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30 July 2021
Hyperoptic Team

Everything you need to know about cyberbullying

Whether you use the internet on your phone, laptop or tablet, cyberbullying is more popular than you think.

As well as keeping your data safe, you need to keep yourself (and others) safe when interacting online. Someone might be hurling abuse at you daily, singling you out of a group message or targeting your child on their social media platforms.

To stay safe online, check out our handy tips and tricks on what cyberbullying is, how to avoid cyberbullying and how to report it.

What is cyberbullying?

So, what is cyberbullying? Well, it’s a form of bullying that happens online when you use your digital devices – including your smartphone, laptop, tablet and even when you’re gaming.

Cyberbullying usually involves a bully targeting one specific person, and sending them harmful, vindictive content. This could be in the form of an email, text, social media comment or direct message (like on your Instagram account, for example). They might even post offensive content to your public pages, including private and personal information to humiliate you.

Basically, any platform where you can share content and communicate with others is open to cyberbullies. Yes, this sounds a little scary, but it’s not as scary as turning a blind eye to the situation. Don’t ignore the signs; the more you know, the better you can seek support if you (or someone close to you) are personally targeted.

Cyberbullying facts

When it comes to cyberbullying, facts prove that unfortunately, it’s a lot more common than you think. YouGov research found that one in four people in the UK have experienced some kind of cyberbullying, with the most common being harassment. And 18-to-24-year-olds are most likely to experience cyberbullying, with only 43% stating they’ve never been cyberbullied – that’s more than 50% of a generation who’ve gone through cyberbullying.

The different types of cyberbullying

If you’ve never encountered a cyberbully, you might be surprised to hear that they have several methods of targeting people online. Or you could’ve been a target yourself without even realising.

To make you more aware, we’ve listed the different types of cyberbullying below:

1. Harassment

Harassment starts with a cyberbully sending you offensive messages and then consistently repeating this process to wear you down. They will personally attack you by making unkind remarks, to knock your confidence. This can also lead to cyberstalking, which is a form of harassment that begins online and can lead to threatening messages.

2. Masquerading

Masquerading is when a bully creates a fake identity to anonymously harass you. The bully might impersonate someone completely random to you, or someone you know and send you hurtful messages from their account.

3. Flaming

Flaming is a form of public bullying, where someone purposely creates an online fight with you over instant messaging services, social media platforms, online chatrooms or email. It’s actually very similar to harassment, as the cyberbully will send malicious messages and images while using discriminatory language.

4. Outing

Outing is when a bully shares your private information publicly over the internet. They will use personal content or images to “out” you online and embarrass you. For instance, a cyberbully could blackmail you into taking an intimate image of yourself, which they then use against you online.

5. Exclusion/social exclusion

When a cyberbully singles someone out, it’s called exclusion. They will purposely ignore your messages in a group chat on WhatsApp, on a group forum or any social media platform and force others to do the same. Because the bully has set out to exclude you, you’d then become a target of abuse from each person involved in this shared space.

6. Fraping

Fraping is when a bully uses your personal messaging or social media platforms to write offensive and inappropriate content and post it online. This could be someone you deem a “friend” snatching your phone off you and posting harmful messages (or images) to your personal accounts for all to see, without your permission.

How to avoid cyberbullying

Now you know what a cyberbully is and what they’re capable of, you need to understand how to spot the signs of these malicious online users. That way you can hopefully avoid them in the future.

Remember, cyberbullies will target anyone, in any age group. So, as well as keeping a close eye on your children after they’ve been online, make sure you’re checking on your friends who’ve gone a little quiet after tapping away on their phones. And assess how you’re feeling after logging in online, because a cyberbully could be right under your nose.

Look out for these notable signs, in case someone you love is being cyberbullied:

  • They won’t openly discuss being active online
  • They’re avoiding interacting with you or anyone else after using the internet
  • Their mood plummets after being on their phone or browsing online
  • They become defensive when you ask about their social media interaction
  • They’re neglecting their usual activities and responsibilities
  • They’re not eating properly
  • They’re showing signs of anxiety, depression or general sadness
  • Their school, university of job has reported changes in their behaviour

Confess it and address it

Cyberbullying shouldn’t happen, but sadly it does. That’s why it’s so important to seek help and talk about it with others, to tackle the problem head on. You’re (unfortunately) one of many people in this position. But don’t worry; it’s not forever, and there are plenty of processes available to report it and deal with it.

How to report cyberbullying

There’s always a digital footprint when a cyberbully attacks you (or someone you know) online. One advantage to this? The bully can be caught red-handed.

If you, your child or someone you know is being cyberbullied, there’s always help available.

  • If you’re/they’re in immediate danger, pick up the phone and call the police on 999 or 112. They’ll talk to you about your experience and provide guidance and protection immediately.
  • Block the user and report abuse on the online platform you are using at the click of a button.
  • Gather the evidence of online harassment by taking screenshots of nasty comments and messages, either on your phone or computer. If the bully deletes what they said, you’ll still have a hard copy to prove their mistreatment.

Find information about cyberbullying

When it comes to cyberbullying, help can be sought by talking to other people about what’s going on. Whether you call your friends, parents, or siblings to tell them – a problem halved is a problem solved. You can find a whole load of information about cyberbullying online as well, including cyberbullying websites that you can seek advice from.

Check out the following:

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