With the advent of the internet and modern technology, cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking are becoming an increasing problem that can affect all ages.
Cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking are similar and both are extremely distressing for the person on the receiving end. In a typical situation, all communication is done via computer or cell phone and there is no face to face contact. In some cases, the victim knows the perpetrator but in other cases, they hide behind user names.
Definition of Cyber-Bullying and Stalking
This is a form of bullying where the internet, mobile phones and other electronic devices are used to harass another person. The perpetrator sends repeated messages, images and communication that may include criticism, threats and insults. The level and tone of these messages defines whether it is bullying or stalking. There is a fine line between the two but stalking is often more creepy and frightening and in some cases, the stalker may be unknown to the victim.
Characteristics of Bullying and Stalking
Cyber-bullying takes on a number of forms that commonly include the following characteristics:
- The person tries to control and manipulate another.
- The bullying is played out as fault-finding and picking people out on trivial matters.
- Each bullying incident may appear minor on its own but the accumulated total makes them a serious issue.
- Attempts to undermine the person’s intrinsic value, ability and worth.
- Undermining the person’s professional status, marginalizing them and demeaning them.
- Refusing to recognize achievements, personal giftings and contributions.
- Repeated criticism that is often a distortion of or a total misrepresentation of the facts.
- Threats that may include bodily harm, the sharing of information and involving other people.
Cyber-Bullying by Email and Social Networking
The internet has opened up a whole new world for people and unfortunately, this includes people who get pleasure from bullying and harassing others. Here are some of the ways that people bully and stalk each other electronically:
- Emailing is common and perpetrators bombard their victims with messages detailing what they don’t like about them or what they want them to change.
- Criticism, hurtful comments, false accusations and threats are all part of cyber-bullying.
- If the victim knows the stalker, they may use social networking sites such as Facebook. They make inappropriate comments on the person’s page as well as questioning their character and behavior.
- In one case, a writer had a problem with multiple comments being posted on her online work. The perpetrator went as far as contacting her editor and accusing her of writing articles that were not factual.
- Text messages via cell phone are part of cyber bullying and this is fairly common among teenagers.
How Does is it Feel to be a Victim of Cyber-Bullying
People who have been subjected to a long-term hate campaign report a number of effects from the bullying and abuse. Here are some of the problems that may result:
- Stress, anxiety and fear
- A number of health issues such as minor illnesses, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and skin problems
- Depression, panic attacks, the feeling of being on edge all the time
- Fatigue and exhaustion due to broken sleep
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Low self-worth and lack of self-confidence
How to Handle Cyber-Bullying and Stalking
There are a number of ways to put a stop to bullying across the internet. It is important to remember that bullying and harassment are never right and action needs to be taken against these behaviors. Ignore the bully as much as possible.
- Don’t respond to emails, texts and messages through social networking sites. Retaliation may feel good but it will only encourage the bully to continue.
- Block the perpetrator where possible. Use Outlook Express to block their email address, and un-friend and block them on Facebook. Change your mobile phone number and only give it out to close friends that can be trusted.
- Keep a record of all communication. Save messages, emails and texts into a document with dates and times. This can be useful if the situation reaches a stage where further action is needed.
- Try and avoid personal communication unless it is to inform the person that you will act against them if they don’t leave you alone.
- Respond publicly if necessary as this will shame the culprit.
- Ask for help from someone who has experience in handling this type of problem.
Cyber bullying can be a devastating experience. It is important to hold onto the truth and don’t let one person destroy you. If the problem persists, it is essential to seek help from a counselor, a pastor, the police or a lawyer.