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Cyberbullying and Trolling: Young adult and parents guide

Cyber Bullying

At We Can Even, we take a strong stance on bullying in any shape or form. As we spend a lot of time online and on games we tend to witness some forms of bullying and trolling. In this post we want to take a look at the forms of cyber bullying, the effects and what to look out for as a parent.

What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through a variety of platforms. Social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms such as Facebook, XBox Live, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other chat rooms can be great fun and a positive experience. But what do you do when things go wrong?

 Cyber bullying and trolling is rife on the internet and most young people will experience it or see it at some time. In a recent survey, 56% of young people said they have seen others be bullied online and 42% have felt unsafe online. Cyber bullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it can go viral very fast.

Credit to West Mercia Police

Types of Cyberbullying

There are many ways of bullying someone online and for some it can take shape in more ways than one. Some of the types of cyber bullying are:

Harassment – This is the act of sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages and being abusive. Nasty or humiliating comments on posts, photos and in chat rooms. Being explicitly offensive on gaming sites.

Flaming – This is when someone is purposely using really extreme and offensive language and getting into online arguments and fights. They do this to cause reactions and enjoy the fact it causes someone to get distressed.

Denigration – This is when someone may send information about another person that is fake, damaging and untrue. Sharing photos of someone for the purpose to ridicule, spreading fake rumours and gossip. This can be on any site online or on apps. We even hear about people altering photos of others and posting in online for the purpose of bullying.

Impersonation – This is when someone will hack into someone’s email or social networking account and use the person’s online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others. The making up of fake profiles on social network sites, apps and online are common place and it can be really difficult to get them closed down.

Outing and Trickery – This is when someone may share personal information about another or trick someone into revealing secrets and forward it to others. They may also do this with private images and videos too. 

Cyber Stalking – This is the act of repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, harassment, intimidating messages, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety. The actions may be illegal too depending on what they are doing. 

Exclusion – This is when others intentionally leave someone out of a group such as group messages, online apps, gaming sites and other online engagement. This is also a form of social bullying and a very common. 

Bullying by spreading rumours and gossip

The worst thing about social networking sites and messaging apps is that anything nasty posted about you can be seen by lots of people and these posts can go viral very fast and be shared by so many people within minutes in some cases.

From what we have heard from people who have been bullied online, the most vicious gossip and rumours are often spread by people who were once your best friends so it’s best to keep secrets and personal information to yourself. Only tell people things if it wouldn’t embarrass you if other people found out about them. Posting false and malicious things about people on the internet can be classed as harassment.

Threatening behaviour

Anyone who makes threats to you on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It’s against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause alarm or distress. It could also be against the 1997 Harassment Act. If threats are made against you then it’s essential you confide in your parents, or someone you trust so that they can make a complaint to the police. 

If you can’t print out the threats use the “print screen” button or snipping tool to take a snapshot of the computer screen and then save that somewhere safe. Or if you have a phone or tablet, use the screenshot function and keep these images safe.

Blackmail and grooming

You can see many posts online regarding complaints from young people that new “friends” online have tried to pressure them into taking their clothes off and filming or taking images of themselves. Threats have been made that their parent will be told embarrassing things if they don’t take part or they will send the images to everyone they know if they do not do it.

This is an offence called “grooming” in the UK and people who have been found guilty of “grooming” have been jailed. Remember: everyone you meet on the internet is a stranger and you need to keep personal things personal to you, don’t share your secrets with other people and if anyone asks you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable then don’t do it.

We often hear of people in relationships trying to make their boyfriend or girlfriend send sexting images of themselves to prove they love them or want to be with them. It is against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to take, send or redistribute pictures of anyone under the age of 18.

CEOP is The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and they investigate cases of sexual abuse and grooming on the internet. You can report incidents by clicking the red button on the top right hand corner of the CEOP website. Although the police can get information from your computer’s hard drive, it is helpful if you don’t delete anything until the police have decided whether they need it as evidence.

When comments gets abusive

There are now many instant messaging apps including Snapchat, KiK, Line, WhatsApp, Secret, Whisper and Instagram.  They are a great way of sharing things with your friends and having fun. But if things turn nasty you can block people from seeing you are on line and you can save abusive conversations or print them out as evidence.

It’s tempting to have a go back if someone makes a rude posting on your online space, social network or app but don’t. This is called flaming and it just makes the problem worse. Abusive comments are very upsetting but the best way to deal with them is to get them removed by the website. 

Inappropriate images

It’s easy to save any pictures of anyone on any site and upload them to the internet. Make sure that you have the person’s permission to take a picture and that they’re happy for thousands of people to see it on the internet. Be wary of tagging and hashtags as this will send the picture out to a wider audience then you may have originally intended.

