In our modern and technologically advanced world the online realm is filled with wonders: entertainment, games, mentally stimulating resources, and many more oddities which would be unconceivable just mere years ago. However, as with all positive developments this 21st century wonderland has a dark side: cyber bullying.
Much like the terrible playground bullying of yesteryear cyber bullying is exactly as it sounds- bullying through cyberspace; online forums, chat rooms and instant messengers, blogs, gossip sites and divisive polls, and more all comprise the sickly behemoth of the new bully. Since young people are the most frequent users of the latest technology they are the ones who remain on the cutting edge of the latest cyber bullying techniques as well as the first victims. While it is true everyone is a target youth provide an easy subject for a predator simply because much of the time the bully is a wayward youth themselves.
Lately Americans have noticed an ever increasing among of young gay teenagers commit suicide. Each depressing case was more tragic than the last with youth as young as 13 ending their lives. Once the dead were mourned and ashes scattered many people wondered what could drive these adolescents to so prematurely end their existence. As the causes were examined it didn’t take long before a common thread was discovered: cyber bullying.
In each case the targeted youth had been harassed, humiliated, called derogatory remarks, beaten, or even threatened before they took the tragic plunge. While some were physically confronted away from online space all still suffered torment from the cyber realm whether it was through their social networking site or blog.
While many efforts had been made thus far to try and persuade youth that suicide is not the answer the efforts in question have been largely unsuccessful. While social sites like Trevorspace provide a less aggravating social networking site it still lacks the all-encompassing power of facebook to turn the tide. And while spirit lifting initiatives such as the “It Gets Better” project spread the message of improvement to youth such words often fall on deaf ears to those who are routinely being called a “faggot” and “abomination” and shouted at to just “kill themselves.” With a number of supporters committing suicide after making their video it is safe to say that the “It Gets Better” project has failed, and while it may indeed “get better” time is not something many youth have on their side.
So, the answer to stop these tragic occurrences from happening in the future is obvious: attack the cause at the source- cyber bullying.
While cyber bullying is a relatively recent phenomena a number of effective counter measures have been formulated which have proven effective. The following pages will provide examples of this new stratagem; of how to prevent cyber bullying, how to deal with cyber bullying, and how to manage cyber bullying’s toxic effects.
Ignoring: When first confronted with a cyber-bully’s insults or bigoted remarks simply ignore it. Take a deep breath and remember that some people, like the bully, are insecure about themselves. One only needs to take further actions if the bully becomes persistent.
Restricting/Blocking: If a cyber-bully becomes persistent and does not leave you alone than it may be necessary to block that person and restrict access to your account. If an individual is unable to send you messages of any kind than their negative influence on you subsequently wans.
Report to the Internet Service Provider (ISP): Sometimes determined cyber bullies worm their way around security and follow you to multiple sites to harass you. If you find blocking becomes a step not far enough than it you should consider reporting to your harasser’s Internet Service Provider. If they find warrant to take action the bully’s account will be closed and connection to the internet severely limited not only for him but for everyone else in his residence as well.
Report to Police: If a cyber-bully’s remarks turn violent and you find yourself the victim of a death threat or similar violent premise than call the local police. When presenting your case to the police be sure to save and print off important evidence that proves your accusations against the bully.[i]
This list, while incomplete, assumes that security on your profile is low. It is always a great idea to increase any social site’s security to the point where strangers and other unknowns cannot comment, see, or contact you or your friends. When dealing with the wide variety of online cretins it always pays to keep security at the maximum.
Changing Email/ Social Networking Addresses: Sometimes a bully, through various means, obtains your email address. If this happens and you find your inbox filled with derogatory messages a quick solution is to simply change email addresses by making a new account. Though in doing this you will have to reroute all your desired mail to your new account it is an easy fix to a problematic situation.
The same is true of social networking sites: sometimes a bully manages to hack your account and wreak havoc on your life. While distressing at first this is cured in the same quintessential manner: make a new account, go to your old-hacked-account and notify the site Admins about your situation and request for your old hacked account to be deleted. Doing this will deprive the bully of his latest tool of harassment and enable you to socialize again. Simply make sure that the security setting son your new account are much higher and more elaborative than before and you should be safe.
Both of these strategies are a fine route to take and can be repeated as many times as needed (though if you find yourself undergoing too many profile incarnations than you might wish to consider more drastic actions such as notifying the Internet Service Provider your bully/s have so they can permanently be dealt with).
While the above are all great actions to take when handling a cyber-bully the first action should always be to tell a trusted guardian or friend so they can help you in combating the bully. Trying to handle the bully alone can be lonely and isolate you from a support network.
Once you have discovered that you have been targeted you may feel a wide range of emotions. This is normal. The first time you see that hate mail, violent threat, or dark warning or bigoted remark you may feel conflicted, angry, sad, fearful, or any other human emotion. You may find that it is difficult on how you should emotional manage through the shock.
