What is Cyber Bullying and How To Recognize It
We're all familiar with bullying. Whether it's the schoolyard tactics of pushing a weaker kid into the mud, or the more adult situations of being insulted and degraded in front of your co-workers, this kind of behavior isn't acceptable at any stage of development. And while our efforts to stop traditional bullying have shown at least some success, technology has given rise to a whole new outlet for this aggressive behavior. Cyber bullying is what it's called, and it's a much bigger problem than many people really know.
Cyber Bullying: What Is It?
Regular bullying has a pretty simple definition when you get down to it. According to Stop Bullying, it is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying is also a pattern of behavior, rather than any single incident. It can involve threats, intimidation, spreading malicious rumors, physical violence, and a slew of other actions that's meant to negatively impact the target.
Cyber bullying is essentially all of that, but using modern technology instead of a schoolyard arena.
On the one hand, cyber bullying may not look like such a big deal compared with traditional bullying. After all, if someone can't hit you, then how bad is receiving unkind emails, or nasty responses on a forum post? The logic here is the same as that used in the story of the man with no shoes, and the man with no feet. Just because something can be worse, that's no excuse for not addressing what is wrong.
Additionally, words mean things. Whether said in person, written on notes in your locker, or constantly bombarding your social media pages, humans are social creatures. If those words are positive, then it gives us a shot of oxytocin, which makes us feel good. If those words are negative, though, it releases stress hormones instead. Since evolution is slow, but technological development is fast, we are chemically unable to tell the difference between the stress that comes from cyber bullying, and the stress that comes from being stalked by a lion. To the brain, they're the same thing.
So How Do You Deal With Cyber Bullying When It Happens?
If you, or someone you care about, is a victim of cyber bullying, then it's important to take the proper actions to stop it. The easiest way to deal with it is to block people from being able to message you. Most websites that have a chat or messaging feature also have the option for you to stop someone from reaching out to you. If that person has also violated the community standards (say, by sending you death threats or rape threats, which are depressingly common in cyber bullying situations), then it's important to inform the website moderators so they can take the proper actions regarding the situation.
If you feel personally threatened by a cyber bullying incident, then as Tech Target suggests, you should inform the police. While not all jurisdictions have laws regarding cyber bullying specifically, there are laws regarding threats and harassment, and cyber bullying is often more than enough in terms of legal grounds to move one of those cases forward.
Regarding the impact of cyber bullying, though, it's important to listen to those who've had to deal with it. Don't tell victims how to feel, or assume that everyone has to fit into a certain range of reactions. Remember that it's all about them, not about them fitting an image you have for how someone should feel about these kinds of actions.