Understanding Cyberbullying, Its Effects, and What You Can Do To Stop It!
More than ever, technology has certainly provided a convenient and quick way for people across the globe to connect with one another, sharing interests, hobbies, and the likes. However, technological advances in the way we communicate have also exposed the LGBTQ+ Black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial communities to bullying, harassment, and violence at an alarming and increasing rate with devastating effects.
Since the pandemic, lockdowns became the norm which may have provided some form of relief from physical or in-person bullying and harassment. Unfortunately and as a result, this has caused a significant shift to an increase of over 80% in cyberbullying since COVID-19, exacerbating the deepening inequalities the community continues to face to this day. The same data reveals that 40% of adults have experienced cyberbullying while 60% of kids ages 8-12 suffer from it. With such a staggering and horrific statistic, you might begin to wonder if social media platforms contribute to the rise of cyberbullying. Let’s take a look.
Social media platforms are avenues for many to express themselves freely and openly. They play a critical role in society both in a positive and negative way. Posting selfies, group pictures, and other ways of self-expression, however, can leave both adults and youth inadvertently exposed to online threats and harassment. According to Enough.org, youth who have been engaging or using popular social media platforms have experienced cyberbullying. Over 70% of the survey participants indicated that these platforms do not do enough to prevent it. If you suspect that someone you care deeply about may be experiencing online bullying or cyberbullying, then here are six signs that are associated with these highly negative situations.
- Eating disorders
- Self harm, cutting, and suicide ideations
- Social isolation
- Substance abuse
It is important to take immediate proactive steps if you have discovered that your loved one is experiencing cyberbullying or bullying and harassment of any kind. Here are some tips to help someone who is being bullied online.
- Offer and provide your love and support. Let them know and assure them that it is not their fault that this is happening to them.
- End the harassment by encouraging your loved one to discontinue engagement with the bully. Take screen grabs or screenshots for evidence, then block and delete the person who is bullying them online. If you are online with them, speak up and ask the person or people doing the bullying to stop.
- Don’t share or forward the posts from bullies. This includes text and images.
- Report it. Whether it is happening on social media, in an online chat room, a gaming platform, through texting or SMS messaging, or anywhere else, report the incident to the authorities.
Police, parents, guardians, counselors, teachers, principals, school administrators, and campus administrators are to name a few types of authorities to report these incidents to.
If you are being bullied online, know that there are many resources to turn to for help in addition to reporting these situations to authorities. The first course of action to take is to remove yourself from the hostile environment and avoid retaliation. Doing so will help reduce and eliminate dangerous face-to-face confrontations. Always remember, you are loved, you are important, you are beautiful, and you absolutely matter.
Are You a Cyberbully?
We might joke around with our family and friends or at times become sarcastic but are unknowingly and unintentionally hurting them. You might begin to wonder about the types of behaviors that are associated with bullying. Here are some tips to help you identify and recognize if you are bullying someone.
- Using hurtful language, even if it is just a joke. This includes swearing or using swear words, demeaning words, racial slurs, teasing, homophobic words, and other verbal abuse.
- Typing in CAPS. Typing in all capital letters is equivalent to shouting or yelling at someone. It is considered to be a form of aggression.
- If you become angry or upset at someone you are chatting with online, then you may begin to use language or terms that can hurt their feelings.
- If sending a message, image, text, or posting does not feel right, then listen to your intuition. Don’t send it or post it as it may hurt the ones you love or severely affect someone you do not know.
What You Can Do to Stop Bullying:
- Treat people as you would like to be treated. Respect others as others respect you, even if you do not agree with each other.
- Clear up any misunderstandings, especially when it comes to jokes.
- Be kind and positive by avoiding posting negative words or images.
- Think before sending a message or posting. Ask yourself if the text or image you are sending or posting will hurt someone or be misunderstood in a negative way.
- If your family member, friend, or an acquaintance is in an image or video that you would like to post or share, consider asking their permission first to avoid regrettable circumstances.
- If you recognize that you have hurt someone, be courageous and admit it. Offer an apology.
- Become an ally by providing support through resources like stopbullying.gov, stompoutbullying.org, and others.
These are only to mention a few of the many ways you can stop bullying and hurtful behavior. Remember, even if it is unintentional, you may be hurting someone. So be positive, be supportive, be respectful, and spread love not hate.
Hate and Discrimination: A Heavy Burden
The LGBTQ+ Black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial communities continue to bear the brunt of discrimination, hatred, and violence in person and online. This brings us to the question, why all the hate and negativity? Hatred can stem from many things or circumstances. However, the fact that remains is that hatred has an undeniably strong relationship with oneself. This means a person’s history, personality, beliefs, identity, and other factors can influence what someone feels about another person or group and project these feelings towards others. Adversity like abuse, jealousy, and guilt can trigger and intensify hatred for another person, group, and even oneself. Hate and discrimination is an extremely heavy burden, but there are many resources to turn to for help in reducing or eliminating these negative and destructive feelings and experiences. Negative emotions can feel like heavy weights not only in your mind but on your body as well. Think back to a time when you were upset over something. Do you remember how exhausting it was being angry? Of course, you do! So, free yourself from all that stems from hatred because “hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Positivity, Encouragement, and Love Through Technology
Undoubtedly, the fast-paced world we live in today is increasingly becoming more reliant on new technologies, turning the globe into a highly digital landscape. There isn’t a minute or even a second that passes by that we do not use some form of the latest in technology. For this reason, leveraging the power of technology like the internet and social media platforms can create supportive, positive, encouraging, and inclusive environments for all by connecting with each other even if you are just next door or across the globe. Let us come together to celebrate and unite for love, equality, happiness, and peace.