Once you have read your first, or hundredth, depending on your situation, it is vital that the first thing you do, after informing a trusted figure, is for you to take a deep breath and find a way to calm down. Meditation, yoga, playing a quick game of your favorite sport, hugging a stuffed animal, taking a bath or talking with a parent are all possible options; whatever works for you and manages to calm you back into a peaceful state is acceptable.[ii]
Teens React: Personal Stories
Below you will find a host of testimonials by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth who have been kind enough to offer their experiences in regards to bullying as well as cyber-bullying. I have given them their username for identification but will not reveal on which site I received their message.
“I’d rather people type things on a web site that I can X out of, rather than have them throw rocks at me as I walk to the cafeteria, or sneak nasty things into my food, or have them vandalize my possessions right in front of me. People who get bullied online are usually also bullied offline. If you deal with it offline, online is nothing. I’ve never had people flood my facebook wall with my nudes because 1) I don’t friend assholes, 2) I don’t have nudes and 3) even if it happened, I can easily delete my account. Don’t invest so much emotion into a virtual world; it’s all what you make of it.” –Talevarde
“I have a real issue with cyber-bullying. Mostly because unlike bullying [in real life], you can remove yourself from the situation. YOU have the controls on the internet, you wield the block button. Don’t be afraid to use it.” –mattyengland
“In high school as a freshmen I was bullied on a daily basis that was roughly five years ago, I just put up with it to be honest, but thats not what anyone should do, before we were even half way through the year I was skipping school, and doing drugs to escape it. Bullies are evil terrible people.” –FarOut12
“I was bullied in middle school. In short, there was a bunch of jerks that use to follow me home from school, just to get a few laughs at my expense out of the “somewhat gay fat kid” (me). It only stopped because I sent one of them to the hospital with a broken nose and concussion.” -DannyZ
“i was bullied everyday in school till about year 9 what th[e]y did [does] not matter all [,what] matters is [one] day i ended up getting angery and not scared and the 4 people Bullying me ended up on the floor” –Kurt
“Some people have tried to fuck with me on facebook like 2 times but they go blocked. But I was bullied in elementary through middle school. Not in high school though because I don’t have any classes with bully like people or I would beat the shit out of that person.” –BiBruh54
“I got cyber bullied a little bit as a freshman; the best advice I have is, as obvious as it seems, is to block the person who is bullying you from whatever site you guys are on.” –gaytheatrenerd
“I’ve never been bullied because people know I can do some harsh damage to them physically and emotionally. Also, just to throw it out there… I’ve used reverse psychology on bullies to let them know how it feels like to be on the other side of the teasing. Never let someone bring you down, stand up for yourself. Sure it can lead to physical violence, but it helps you out emotionally that you can stick up for yourself and can be seen as an example for others.” –Josh303
It is important to remember that the online world is a large space filled with people of all stripes. Because of this it is vital to moderate what you participate in. Many sites, especially news and gossip sites and forums, have a ‘comments box’ in which people can leave comments which relate to the previously read item. When browsing such sites you should consider the implications of leaving a message if the item you are commenting on is on which bigots, racists, queerphobes, and other unsavory characters might post.
One must remember that leaving a comment in such a item’s comment box makes it possible for the hatemongers to begin their bullying. While some people enjoy long, heated discussions with loudmouths others do not. If you are one such person and are sensitive to the words people say than it would be best if you did the following: 1) Consider the online item, is it a piece which makes it easy for bullies to single you out for negative treatment? 2) Look at some comments below if such is available. Are comments posted by other people framed in a positive light? 3) When looking at the other comments are there bullies already among the comment posters? If so than it might be best to avoid that particular story. 4) From the website itself what would you consider their ideological standing point to be? From insights about them you must decide whether this is a site which you would benefit from being on.
Considering these four points when communicating online is essential for after such considerations you can decide if posting a comment is a risk in attracting a cyber-bully. Moderating your own feelings, what websites you visit and interact with, and in what stories, items and periodicals you post your comments in can mean the difference between despair and happiness. Having the maturity to say to yourself: “No, I am not going to interact on this website because it is infested with those who hold discriminatory views and I know that if I communicate here it will send negative perceptions into my mind and make me feel bad” is a massive step towards staying safe online.
It is unarguably fact that the World Wide Web is a place of marvels. Pending on how you act, the safeguards you use and the measures you take if something goes amiss can mean the difference between sorrow and elation. You can make lifelong friends, develop as a person and ask for help but you can also meet angry, mean individuals who care for nothing aside from spreading their hate.
As previously explained there are many great preventive steps one can take when dealing with a cyber-bully. Yet, no matter how bad things may become, and believe me there is always a way to make things better, you must remember that suicide is never the answer. A great man once said that “suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.” It is not worth hurting yourself, or anyone around you, if you encounter cyber-bullies. You have the means to handle them and block their corrosive influence. People love you and as with all great feelings, love is not something to be squandered on those (bullies) who do not deserve it. Your life is your own-take it into your hands, banish the bullies from your life, and move on with your life.