Cyber-bullying is an umbrella term used to define online or internet practices intended to cause harm and invoke feelings of anger, sadness, hurt and humiliation to a specific target or group of targets. The platforms of social media or internet websites are used to spread hate speech and defame a person’s character and image.
Today, we’ll be discussing some of the known types of cyber-bullying and the kind of effects it has on its victims and what we can do to prevent it or help someone through their unpleasant experience.
The bully or perpetrator uses technology or digital communication tools in forms of computers, mobile phones or any other devices that have internet access or a way into social media to humiliate, belittle, hurt or abuse another person. They also persuade, pressurise and force others into participating in similar activities to form hate campaigns against a particular group or person. More often, people whose ideologies align with those of groups spreading hate against others, join in due to the mob mentality, unaware of the consequences and harm caused to the victims.
Cyber-bullying is very evidently noticed on social media, but it can also be prevalent in online gaming communities, streaming networks, helpline or healthcare websites etc. Most times, the victims of cyberbullying are not aware of the perpetrator; the bullies are usually anonymously carrying out bullying behaviour.
Cyber-bullying is not exclusive to any specific demographics but some of the common patterns suggest that celebrities, popular figures on social media, people who are not conventionally “good-looking”, and members of marginalized communities are usual targets.
Some of the types and tactics used by bullies behind their screens could be:
Harassment- A broad category of tactics used with an intention to hurt and abuse others such as,
Posting hurtful or mean comments
Encouraging someone to harm themselves or kill themselves
Sending demeaning, non-consensual, and threatening messages/images
Posting false comments and spreading rumours about someone on public platforms
Doxing- Sharing of personal information or media content such as images, messages or videos of a person without their consent and with intent to humiliate and threaten them such as,
Threatening to circulate personal information or private images/videos
Circulating private media content to others without consent
Fraping and Masquerading- Using target’s personal information to create an account and spread hate, rumours and hurtful content from their name such as,
Creating fake profiles and impersonating them (aka “sockpuppet”) to defame others, spread false information from their behalf
Posting false accusations about someone
Creating a web-page to destroy someone’s image, character and future opportunities
Other forms of bullying could be:
Exclusion- Where the target is intentionally avoided removed or excluded from the internet platform. This is more common among children and adolescents where a target is uninvited to after-school events or parties where the rest of the class is invited except them.
Flaming- Where the online bully directly posts hateful, hurtful comments to embarrass or cause harm to the target.
Trolling- Although it is very common and might not be with intent to upset the person, when the intensity of trolling is intended to harm and cause hurt, it is considered as cyber-bullying.
Trickery- When the target is deceived by the bully to be harmless, well-intended and genuine but trap them into a false sense of safety after they gain the target’s trust. The trust is then abused by spreading personal information or threatening for personal gains.
Cyber-bullying is one of the most common causes for trauma among school going children and people belonging to the margins. The effects of cyberbullying can be physical (disturbed sleep, appetite, tiredness, increased sensory responses), emotional (loss of interest, guilt, shame, increased negative emotional experiences) and psychological (low self-confidence, trauma, loss of sense of security, and distrust) damage to victims.
What can be done to help people from experiencing this is to be mindful of the content we interact with on digital communication tools and social media. And to prevent people from engaging in such behaviours by reporting their profiles and restricting their access to using the platforms to spread hate.
If you are experiencing this, it is suggested to reach out to a trusted one such as a parent, guardian, teacher, school counselor or any trusted adult.
If you are not comfortable with sharing with known persons, seek help from helplines and reach out to professional counsellors.
The professional team of counsellors at Project C Foundation are trained in facilitating help to people who experience cyberbullying. The services provided are free of charge. Do reach out to us for the help you deserve.