Kids are not the only ones who experience bullying online. In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that “nearly one in five Internet users aged 15-29 reported having been cyberbullied or cyberstalked”. These are instances of online hatred that can go beyond negative or sarcastic posts.
What are instances of cyberbullying?
You are being cyberbullied if you experience the following:
- Getting consistent mean, demeaning comments on your posts, emails, texts or DMs
- Libelous or false statements are posted against you in various social media platforms
- People forming “hate groups” on social media that specifically targets you
- Receiving threats on your life or on your family members from posts or personal messages on social media, email or via text
- Someone uploading your photo or video, specifically intimate ones, without permission and using these for humiliation or to hurt your reputation (revenge porn)
- Intimidation or extortion. Someone saying that they will post compromising images or videos of you if you don’t pay up
6 steps you should take
Online harassment can be as severe as any form of harassment. Someone might say that you can simply turn off your computer and, voilà, problem solved. But in this day and age where reputations are built and torn down online, it’s not as simple as that. If you experience any of the above mentioned instances of cyberbullying, take the following steps:
The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Reading an intimidating message or a nasty post can shock you. It is intended to do just that. Don’t react immediately because anger can make you say and do things you might regret. This will encourage the bully even more. Instead, pause and assess the situation. Having a calm and clear mind will help you handle the situation better. If you decide to respond, keep your answer calm and rational. Take the high road and don’t exchange insult for insult.
Keep a record
Get screenshots of the offending posts or save the emails, direct messages or texts. These will be evidence in case you decide to lodge a complaint or report them to the police.
Block or report them
If you can afford to ignore the person, block the account on social media. They will not be able to see your posts or tag you. Go to this page to learn how to do this for Facebook or Twitter. You can also block emails. Any account on social media can be flagged for harassment and offensive or objectionable content. This violates their terms of service. The site can investigate your report and can ban the offender for life. Check the Help Center of the social media platform you’re using for instructions on how to flag an account.
Protect your accounts
Review the privacy settings of your social media accounts. Limit the information that others see from you or limit the audience you reach. Make sure that your online accounts (social media, emails, apps and others) are protected by strong passwords to limit the possibility of getting hacked.
Tell someone you know
Experiencing cyberbullying can be stressful. Talking to someone may help you release tension and help you figure out what you need to do. It may also help to inform your employer about the situation, especially if it’s a workplace cyberbully or if the attacks affect your reputation. Having a good support system can help you get through this traumatic experience.
Report it to the police
The Winnipeg Police Service takes threats and racially offensive slurs seriously; and it is a criminal offense to threaten somebody’s life (if this is the case). They investigate each report thoroughly even those that are online. You can contact the Winnipeg Police or Report the crime online. Meanwhile, defamatory libel and slander (spreading false information and attacking someone with a negative effect on their reputation) are covered by civil law and criminal law. If the cyberbullying has reached a level that affects your mental health, reputation or livelihood, you do have legal recourse. You should consult a lawyer. Read Do you need legal help? to know your options.
Sources: What can I do if I’m being cyberbullied?, Anti-bullyingpro.com; What you should know about adult cyberbullying, Brandon Jones, dfndr blog; 11 ways to deal with a workplace cyberbully, Sherri Gordon, very well mind and What are the potential legal consequences of cyberbullying? Public Safety Canada. Accessed November 27, 2019.
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