And certainly there is an element of wanting people to ignore, to not feed them and essentially to move on. This however is certainly easier said than done. Should it even be the responsibility of the victim?
Our kids have grown up with the internet, immersed in the online world. It is not just a matter of a new toy that we can ask them to put away. A recent survey found that two thirds of all teens said they could not live without the internet. Now we know that indeed they would survive, and a disconnection will not result in the cessation of a beating heart, however for many the internet is a lifeline to many other elements of their lives.
It is a privilege to have access to the world via this medium, however it is a privilege that like all facets of society, can be grossly abused by many.
When a child gets bullied online, it is our easy answer to say…”turn it off and ignore”. But we are beginning to understand that for many, this is not an option.
We know that cyberbullying is dangerous because it is 24/7 and we are now accessible all the time. We know that it is dangerous because it is a lot easier for a bully to be a bully when they are not seeing the pain in their victims eyes. We know that it is also dangerous because often the bully feels they are anonymous and free from retribution. And we know that cyberbullying is dangerous because the victim is able to read the written or typed word over and over again. This mental torture can be devastating for those already suffering low self esteem, anxiety or depressive disorders.
So if we can’t tell them to just ‘switch off’, what can we do?
What is most important here is to teach them self control. To not fight back. Just like regular bullies, cyber bullies thrive on the ‘fight’, on the attention and the drama. Whilst we want to teach our kids not to accept this behaviour, we also want them to try and fight back via other means…away from the online vitriol that never ends well for anyone.
Some practical steps to take if you or your child is being bullied
- Block the person from your feed or stream
- If it continues, report to the appropriate people, (teachers, internet service provider, website administration or the national report cyber bully help buttons).
- Take screen shots as evidence if bullies continue to find a way to harass you.
- And always tell someone. A problem shared is always a problem halved.
The internet and the online world is there to be enjoyed by everyone. We know that there will always be people who have little regard for the welfare of others and for public spaces. We should not have to remove ourselves from the playing field just so we can play safely.