The internet has brought a great many benefits to the modern world. We use it for entertainment, for knowledge, for socialising and for shopping. We bank on the internet, we find our careers on the internet and we fall in love on the internet. It is fair to say that in 2019 we would all be pretty lost without the web that interconnects all of our lives.
But, as with all progress, there is a dark side and the internet has brought with it a problem for the modern age – cyberbullying.
The important thing to understand about bullying over the internet is that it is every bit as hurtful and harmful as bullying face to face. In some ways it can be even more intrusive as it can come into the safe space of the home and go on round the clock. Cyberbullies often feel empowered by their anonymity to be vicious and cruel. They don’t have to look their victim in the face and this gives even the most cowardly of bullies the confident to abuse and torment.
Should you encounter an internet bully, an internet ‘troll’ or general abuse on the internet there are a few key points to remember that will help you:
- Do not engage with an internet troll
Trolls are looking to provoke a reaction. The more you react, the more they see it as a victory. A troll would far rather harass someone who gives them a response. The more you ignore them, the more bored they get and they will move on. Use the block, mute and report buttons on social media platforms to distance yourself.
- Do not attempt to reason with an internet troll
A lot of abusive accounts will try and get you into online fights where they can abuse you. No amount of presenting a rational argument is worth your time. They are not interested in debate. Ignore them.
- Keep your personal data private
Most social media sites will allow you to either register anonymously or to limit the information you make public. Never put your phone number or address on the internet. Lock your Facebook account so only your friends can see your posts. Don’t respond to friend requests from strangers. If anyone asks you to send personal or intimate photographs always report to a safe adult.
- An abusive friend is not a friend
In a lot of cases of online cyberbullying, the bully knows their victim personally. Don’t be afraid to remove this abuser from your social circle. It doesn’t matter if they are a real life friend or relative, anyone who is making you feel uncomfortable or harassed has no right to be in your network.
- Limit the time you spend online.
The internet can feel like the be all and end all if you never get off the computer. But distancing yourself from the world of social media can really help keep these idiots in perspective. Try and develop off line interests too.
- You control the communication, not them
Your smart phone will allow you to be in control of what notifications you receive. Don’t put yourself in a position where a Facebook message or an email could ruin your day. Turn your notifications off and check them only when it suits you. Even Resisting Hate do that. We only listen to the silly threats we get on our voicemail every few weeks. Haters dance to our tune, not the other way round.
- Look for genuine people
A general rule of thumb is that trolls and low life abusers will have a limited number of friends/followers. Chances are they get suspended a lot so their account will be recently made. They often don’t use a profile picture or if they do it may well be stolen (Top tip, do a Google reverse image search which will show where the photo first used). They may have little info in their bio and a glance down their tweets or posts will show how they like to interact.
- Document everything
If your abuser/bully/troll goes beyond internet banter and needs to be reported then the more evidence you have, the better. Screenshot all the abuse you receive and name the files the date you received the abuse. Keep a log of all dates and incidents and account names involved.
- Report bullying and abuse
The police can and will take internet abuse seriously. Always contact the police if you feel you are being threatened or harassed. The law on harassment is 2 separate incidents so by the time a person has sent you an abusive email and Facebook message they are already in breach of the law. It is worth making schools, universities, employers aware too.
If you are sent illegal pornography you can report to the Internet Watch Foundation
You can report online crime to the Metropolitan Police using this form
You can report abuse anonymously through Crimestoppers
- Get help and support
Being bullied can really take its toll on you so it is really important to know that there are organisations out there who will help and support you. Remember that you and your feelings matter and all these support groups will take you seriously and help you through the bullying and abuse. Some will also take reports and/or help liase with the police too.
Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of many of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK