Bullying is a problem which has always been present in society, and has in the majority of cases affected children. In addition, with the arrival of new technologies, internet and mobile devices, this danger has increased, giving rise to an even less controlled phenomena, known as cyberbullying.
In order to anticipate and prevent the appearance of bullying on social networks it will be necessary to follow these tips and recommendations
For children and teenagers
- It is not your fault. On many occasions people categorise as “bullying” a simple dispute between 2 people, but if someone is repeatedly cruel to you then this is bullying, and you must keep in mind that nobody deserves to be treated cruelly.
- Do not respond or retaliate. On some occasions it is worse if you react, because that is exactly what the bully wants. It is a way in which you make the aggressor feel they have power over you, and they should not think that. If you respond and attack a bully this could be the trigger for you to become one, and cause a chain reaction stemming from an event that in principle was insignificant. If you can, try to distance yourself from the situation, but if you cannot, then sometimes try to use humour to disarm the aggressor and distract them from their objective.
- Keep all evidence. The only good thing about cyberbullying is that the event is usually captured, stored, and can be shown to someone who is able to help you. You can keep all evidence in case things get worse.
- Tell the aggressor to stop. This is completely up to you. Do not do it if you are not completely comfortable with doing it, because you will have to make it clear that this is the last time you will allow them to treat you in that way. Perhaps you need to practice beforehand with someone you trust, such as your parents or your best friend.
- Seek help. Especially if the situation is really affecting you. You deserve backup, so you have to look for someone who can listen to you or help you, and work towards a solution. It could be a friend, a relative, or an adult you trust.
- Use the available technology. The majority of social networks, Apps and services allow contacts to be blocked. Whatever type of cyberbullying you are suffering, you must block the person who is responsible and report the problem to the corresponding service or application. Although this may not stop the situation, you can prevent this public form of bullying, and you will be less tempted to reply. If you receive threats which could jeopardise you physically, you must call the police and consider reporting the case to the school authorities.
- Protect your accounts. Do not share your passwords with anyone, not even your best friends, as these friendships may not last forever. You must also encrypt access to your telephone so that nobody can use it without your permission or access your private information.
- If someone you know is being bullied, take action. To know what is happening and do nothing about it empowers the aggressor and does nothing to help the situation. The best thing you can do is try to stop the person responsible by speaking to them and showing them that you are against what is happening. If you cannot stop them, at least you will have shown support for the bullied person. In the event that the victim is a mate of yours, you can listen to them and see how you can help in order to find the best moment to report what has happened. The least you can do is not ignore a hurtful message, and make the person see that you do not agree.
Additional advice for parents
- You should think yourself lucky if your child asks for help. The majority of young people do not tell their parents that they are being marginalised. Si if your child asks for help, does not want to go to school, or seems agitated when turning on the mobile phone, then ask what the matter is in a calm way, as openly as possible. Feel free to ask if it has anything to do with negative or rebellious behaviour, or if it is some type of social problem. But even if it is due to that, do not assume it is a case of bullying. You will not know until you have the full story, beginning with the young person’s point of view.
- Work with your child. You must become implicated in their problems in order to help with recovery. Bullying is intimately connected with school life, and children understand the situation and the context better than their parents. Their perspective is the key for getting to the bottom of the matter and working on a solution. Perhaps you need to have a private conversation with others, but let your child know and tell them what was said.
- Think before offering a quick answer. What parents do not always know is that they can make the situation worse if they hurriedly. If you respond publicly, or if the classmates get to know about your meeting with the school authorities, then the child could become more severely marginalised, and thus any measure has to be thought through.
- You need to have more than one perspective. Although your child is completely sincere child about what they believe is happening, remember that one person’s truth is not necessarily that shared by everyone. You will need to get other perspectives and keep an open mind. Sometimes we only see a small part of the story.
- What helps victims most is being listened to. Whether by a friend or a significant adult. For that reason if your child asks for help it is very important that you respond with moderation and you get involved. Simply being listened to with respect puts children on the path to recovery.
- The ultimate aim is that your child regains their self-respect. This is the best way to solve the problem and help with your child’s recovery. What victims need most urgently is to regain their sense of dignity and self-esteem. Sometimes this requires taking measures against the bully, and sometimes not.
- There is a positive side, which is resilience. We know that humans will never completely eradicate cruelty, and we also know that bullying is not simply a rite of passage. We have to continue working towards putting an end to it, but when it occurs and we overcome it, our resilience grows. This is not something which can be downloaded or taught. We grow through confronting challenges and complications, so sometimes it is important to leave room for all this to take place, while being there for if we are needed.
If you wish to know more about the subject, the Action against Cyberbullying Guide, from red.esis now available. You can also access the Six recommendations for the prevention of Cyberbullying campaign, by Telefónica and PantallasAmigas, with the collaboration of the National Police Force (CNP), the Organization of Iberoamerican States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), Tuenti and Red.es itself.