Carte Blanche

Cyberbullying: The cause and effect and tips to deal with it

11 August 2019
Most people deal with a form of bullying at some point in their lives. It happens to kids and adults, and nobody is immune to bullying. However, bullying has become far more pervasive than ever, thanks to rapidly advancing technologies, mobile devices and social media platforms.
Cyber Bullying

Traditional bullying used to take the form of nasty words on the playground or around the coffee machine at work: a push or shove on the playground and sending gossipy notes around. Cyberbullying, however, is happening behind the smoke screens of the internet, mobile devices, video games and social media. The safety of the anonymous screen gives the bully the freedom to be as mean and nasty as they wish to be while staying at a safe distance. The most significant difference between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is that the internet is available 24/7 and connected technology is highly pervasive.  

As a result, cyberbullying means hurtful comments, images and videos can reach a vast audience in a short period, be repeatedly shared, cannot be deleted and are anonymous.


The different ways cyberbullying takes place:

•    Stalking
•    Rumour-spreading
•    Harassment
•    Password theft
•    Using text messages or chat apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat to threaten and harass
•    Humiliating a target by creating malicious websites, Instagram accounts, Facebook pages

Impact of cyberbullying on the victim:

The effect can be devastating, and it leaves both physical and emotional scars. Being at the receiving end of cyberbullying can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, angst, depression, sleeplessness, isolation, fear and shame. It has a significant impact on self-esteem, self-confidence and the ability to deal with life in general. Cyberbullying can be life-threatening. According to Yale University, 7-9% of bullied people are more likely to consider committing suicide than those who hadn't been bullied.


Tips to help your children:

We live in a global village and information and connectivity have become both a blessing and stressing. Parents have the massive task to both safeguard their children, help them to become independent and self-reliant and share life-skills and information with them. Where do you start?

•    Have open conversations with your children about cyberbullying when they have access to the internet and all the platforms that can be used for cyberbullying. Be preventative.
•    Be an approachable parent and use teachable moments, e.g. when you hear about someone who got cyberbullied, use it to teach your kids about it. Encourage your child to talk to you if they ever become the target of cyberbullying. You are the adult, and you will do whatever it takes to help and protect them.  
•    Help your kids to learn “judo for the mind.” When your child gets physically bullied on the playground or sports field, you look for solutions to empower them physically. You consider sending them for judo or karate classes. Now is the opportunity to help your child to learn “judo for the mind.”
•    “Judo for the mind” refers to life skills and using the power of your mind. It is learning to say “no” to unacceptable behaviour targeted at you. You can say "no" by deleting, blocking, reporting the posts. You have the most significant chance of stopping the cyberbullying by reporting it to the social networks where it's been posted. Saying "no" is also asking for help from adults and people you trust. 
•    Enlighten your child to know they are not responsible for the cyberbullying act. They are not guilty, and the cyberbully is the coward, hiding behind anonymity. The shame and guilt belong to the bully, not to the bullied.  
•    Assist your child to learn to stand up for him or herself. It is a life skill that will serve them for life.


Tips for the adult who has been cyberbullied:

•    Keep all evidence of the cyberbullying: messages, posts, comments.
•    Report the cyberbullying. You have the most significant chance of stopping the cyberbullying by reporting it to the social networks where it's been posted. 
•    Do not respond to any of the cyberbullying. “No audience” will lead to no performance by the cyberbully. 
•    If the threats or comments are detrimental to your health, you might want to consult with a lawyer who specializes in harassment, defamation of character and emotional distress. It can be a costly step, but it might be your last step you feel you can take.
•    Invest in your mind power and learn skills to deal with the pain, challenges and negativity of the actions against you. Read blogs, books, articles, watch YouTube clips on life skills and self-empowerment. Use this as your opportunity to invest in the growth of your mind.
•    Speak to people close to you. Do not carry this burden by yourself. Ask for help if it gets too difficult.
•    Learn to stand up for yourself and own your self-value.

Written by Ilze Alberts. Psychologist and Life Strategist.
For more from Ilze Alberts you can go to www.bellavida.co.za


>> READ: Cyberbullying: What you should know