What to do if you are being bullied

Cyberbullying sometimes escalates to serious situations, especially if the victim is lacking information when it comes to dealing with cyberbullies. Below are some things you can do to resolve or at the very least limit the damage of cyberbullying:

* Refrain from Responding: Defending yourself from a cyberbully attack may seem like a natural response, but this is oftentimes the first mistake victims make. Cyberbullies feed on your reaction to their inflammatory posts and will increase the tempo of their attack if you start defending yourself. Moreover, the longer online cyberbullying lasts [as long as you keep responding to the comments], the more viral it becomes as more and more online bystanders are attracted to the fight. When you refrain from responding, or better yet, if you have not responded to the first attack at all, the cyberbullying situation will likely die down after a couple of days like a fire without any fuel to burn.

* Lock Down Profiles: Most teens are aware of the dangers of posting private information online and yet make them public anyway. Perhaps the most important step in preventing or minimizing cyberbullying is the careful management of what you post online as this information can be used as weapons against you by cyberbullies.

This especially goes for photos or videos you post online as well as those you have in your mobile phone or digital camera/camcorder. Compromising videos and photos are some of the most damaging bullying weapons online, so keep a tight lock on them and minimize the number of people that have access to these materials. Remember, even regular photos and videos could be digitally manipulated to embarrass or hurt you so limit access to these materials to your trusted friends only.

Moreover, even the information you share online can be used against you in cyberbullying. One of the cases wherein the victim committed suicide was because she shared personal information with an online ‘friend’ which turned out to be managed by cyberbullies. Your your blog could be mined for personal information that can be used against you in an online fight so refrain from posting about your fears, insecurities, etc. If you feel you must share this information, then at least keep these posts private.

* Block Offending Accounts: If the cyberbullying attack is done through private messaging or email, it could be sometimes simpler to block the offending account. Unless the cyberbully wants to escalate the situation into a public online campaign [which he or she may hesitate to do so because it would reveal who they are to the public], the attack would run out of steam at this stage.

* Change Contact Information: Similarly, it could also be a good move to just change your contact information [telephone number, cell phone number, email address, etc.] and locking down the new accounts. Of course, you should only give out your new contact information to the persons you trust so as not to invite a repeat of the situation.

* Compile Evidence: One good thing about cyberbullying, as compared to simple bullying, is that everything is left behind like a trail of cookie crumbs leading back to the cyberbully behind the attack. Consider that everything a person does online is tagged with his or her particular IP address that can be used to reveal his or her real world identity. Moreover, the usernames that cyberbullies use may also impart a clue as to who he or she is.

As such, one of the best ways of combating cyberbullying is to compile evidence that can be used against the attacker when the right time comes. The evidence you will have to compile includes text messages, emails, links to sites or networks where the offending materials are posted, derogatory pictures, screen caps, call logs, etc. Take a screen shot for future reference whenever you can, since the bully may delete offending posts if they know authorities are on the trail.

At the very least, you can use this information to report the incident to the concerned internet authorities such as the website administrator, the internet service provider or a search engine. At best, you can use the same information in filing a legal case against the cyberbully in a court of law.

* Track down the Cyberbully: Early on, it would might be a good idea to try and track down the identity of the cyberbully. Most cyberbullies operate behind anonymous profiles on the internet and deem themselves safe from being identified. Knowing their identities and confronting them face to face with the proper authorities in tow can go very far in stopping the attacks.

* Reporting to the Internet Authorities: Most internet sites have terms and conditions when it comes to the use of their site and this almost always includes clauses about cyberbullying and harassment. How you proceed will depend largely on the resources of the site when it comes to dealing with this situation.

  • Blogs, Small Sites, etc: For relatively small or personal sites, your first contact person will be the website administrator. The site’s administrator email can usually be found by clicking on the ‘contact us’ link. A simple email along with screen caps and other documentation proving your case should be enough to remove the offending material from the page. If the material posted is found in a personal blog, you will have to contact the blog provider [blogger.com, wordpress.com, livejournal.com] directly to report the page. Some blog platforms like blogger.com have a report button integrated directly on the blog itself but it would not hurt if you also contact the main site about it through email.
  • Social Networking Sites: Social networking sites like Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Flicker, etc usually have report buttons integrated into the site. This makes it easy to at least report or flag the offensive page to the proper authorities. Identity theft or fake profiles are also a violation of the terms of use in most of these sites so if someone is impersonating you online, you can report it so that the account can be deactivated.

Sometimes, the sheer size of the site will make it hard for the customer service personnel to notice each and every complaint. As such, the number of times and the number of people complaining about the same thing will play a crucial role.

  • ISP Provider: ISP providers play a crucial role in dealing with cyberbullying as they hold the information that can identify who the cyberbully/bullies are and more importantly impose sanctions for the cyberbully’s violation of their terms of agreement. Take note though that these ISPs usually discard usage date after 7 to 30 days so time will be of the essence here. Moreover, it helps to have someone of authority contact them for you and tell them to preserve the information you need.
  • Mobile Service Providers: The same goes forMobile service providers as these companies can also track down the ownership of mobile accounts where the offending text messages or calls originated from.

* Reporting to the School Authorities: it is the teacher’s and the school administrator’s obligation to intervene in cases of cyberbullying in most states. In fact, teachers and school administrators can be held accountable for unresolved cyber bullying cases in some states. As such, you can also ask for help from your:

  • Guidance Counselor: your guidance counselor will probably be the one best aware and equipped to combat cyberbullying. As the frontline in such cases, he or she will usually have the best resources at her disposal for such cases. Moreover, he or she will also know the procedure and the authorities to contact in such cases.
  • Trusted Mentor: A trusted mentor or teacher can also be a big help in at least discussing your situation and subsequently bridging you towards authorities that can help deal with the problem.

* Tell your Parents or Guardian: One of the best possible solutions often overlooked by teens that are victims of cyberbullying is involving their parents. This is because aside from the emotional support you will gain from your own home, your parents will be able to unlock several options of resolving the situation that you can’t on your own. This can be seen in the next section.

* Tell the Police: If you are being threatened physical harm or if there are pornographic pictures involved, the law enforcement authorities should be involved as this is a criminal case and the police will treat it as such thereby making it much more easier for the cyberbully to be caught and makes it more imperative for the internet authorities and school authorities to cooperate.

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