As the mom of a tween, I am so very mindful about my child’s interactions online. I constantly remind my child to not talk to strangers on gaming sites, to never disclose personal information, and to never share photos. And yet, although I do consider myself tech savvy, it was not until recently that I thought to activate the highest privacy settings in my own Facebook account. Social media is constantly changing, and with the expansion of technology and social media in just about every aspect of our lives, there is no question we are all vulnerable to what goes on online.
Cyberbullying is, without a doubt, the most unfortunate product of our online culture. Cyberbullying is defined as the use of digital technologies to intimidate, humiliate, threaten or harass others. Some people think that so long as you don’t connect with people you do not know offline, you are safe. But, the main platform for bullying is on social media websites, and often between people who know each other offline, such as classmates, co-workers, and family members. It has been estimated that 17% of young people experience cyberbullying before the age of 25. But cyberbullying is not limited to teens. Rather, cyberbullying between adults can be even more intrusive and destructive to a person’s career, reputation, or relationships.
In our practice, we are often approached about incidents of cyberbullying, so we know firsthand how destructive an impact this has on the victim’s life. From a co-worker sending defamatory information about a colleague, to a business owner being threatened with a bad review, to a former boyfriend posting revenge porn on Facebook, anyone can become the victim of a bully who feels he or she can hide behind the curtain of the internet to act this way. Well, it is not right, and there are some definitive steps a person can take to end cyberbullying. DitchTheLabel.org has put together an excellent list of tips for dealing with cyberbullying, and here are some of the ones I always give to clients:
First, never respond. Neither you, your mom, or your best friend should ever reply or retaliate to anything that has been said or posted. Next, screenshot and keep a record of the post. Once you have done that, block and report the offending user to the appropriate social media platform. If you know who the bully is, go to the police and provide the detective with the name and contact information of the bully, together with a copy of the post; if the bully is someone you work or go to school with, report them to your employer or the school. Speak with your friends and family about what they will see online about you. Your loved ones will most likely rally around you. And finally, know that you are not alone.
By Sabrina Victor, Esq.