Don’t upset people and then upload their pictures for other people to have a laugh. That could be harassment. Don’t digitally alter pictures of people either because what you think is funny may be offensive to other people. Don’t let anyone take pictures of you that might embarrass you.

Innocent bystander

There is no such thing as an innocent bystander and if you have seen someone being bullied online, you can report it to the online site or app. Ignoring it may feel like the easiest thing to do but the person who is being subjected to that bullying may need your help and support to get it stopped. Most sites now have a report button which is something you can do and this will send the bullying comments to the site to investigate.

#BeCyberSmart

Credit to West Mercia Police

Tips and advice

  • If you post abuse about anyone else online or if you send threats, you can be traced by the police without any difficulty. Every time you visit a website or make a posting, your internet service provider, Sky, BT or Virgin, has an electronic note of your activity. Even if you create an anonymous email address like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo, you can still be traced.

  • Keep safe by using unusual passwords. Use a combination of letters, lowercase, uppercase, symbols and numbers. Don’t use any part of your name or email address and don’t use your birth date either because that’s easy for people who know you to guess. Don’t let anyone see you signing in and if they do, change the password as soon as you can. 

  • If you are using a public computer such as one in a library, computer shop, or even a shared family computer, be sure to sign out of any web service you are using before leaving the computer so that you can protect your privacy. 

  • Being bullied online can affect someone enormously. Being bullied can impact on a person’s self-esteem, confidence and social skills. We have supported people affected by this type of bullying, and in many cases they have had to leave school, work and social networks to escape bullying. Try to consider the impact your words may have and think twice before posting.

  • Think twice before you post anything online because once it’s out there you can’t take it back. It is easy for any comments or posts you make online to be taken out of context and these could be damaging to you in the long term. Read more about digital footprints and how this can affect your life both online and offline

How to tell if your friend is being cyberbullied

Cyberbullying can be hurtful and makes a big impact on the way someone feels and acts. Here are some signs to watch out for: 

You may notice your friend feeling:

  • Anxious, sad, scared or stressed
  • Physically sick or having lots of headaches
  • Tired because they aren’t getting much sleep
  • Ashamed, embarrassed or feeling bad about themselves
  • They seem upset, especially after receiving a text, email or being online
  • They might talk about wanting to run away or not wanting to be ‘here’ anymore
  • They could be having thoughts of hurting themselves and/or suicide

You might see changes in the way they act:

  • They avoid going to school or even change schools
  • Your friend leaves class more often because they feel upset or unable to cope
  • They’re having trouble staying focused in class or when doing school work
  • Your friend might stop doing their hobbies or the things they used to enjoy e.g. dance class, sports, music, online games
  • They don’t want to be around people e.g. they talk less, they sit by themselves

You notice they act differently online:

  • They might check their phone, tablet, or computer more often than usual or they suddenly stop going online or using their phone
  • Your friend seems more secretive about what they do/what happens online
  • They delete their profile or online accounts
  • Their parents or another adult have banned them from using the internet or their phone

Helping a friend cope with cyberbullying

Here’s what you can do to support a friend who is being cyberbullied:

  • Let them know that you care about them and you don’t agree with what’s happening
  • Remind them they’re brave and it’s ok to talk about it
  • Help them collect and save the evidence e.g. screenshots, photos, texts, emails
  • Suggest that they block and report the cyberbully
  • Help them check their privacy settings so their information is protected
  • Together, talk to an adult – family member, teacher, coach – about the cyberbullying so they are also aware of what’s happening
  • Remind your friend that it’s ok to get professional help from people like a school counsellor, psychologist, or Kids Helpline
  • Even if your friend makes you promise not to tell anyone, it’s really important that an adult knows what’s going on – especially if they’re in danger of getting hurt
  • If you feel that your friend is unsafe and may hurt themselves call Kids Helpline, tell a school counsellor, or a trusted adult
  • Remember that it is not your responsibility to ‘fix’ the problem, but you can be there to support your friend

Getting help

There are many ways of getting help to get the cyber bullying to stop. Please read our advice article on bullying on social networks and apps if you want advice on this specific area. Our advice on how to deal with cyber bullying has lots of tips that can help too. 

If you would like further support and advice, you can contact Bullying.co.uk for advice and support. You can call their helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email them at [email protected]. You can talk to them online via their live chat service which is open, Monday to Friday between 1.30pm and 5.30pm

West Mercia Police have produced informative advice sheets on what to do if you are being bullied online. The advice sheets are for young people and adults. 

Young peoples guide
Adults guide

Huge thanks to Bullying.co.uk, West Mercia Police and also Kids Helpline (Aus) for helping us create this post. 

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