially if you don’t know them.
- POLICE – Inform the police ONLY if your safety and security is at risk.
We support Cybersmile because we believe in Digital For Good. Digital technology can do amazing things, and help bring people together, but it can be easily hijacked by bad agents. When that happens it is up to the digital community to act.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic forcing us all indoors, and making digital platforms our primary means of socialisation and communication, it’s more important than ever for us all to be on the watch for cyberbullying.
If you know somebody who is a victim of cyberbullying or just want to do something to make the digital space safer for everybody then visit the Cybersmile Foundation’s Stop Cyberbullying Day page and find out how you, your school, or your employer can make a difference in the fight against cyberbullies.