How to Prevent Cyberbullying in Social Media

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Bullying is an issue that has probably been around since humans evolved to be able to socially interact with each other, but cyberbullying has only been around since the internet became widespread. It is different from traditional bullying, and can be done more easily and anonymously than ever before. It allows any person to be able to bully anyone else, no matter the time, day of the week, or location. You could be on vacation in Italy and someone back home could be sending you provocative or hurtful messages. There are a lot of different forms of cyberbullying, which also means there are different laws on cyberbullying. Different forms of cyberbullying also calls for different means to defend against them. But what exactly is cyberbullying?

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Cyberbullying is the use of an electronic of communication, such as social media, to bully someone. This is typically done by sending threatening/demeaning messages to the victim. There are many different types of cyberbullying, but they all serve the same purpose - to hurt others. Cyberbullying can also happen more frequently than regular in person bullying because people with access to an electronic device can bully someone else over the internet at any point in time. Cyberbullying is also much harder to catch than regular bullying, as the victim may refuse or be blackmailed into not telling and adult, and because of the anonymous nature of cyberbullying it cannot easily detected by an adult. Cyberbullying can also happen in many different kinds of ways, which makes it even harder to detect.

Some types of cyberbullying, including, but not limited to, are Google bombs, fraping, and fake profiles. A Google bomb is the term for when a user creates a website with malicious intent, typically meant to be noticed by people of a specific group, such as LGBQT+ or of a specific racial descent. These websites have multiple links that are designed to show up as front page results in searches commonly made by the targeted group. Another form of cyberbullying known as “fraping” or a “frape”(combination of the terms Facebook and rape) refers to when a user uses your Facebook or other social media account without permission and posts on your behalf, creating new offensive posts and deleting old posts and comments that you make. Another way people can create offensive posts on your behalf is to create a fake account pretending to be you, and posting inappropriate posts. However, this is much easier to spot than fraping as a simple check of the account can determine whether or not it is a fake. Make sure to keep this in mind the next time one of your friends post an offensive post and check with them to make sure their account was not compromised. Another form of cyberbullying, which is more akin to regular, in-person bullying is online harassment. This is when a user sends multiple malicious or threatening messages to another user over an internet message board or social media. According to Pew Internet, 14% of victims of harassment over the internet found it extremely upsetting, 14% found it very upsetting, 21% found it somewhat upsetting, 22% found it not at all upsetting, and the majority, 30%, found it slightly upsetting. Harassment over the internet can lead to suicide, depression, and lowered self esteem, all major problems.

Some forms of cyberbullying are more illicit than others. For example, fraping is now classified as a crime in some countries, while mild harassment usually is not against the law. However, in California, any severe form of online bullying, which is classified as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils”, defined in Section 48900.2. Any use of another’s account, even with their permission, to do anything, including but not limited to malicious acts concerning their account such as fraping or impersonation, is a federal criminal offense. Californian schools are also obligated by law to assist any victims of bullying, including cyberbullying, so reporting a cyberbullying incident to your school could be a viable way to get help for it.

Reporting cyberbullying to your school is not the only way to stop it. There are many ways to prevent or stop cyberbullying. One of these ways is to simply stop before you post, and think about whether or not your post will taint your reputation or is able to be used by bullies as fuel to cyberbully you. A way to assess this is to think about whether or not this is something that you want your friends or relatives to see. If you do not stop cyberbullying as it starts, then it can escalate into something serious enough for law enforcement to get involved, such as a case in Florida where 2 girls were arrested due to suicide from bullying. The best way to stop cyberbullying as it starts is to simply ignore the message. Most hurtful messages people send are simply bait to get you to do something that they can further use to bully you. If you do not respond, you are effectively shutting down their way to bully you further. However, sometimes it is not possible to ignore the bullying as it happens on a public site, such as social media, so the next best course of action is to report the account/tell a trusted adult.

Whatever the intent or severity of cyberbullying, it should be stopped as soon as possible. Cyberbullying can be against the law, and cyberbullying can come in so many forms that it’s hard to distinguish what is or isn’t. The bottom line is: you shouldn’t do it, and if it happens to you you should always try to stop it. Research shows that when people quickly and consistently respond to any form of bullying, the message that it is not acceptable is sent and the bullying stops over time, which is why you should always try to stop bullying anywhere you go, because you can make a difference.

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