The Scourge of Cyberbullying: Its Forms, Effects and What You Can Do*
*Trigger Warning: This article discusses issues of bullying and cyberbullying which may be traumatizing for some readers. If you have been or are being cyberbullied or know someone who is being cyberbullied, please click this link to get more resources.
Remember that one child back in school who would go around calling people names, taking their lunch or using the smaller children in class as a punching bag? They may have grown up taking that bullying online. They may no longer be just an ordinary bully, they may now be a cyber bully. But it gets worse because there are thousands of people just like him with access to the internet who hide behind screens and make other people feel bad.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a persistent act in cyberspace intended to make life unpleasant for other people.
According to UNICEF, cyberbullying is the repeated behaviour aimed at scaring, angering or shaming a targeted person. It also includes the act of sharing personal or private information about a person to humiliate or embarrass someone through digital technologies.
Forms of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the umbrella for various malicious acts carried out on digital platforms which includes but is not restricted to;
Harassing or threatening people through social media, emails, texting or phone calls
Revealing sensitive information of others online
Tricking others to reveal sensitive pieces of information just to blackmail them with those pieces of information
Posting private photos/videos of people online or sending them to others
Trash-talking others during online multiplayer games, internet-connected console games or virtual worlds
Impersonating others online
Breaking into people's email or social media accounts to spread false information about them and much more.
Reasons Why People Indulge in Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is no fun for the target but for the cyberbully it is. Studies show that 81% of cyberbullies find it funny to attack others online. While some people do it because of boredom, others might indulge in cyberbullying to gain attention. Another reason why people indulge in cyberbullying is because of the anonymity the internet provides, giving them the illusion that they can't be caught and thus they can continue with these acts. Whatever the reason one has for cyberbullying it does not justify making the lives of others unpleasant.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is very problematic and has devastating effects on its targets some of which include;
An increase in stress levels which often leads to anxiety and depression
A reduction in feelings of self-worth and an increase in low self-esteem
Increases feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment
Physical effects like headaches and insomnia
An increase in suicidal thoughts
Cyberbullying doesn't just have effects on the victims but on the target as well. Some of these effects are
Cyberbullies usually tend to have conduct-related issues
They are at risk of demonstrating anti-social behaviour disorders like lying, lack of empathy and other criminal behaviours
An inability to keep relationships and jobs
The only question left unanswered is 'What can you do about it?' For starters, you can raise awareness about the dangers of cyberbullying. When we stay silent, we are often a part of the problem, so make sure you educate others about the negative effects of cyberbullying and the need to be kind. Other ways of preventing cyberbullying include:
Do not share any comments from a cyberbully. This only worsens the issue.
Keeping your password and other sensitive information private
Do not keep explicit photos/videos of yourself on your phone/computer
Always remember to log out of public computers
Do not share information about yourself with strangers on the internet
Google yourself once in a while to ensure no one is impersonating you
Do not indulge in cyberbullying yourself.
If you are being cyberbullied, here are a few things you could do about it;
Remember that you and nobody else deserve to be cyberbullied. Cyberbullies often mirror their insecurities on others and
Report to the appropriate authority if you receive any life-threatening messages. Screenshot messages and posts made by the cyberbully as evidence.
Speak to someone you trust for emotional support
If someone creates a profile with your identity, report the profile, and ask those around you to do so as well. If multiple persons report them, they would usually be blocked by the platform.
If a photo or video of you has been uploaded on the internet click here for steps on how to remove them.
The world would be a better place if we all did the right thing and we were kind to one another.
WRITTEN BY Richard Emmanuel
Richard Emmanuel is a STEM teacher and a fashion designer. During his leisure time, he works as a freelance content writer and sometimes creates poetry content on Instagram. He is passionate about mental health and human resources development.
Want to connect with Richard? Follow and contact him on LinkedIn!
EDITED BY 'Zulu Uwolloh
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development professional passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
Want to connect with Zulu?