Although online harassment is a recent occurrence, in a few years it has become one of the most significant and frequent.
Online harassment or cyber bullying takes place in digital media, through which negative, harmful, false, or cruel material about a person or a group of people is sent, published, or shared. Digital devices such as computers, cell phones, and tablets are used to do this.
Usually, the aggressor uses anonymity to send hate messages through apps, social networks, forums, or games where people can participate, view, or share content in a massive way, creating a false internet reputation of the person.
- The damage caused is psychological, emotional and social.
- The victims are, almost always, young people; while the aggressor is someone they know who keeps information about the indicated.
- The consequences that it can bring can be as serious as those of harassment in real life. Affected people may suffer from stress, anxiety, anger, fatigue, impotence, depression, and physical illness. Experts indicate that there are even suicide cases registered.
- It can damage not only the victim’s reputation on the internet but of the people they harass and those involved in cyber bullying
- Girls are much more likely than boys to be bullied on social media.
Cyber bullying can generate unique concerns that may be:
- Constant: Technological devices allow communication 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, therefore, those affected may be subjected to a level of harassment from which they can hardly get relief.
- Permanent: Most information shared on the internet is permanent and public, especially if shared via social networks.
- Hard to notice: Most teachers, parents, tutors, or family members may not notice cyber bullying, so it’s harder to recognise.
What should I do if my child is a victim of cyber bullying?
It’s hard for parents to know the best way to react if their child is a victim of bullying, either in person or online. Here are some examples:
- Cut them off. Don’t threaten to remove your children’s device or their internet connection time. This could be perceived as a punishment and therefore they may be less willing to comment on situations of harassment in the future.
- Documentation. If there is online evidence, save a screenshot. This could be helpful if you need to report the case.
- Support. Talk with your child about the experience. Studies show that having only one person to listen and support them helps bullied children to manage the situation better.
- Complaint. Most social media platforms have a process to report misconduct. If a classmate is harassing your child, you can report it at school. If the harassment involves threats of physical harm, you can consider reporting it to the police.
- Look for support too. A child’s experience of bullying can also be stressful for parents. It’s good for parents to consider finding someone to talk to and feel supported.
Laws and sanctions
For some time now, these practices have increased considerably. However, each country has its own criminal harassment law for this type of virtual violence nowadays.
Many of these laws oblige educational institutions to respond to this kind of situations, even with the registration of cases whose consequences are irreversible, cyber bullying is now included, or such crimes are mentioned in their legislation. Schools must take action in accordance with the law, to force the abusers to act differently.
If you or someone you know happens or suspects to be under internet harassment or a similar case, check your state’s laws.