Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that happens through digital devices such as phones or computers and can take place over social media, text, email, gaming, or instant messages. Cyberbullying can include sending, posting, or sharing negative, false, harmful, or mean content about someone else which can cause embarrassment or humiliation. Some other examples of cyberbullying include harassing, threatening, demeaning, or embarrassing someone else using an online platform and in the most extreme cases can lead to suicide. Sometimes, this content can be shared anonymously, making cyberbullying even more threatening.
Due to the pandemic and lack of in-person social connections, more and more students have become connected to their devices more than ever. According to a report by Statista, people around the world, including kids, are spending 20 percent more time on social media than they were pre-pandemic. This increased time online has unfortunately exacerbated the issue of cyberbullying in schools all across the country. On average, about 38 percent of people will experience cyberbullying on social media platforms daily. Yet, though many adults and teens agree that cyberbullying is a major public health concern, many social media companies and elected officials have done little to prevent cyberbullying and protect individuals online.
Among the most frequent users of digital technology, college students are highly susceptible to cyberbullying but remains under-recognized. In college, students can experience electronic criticisms of identity, sexual harassment, and “outing” of private information such as sexual orientation or health diagnoses without consent. These behaviors are considered in the context of a spectrum of aggressive behaviors that are typical concerns on college campuses, such as intimate partner violence and physical and sexual assault. Due to the fact that undergraduate years are critical in the process of adult identity formation, these bullying behaviors can have a considerable impact on college students and how they relate to their own identities.
Cyberbullying has been associated with multiple negative mental health outcomes. Some common reactions to cyberbullying can include feelings of depression, embarrassment, sadness, anxiety, anger, isolation, humiliation, or distress.
Here are some tips to help prevent these effects of cyberbullying.
- Understand that it is not your fault. No one deserves to be treated cruelly and you have the right to be safe. Everyone deserves respect, online and in real life.
- Do not respond or retaliate. Sometimes aggressors are looking to receive a reaction from you because it gives them power. If possible, remove yourself from the situation. You can also block the aggressor and report their behavior on the social media platform itself.
- Reach out for help from someone that you trust. This can be your parents, a close family member, or another trusted adult. If you are not comfortable talking to someone you know, there are also helplines available that can help connect you to a professional counselor.
- If someone you know is being bullied, reach out and take action. It is important to listen, be kind, and support them during this time. In certain situations, cyberbullying can have life threatening consequences so it’s incredibly important for you to remind them that you’re there for them and help them deal with the situation.
Anyone can become a victim of cyberbullying. If you or someone you know is experiencing or struggling with cyberbullying and is hoping to create a safety plan with the help of a professional, please contact Student Victim Assistance at 404-413-1965.