As a parent, if you saw your child posting a hurtful comment on social media about a peer, or saw they were part of a conversation that scrutinizes or put other kids in danger -- what would you do? Maybe the solution would be to immediately suspend their online privileges, or making them apologize to the victim right?
But does cyberbullying apply only to children? Would you wonder what made your child feel the need to be a bully when there are adult groups dedicated to harassing and defaming others as well? Websites have been created specifically to make fun of and demean individuals. These people can be found in communities linked to blogs and chat rooms and they use the disguise of “anonymity” to harass their prey. Sometimes, these bullies will take their online squabbles offline and press people online to harass their prey's family and friends.
What is Cyberbullying anyway?
This involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging (IM), defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others." – Bill Belsey, Cyberbullying Expert.
What are some examples of cyberbullying?
This include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. This type of bullying happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach its victim even when he or she is alone. Messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience and can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source or deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures
Many times when people hear about cyberbullying they immediately think it’s for children but did you ever think that the other players in the cyber-bullying world are grown-ups? Untethered from any moderation and free to troll the Internet as they wish, they are as malicious as the adolescent ones you work so hard to tame and protect from harm. Unfortunately no one is supervising their activity or protecting their targets.
And who are their victims?
Of course other adults. And remember that adulthood does not come with immunity to the trauma of bullying.
Everyone is entitled to the right to freedom of speech and their own opinion on issues around them. But how as it become acceptable for adults to use those privileges to abuse others? It’s funny enough that none of these folks in their proper cognizance would dare say the above comments in person else they will be slapped by the people they try to bully. Bullying is so primitive and a cowardly act. No doubt the words are typed anonymously instead of spoken.
I was bullied terribly during my teen years and even as an adult. I will never forget the overwhelming feelings of hurt and sadness their cruelty caused. See, when this happened to me as an adult, I was not that 10-year-old little girl who use to praying silently each day on the way to school that the bullies would pick on someone else that day. I could not just brush off their actions because I was grown as I was a human being who still has feelings and expects more from humanity. How can we possibly rationalize this behavior in adults? It's indisputable that grown-ups should know better, and the fact that they continue to harass is despicable and creates a long-lasting emotional sting.
But why do bullies bully?
Jealousy: When folks are jealous of you, an inner demon takes them over. Then the
defame, harass and discredit you.
Insecurity: Remember that bullies are often lacking something crucial in their lives and they seek pain in others, so do not fill this void for them by giving them a reaction.
Intimidation: You are something they can never be or doing something they can never do. Hatred and envy sets in and the bullying begins.
What should you do if you are bullied?
Keep being the best at what you are doing. This angers them even more. They hate progress. Their wish is to see you cry day and night but don’t. Your reaction is exactly what they are seeking. Instead, document everything, and seek the proper authorities. Trust me, I know it is very, very difficult to not react when you see yourself and the people you love being attacked.
Unfortunately cyberbullying allows cruelty at all ages to play out in a 24-7 arena. Your keyboard can be used as a lethal weapon today, and sadly more adults especially women have caught on. I call upon you today and challenge you to replace those cyber-bullets with words of kindness. As grown-ups and leaders we need to lead by walking the talk. Every post we make public, every text message we send, every email we write, should exhibit respect for ourselves and others.
Some take home tips:
- Speak and type with respect, because words hurts. They leave lasting scars and the scars left by bullying are very difficult to erase.
- Do unto others as you want them to do unto you
- Educate yourself on bullying and how to combat it.You might not be a victim, but knowing how to react when you encounter harassment can be very important. You can also help others with what you know.
- Let’s teach ourselves and our children that it is so beautiful to care at all ages, and that being nice despite all the stones thrown at you by bullies isn’t that difficult. From boys, to girls, to adults and to entire villages – we as women and parents can make a difference by acting as cyber-shields.
- And finally, I cannot emphasize enough about the importance of investing in yourself. Of making you a first rated version of you than a second rated or an imitation of someone else. It is magical because it takes the distraction off other people and put on you. I speak from experience. I have been bullied so badly but I decided to ignore and turn my head and focus on me and just keep going.
Always remember that your pain, does not get healed when you cause pain to others.
The Internet, however, can be vicious, especially when you make the wrong people mad by doing well. Social media can make or mar. Be careful out there. The Internet can be a ruthless place just like life can be. Good luck, and may peace be with you.