Cyberbullying is a serious issue that can have severe consequences for the person being bullied and the cyberbully. But often, the cyberbully might not even be aware that their online actions are hurtful to someone.
It can be tricky to know when your online behaviour crosses the line between friendly banter, making jokes and causing someone pain and embarrassment. What seems harmless to you might be hurting someone’s feelings.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying includes all forms of online harassment and destructive behaviour that causes emotional and mental harm to the victim. This behaviour is usually repetitive and seeks to anger, shame and scar its intended target.
The abuse can take place on any digital platform including social media, chat sites, messaging apps, gaming websites and cellphone messages. Cyberbullying can also take the form of in-person bullying.
How do I know if I’m cyberbullying someone?
It’s difficult to know if what you’re saying is hurting someone if you can’t see their reaction. You might go online and lash out because you’re feeling sad or angry. And while it might make you feel better for a while, it will probably not solve your problems and cause harm to others.
It’s not always easy to know how to act online when cyberbullying is everywhere you click. Ask yourself these questions to help you determine if you might be a cyberbully:
Could the language I’m using hurt someone’s feelings?
Am I swearing or yelling (using all caps or exclamation marks) at people?
Will my parents be happy with what I’m saying?
How will I feel if someone else sent me the message that I’ve written?
Will I say what I’ve written to someone in person?
Am I being kind toward the other person?
Am I feeling angry or upset?
How to keep your online behaviour in check
Australian online counselling platform Kids Helpline provides the following tips on how to have good interactions online that help to protect you and others:
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t send it.
Remember that it’s easy to misunderstand things online.
If you’re angry or upset, wait until you feel calmer before posting or responding to anything.
Try to be kind and avoid posting negative messages.
Always treat others online as you want to be treated.
Get someone’s permission before you post any photos or videos of them online.
Understand that everyone is different and respect their views even if you disagree with them.
Always think before you post/send anything – run through the list above to ensure you don’t do something you might regret.
There’s always someone to help
It takes courage to admit when you’ve done something wrong and to take responsibility when you might have hurt someone.
If you need support to deal with your feelings and change your future behaviour, you should:
Talk to someone you trust and let them know that you’re trying to be less aggressive online.
Reduce the amount of time you spend online and use it more in public spaces or find ways to limit your access.
Give yourself some time to review what you plan to post online and always consider the impact it might have on another person.
Head to our cyberbullying resource page for more insights on the issue. Contact Lisa Burger (therapist and social worker) at 083 266 0352 or email@example.com for professional help.