Cyberbullying: How to identify and handle online harassment

Family in living room with laptop smilingAri Howard is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She shared with Healthy Lombard that similar to how a playground or workplace bully will terrorize someone in person, a cyberbully will harass and threaten their targets through various forms over the internet.

As our world becomes increasingly digital, dangers like cyberbullying that plague the online world continue to increase as well. COVID-19, unfortunately, exacerbated online bullying since millions of students were exclusively taking courses online and relying on the internet for most types of social interaction.

This increase in screen time throughout 2020 caused an immense spike in cyberbullying, with nearly 50% of students between the ages of 10 and 18 reporting that they were cyberbullied during the pandemic. In fact, the amount of reported bullying and hate speech on online chats increased by 70% in 2020.

What is cyberbullying and what does it look like?

Even though cyberbullying isn’t face-to-face, the effects can still be detrimental to the person experiencing the bullying. In fact, emotional distress can be even more severe when online bullying occurs anonymously. And the bullying is more likely to occur for a longer stretch of time since there are no immediate repercussions for a cyberbully.

Cyberbullying can occur through various online avenues, but here are some of the most common forms of cyberbullying among kids and teens:

  • Cyberbullying through chat rooms associated with work or school topics
  • Harassment on social media platforms
  • Online rumors
  • Purposefully leaving someone out of a chat or online group
  • Threatening emails
  • Anonymous apps
  • Harmful text messages
  • Compromising pictures

What are the effects of cyberbullying?

When you are the target of cyberbullying, it can feel like you have no online safe place to retreat. You may feel like you can’t escape since cyberbullying doesn’t always have a face or provide anything tangible to confront. The long-term effects on an individual can be devastating and can include:

  • Emotional abuse: feeling hurt and ashamed of being who you are and what you stand for. This can lead to losing interest in the things that you love.
  • Physical abuse: feelings of being overwhelmed that can lead to fatigue, sleepless nights, headaches, stomach aches, and panic attacks.
  • Mental abuse: Uncontrolled anger, feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, and more can lead the victim to shut down completely.

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