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Prevention for Teens – What to do if you are a cyber bullying victim

Many teens who are cyber bullied online are often overwhelmed by the emotional pain due the either the continuity or intensity of the harassment. Therefore, responding to the cyber bully’s attacks in a productive manner often seems extraordinarily difficult. The anticipatory anxiety often prevents a teenager from reporting the bully. Since the distress seems unbearable, the victim cannot muster up the strength to confide in a trusted adult. Of course, there is always a fear that a victim may be labeled a “tattletale.” However, if the victim attempts to cope with the bullying without external assistance, the intensity and frequency of the bullying online may increase. This usually exacerbates the pre-existing situation. Victimized adolescents first must realize that they are not to blame for the way they have been treated.  NO ONE deserves to be harassed in any environment, whether it is on the Internet or in the real world.  Effective strategies can be implemented to help fend off cyber bullies.

1. You CANNOT Just Turn Off the Computer: Those who do not completely understand the phenomenon often wonder, “What’s the big deal? Why don’t kids just turn off their computers?” However, those who make this statement do not realize that the process is not so simple.  There are a number of reasons why “clicking the exit button” or “turning off the computer” simply aren’t viable options for those being cyber bullied.

  • First, why should a victim be required to interrupt an online experience because of someone else’s maliciousness? It is not appropriate to blame the victim for another’s aggressive actions. No one should have to turn off his or her computer due to harassment received online, just like no one should avoid going to school because of school bullying.
  • Cyber bullying can continue regardless of whether the target is online.  For example, a bully could set up a defamatory Web page or spread rumors via social networking sites.  Unfortunately, mistreatment still continues and the bully perpetuates his assaults and cruelty, even when the victim is offline.

2. Ignore Cyber Bullies: An effective and simple response is to not respond, interact, or engage with cyber bullies.  However, this is not as easy as it sounds.  It’s natural to elicit a defensive response and attempt to deal some “well-deserved” payback on the cyber bully.  Many cyber bullies simply crave attention; it does not matter what type of attention they receive, whether it be positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them the attention they desire. It is similar to a 2-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum to get attention from a parent: once the child’s needs are catered to, he or she will continue to act in the same manner in the future.  Do not reply to his or her posts, texts, etc.  Along these same lines, teens that experience cyber bullying online are encouraged to keep a log of journal of all their experiences.  Note specific incidents with as much detail as possible, including who was involved, where and when it happened, how they responded, who witnessed the incident, and what was done to prevent its reoccurrence.  If the cyber bullying is supplemented with bullying offline, be sure to record all of these activities as well.

3. Protect Yourself: It is imperative that cyber bullying victims take swift action if the cyber bullying incidents continue or escalate in gravity.  Teenagers must learn to exercise due diligence in reducing their vulnerability to online aggression.

  • Block the cyber bully on social networking sites, emails, electronic devices, and so on.  The less contact you have with the cyber bully, the less damage he or she can do.  Do not leave the bully un-blocked just so that you can get another response later or to inflict some source of payback on the cyber bully.  This is only inviting the cyber bully to continue, and you do not have to stoop down to their level!  Block the individual from having communications with you as best as you can.
  • Change your emails, screen names, or other usernames that the cyber bully is contacting you via.  Take care in giving them out to family and friends whom you know you can trust, so that you will not need to worry about receiving additional antagonizing messages from those who are cyber bullying you.
  • Keep your social networking profiles on private: make sure not to add anyone you do not know or do not trust to your profile

4. Get Help: It is strongly encouraged that cyber bullying victims seek assistance from a trusted individual or organization.  Adolescence is a difficult journey on hazardous terrain, and no one should have to travel alone.  Technology has only increased the number of pitfalls and obstacles that teens have to face, and teens need guidance to assist them and pick them up when online harassment takes its toll.

5. Hang in There: When teens are being cyber bullied, it is natural to look for a reason for the torment. We try to figure out what we’ve done to bring this bad behavior down on us.  We think that if we can find that reason and correct it, maybe the bullying will stop.  This mentality helps us to feel that we harness some control over the situation.  But in truth, the cyber bully often has reasons that have nothing to do with us.  Many individuals cling to this idea that the targets have somehow brought the bullying on themselves.  But with this mentality, aren’t we really stating that the target deserves to be cyber bullied, that it’s their fault, rather than the fault of the person doing the bullying? Cyber bullying is the problem, not the behavior or appearance of the target! As such, there are thousands of teenagers that are being cyber bullied online each day. You are not alone in your plight! But stay strong and stay positive!

You may think that the world is coming to an end, but there are people that love you for who you are.  Even if you do not think so, there are many that will miss you sorely if you are gone.  Killing yourself is not an alternative to cyber bullying.  If you have suicidal thoughts, contact the suicide hotline immediately!  A one-time solution to a temporary problem cannot work!