You’ve got to give it to bullying – it really moves with the times. Back in the day it was all verbal abuse and some aggro behaviour in the playground and now, as (wo)man has evolved, we’ve got cyber abuse. That exquisitely painful, often anonymous, online circus.
It can take many forms – mean and hurtful comments and messages, social exclusion, harassment, trickery, passive aggressive following/unfollowing, inappropriate images and photo shaming, imitation, creating fake accounts, trolling, catfishing, even death threats. I love the internet but geez it has a dark side. And unfortunately, cyberbullying is happening right now. Like, right right now. As you read this, someone out there is copping digital abuse and it’s not okay.
Thanks to COVID-19 and our new isolated ‘normal’, it’s more important than ever that we develop some safe online habits. Because all this extra scroll time isn’t necessarily a good time. If you’ve found yourself the victim of cyberbullying, here’s what you can do to escape the negativity:
Grab a screenshot
Let’s say you’re experiencing a tonne of negativity. It’s almost a constant digital onslaught. A bullying waterfall, if you will. The first thing you should do is take a screenshot. I know you’ll want to make it disappear as soon as possible but if the bullying continues and you decide to take action such as reporting it to the platform or the eSafety Commissioner, then you’ll want the evidence.
Get ready to report and block
These functions are your new best friends, and almost every game and social media app you use have them. If you’re having a hard time or if someone is being an absolute jerk towards you, follow the links to report them. Then block them. Maintain your personal boundaries, don’t let them in.
If that person continues to be a bully, report them and get your friends and family to report them too. You can safely report any forms of cyber abuse through the eSafety Commissioner channels. They’re here to help, and they have the power to help. We gotta take a stand together against this kind of behaviour.
Tell someone, don’t keep it to yourself
Speaking of friends and family, you should tell them if you’re being attacked online. We shouldn’t have to deal with this shiz alone. Don’t let someone else’s toxic behaviour make you feel isolated. Tell the people you trust, get support from mates.
If you’re still living at home with your folks, tell them or a teacher or another adult who is cool and you respect and can help. If it’s really bad, there are all of these support services. Don’t be afraid to use them.
Do. Not. Respond
I know it’s hard. I know it’s almost impossible sometimes. But try to avoid adding any fuel to the hateful fire. In most cases it doesn’t make it any better, in fact, it often makes it worse.
Bullies are out for reactions, they thrive on knowing they’ve got to you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Also, you don’t want to lower yourself to their petty standards by saying something equally as horrible back. Be the bigger human, you’ll feel better for it.
Establish some solid online boundaries
This could mean no screen time before bed or when you wake up in the morning. If you’re experiencing bullying, don’t subject yourself to it when you’re feeling most vulnerable (not that there’s any good time for bullying). But reading that kind of content before bed can heighten your anxiety and prevent sleep, and first thing in the morning will only set your day off to a bad start.
Get legal help
A lot of cyber abuse in Australia can actually be considered illegal under state or federal legislation. Like, under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 it’s an offence to menace, harass or make threats to cause serious harm to a person, regardless of whether the victim genuinely fears that the threat would be carried out. If you reckon you’re in this position, your local Community Legal Centre or Legal Aid can provide advice.
If you’re struggling with cyber abuse, I’m sorry that’s happening to you. You can report all of the abuse to the eSafety Commission or if you’re feeling unsafe call Triple Zero (000).Image: Keeping Up with the Kardashians