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How To Identify And Deal With Cyberbullies

Cyberbullies leave a trail of victims with low-self esteem, depression and personality changes. PHOTO: Unsplash

In February, the randy photograph of a 13-year-old schoolgirl in Pretoria was doing the rounds in her school. Her schoolmates were sharing the photograph via Whatsapp.

Distraught and traumatised she asked her teachers for help but there was little they could do for her. A few days later, she was found dead hanging from the ceiling of her room.

Cyber-bullying is an aggressive, intentional act or behaviour that is carried out by a group or an individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and overtime against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself.

Cyberbullies aim to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person. They leave a trail of victims with low-self esteem, depression and personality changes.

While the case of the 13-year-old South African girl is an extremity, we are daily exposed to aggressive behaviours on social media so much so that it is becoming a norm.

Cyberbullying comes in diverse forms:

Identifying Cyberbullying

  • Harassment

Using text messaging, instant messaging and email to harass, threaten or embarrass the target. Posting rumours, threats or embarrassing information on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • Impersonation

Developing a screen name that is similar to the victim’s screen name and then posting rude or hurtful remarks or changing the target’s online profile to include sexual, racist or other inappropriate things.

Pretending to be someone else in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship. This type of activity is often called catfishing.

  • Using Photographs

Threatening to share embarrassing photos as a way of controlling or blackmailing the victim. Sending mass emails or text messages that include nude or degrading photos of the victim.

Using photographs to shame someone online, mostly for their skin colour or defect. Another tactic is to engage in slut-shaming. This behaviour involves shaming someone, usually a girl, for the way she dresses, acts or the number of people she has dated.

  • Video Shaming

Using a camera phone to video and later share a bullying incident, which may include one or more kids slapping, hitting, kicking or punching the victim. Sharing a video via mass e-mail or text messaging to humiliate and embarrass the victim.

Creating an incident that causes another person to become upset or emotional and then record the incident. This type of activity is often referred to as cyber-baiting.

So How Do You Deal With Cyberbullies?

  • Address Issue

In the event that a rumour is being spread about you, control the situation and minimize the damage by quickly dispelling the lie. There are also times when a troll or bully may attack out of genuine misunderstanding. Try to clear the issue by responding politely.

  • Ignore

It is perfectly okay if you choose not to address the issue, especially if you don’t have the right response or you’re not in the right state of mind for such engagement. You can simply ignore the troll or bully. Eventually, they would tire out.

  • Report or Block

Most social media platforms provide users with the means of reporting an abusive or offensive user. If you are attacked or feel offended, you can easily report the user.

You can also choose to block the user. By doing that, such a user would no longer be able to access or engage with you and your content.

Cyberbullies are fueled by the attention they get from social media users who ‘lol’, ‘lmao’ and show their approval with retweets, shares and likes for these ruthless ‘savages’.

As we celebrate World Friendship Day today, remember to show love and respect to even people who don’t deserve it, not as a reflection of their character but as a reflection of yours. Let us make the internet, and consequently the world safer and saner; sitting behind a screen doesn’t make it right to pour hate on other people. Be humane. Be civil.

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