Dealing with Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying happens when someone (or a group of someones) uses the Internet or technology to harass, threaten, intimidate, blackmail, abuse, make fun of, or spread lies about someone else. Cyberbulling can take place on IM, over e-mail, in chatrooms, on blogs or social networking sites, or even via cell phone. Some instances of cyberbullying include:
  • Sending threatening or harassing text messages or e-mail

  • Attacking someone on their blog, MySpace page, or other Web site

  • Spreading lies about someone online or via cell phone messages

  • Sending photos to others that are meant to embarrass or blackmail someone

  • Stealing the victim's phone and using it to bully others

  • Filming physical attacks and sharing them online to humiliate the victim

How can you protect yourself?

Respect your own privacy. Don't give out too much information about yourself online. Once a picture or some text hits the Internet (or even your best friend's cell phone), consider that it's out in the world forever. Don't share information about yourself that could be used against you. Don't allow embarrassing photos to be taken of you. The more information someone else can gather about you, the more likely they can find a way to use it to hurt you.

Respect everyone else, too. Always be polite. Before you write something in an IM or online, think of how the other person will react when they read your message. And if you never gossip or talk about others, no one can start the "he said this about you" chain of events.

Take a break when something upsets you. If someone sends you a message that makes you mad, walk away from the computer or set down your phone for a few minutes (10 is good) to cool down.

If you become the victim of a cyberbully

Do not respond. Most of these jerks are trying to get a reaction out of their victims. Don't give them one. You can block the e-mail address or phone number it came from (contact your service provider if you need help doing this). If you continue to be bullied, change e-mail addresses or phone numbers. (If you still get messages after taking this step, you have a stronger case for legal action.)

Tell your parents or a trusted teacher what is happening. Don't be embarrassed — you haven't done anything wrong. A trusted adult will help bring the situation to an end.

Cyberbulling can be a crime

The right to free speech does not include threats, harassment, or blackmail. If you are threatened or repeatedly harassed, keep the e-mails or messages — including dates and times — and contact the police. If the bully is another student at your school, you should also report the incident to your school administrators; they may also take action to reprimand the threatening student.