(Cyber)Bullying can affect anyone, and the victim is the same as with murder or theft. We can’t say that “it was the person’s own fault“ or that he or she wasn’t self-assertive, strong enough, or things of that kind. Also, it’s not completely uncommon for teachers to become victims too. Cyberbullying differs from normal bullying in that it primarily takes place online. Compared to common bullying, it brings with it several important differences:
- Cyberbullying is considerably less visible – for anyone outside the structure, it’s difficult to recognize the attacker from the victim. Just like with normal bullying, it’s initially associated with a fine line between jokes, poking fun, and the onset of bullying.
- It’s impossible to hide from Cyberbullying – while common bullying is concentrated “only” on classroom interactions during breaks or free time, Cyberbullying is omnipresent. In this regard, it’s much more severe than the physical form.
- Depending on what form it takes, it can permanently damage the “good name” of the bullied individual. It is possible to claim the right to being forgotten, but this isn’t an all-powerful cure. The consequences can be truly unpleasant and long-term.
- It’s just as cruel, and can end in suicide. At the same time, however, it’s still viewed as “less real”, which doesn’t help the victims and fosters the attackers.
Today we look at bullying as a manifestation of a social illness that the afflicted aggressor suffers from. It’s socially pathological behavior, which gives proof of the person’s social and psychological problems. This impassioned statement means that while tools for “whipping the aggressors” or publicly defaming them used to be used to deal with bullying in the past, today we know that the attacker is a person with problems, and we need to help him or her. Usually (and paradoxically), the truly weaker member of the attacker-victim duo is the attacker.
We can understand bullying as “any kind of behavior that aims to hurt, threaten or intimidate another student or group of students. It is the targeted and repeated use of physical and psychological attacks by an individual or group against an individual or group of students, who aren’t able for various reasons to defend themselves.” It’s necessary to differentiate it from a common argument, dispute (or fight in the case of normal bullying) or teasing, which does not aim to hurt others or take advantage of a disproportion of power. Cyberbullying is basically the same, only shifted into cyberspace. Hybrid forms in which bullying in school is combined with Cyberbullying are also common.
Generally speaking, both bullying and Cyberbullying are crimes, which means that the police are engaged in investigating it (if the gravity of the situation calls for it).
What should I do when I’m the victim?
If a person is experiencing Cyberbullying, it’s important to gather a sufficient amount of courage to tell someone. This can be a parent, teacher, the school psychologist, or a friend. The same thing applies for victims of Cyberbullying as does for victims of domestic violence – they have the feeling that it’s their fault, that the situation isn’t so serious, that it’s gotten better, and next time it will be so and so… The courage to tell someone is crucial. Only when a person is able to tell someone can the situation be remedied.
What should I do when I’m the attacker?
If the person is the attacker, it would seem that the easiest path is simply to stop. But, ending things and balancing relationships, reconciling and beginning anew aren’t easy at all. The key to success is not only the decision to end, but also to ask for help – ideally from a teacher, a school counselor or school psychologist. The chances that you’ll manage the situation will then be much greater than if you go it alone.
What should I do when someone confides in me?
In such a case, we have to proceed carefully – on one hand, we can’t break the trust of the person who’s confided in us, but at the same time we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves. Whether you look at bullying as an illness or crime, it’s not something that will go away on its own. Probably the best path is to get advice from a school counselor or school psychologist.
According to the police, the most common manifestations of Cyberbullying are the following:
- sending insulting or intimidating messages or defaming remarks (via e-mail, text message, chat, ICQ, Skype);
- taking audio or video recordings or photographs, modifying them and subsequently publicizing them with the aim to harm the selected individual (a premeditated physical attack, recording a teacher, etc.);
- creating webpages that insult, defame or degrade the specific individuals (blogs and other www pages);
- abusing someone else’s account – identity theft (email, discussions, etc.);
- provoking and attacking users in discussion forums, chat spamming, etc.;
- revealing others’ secrets;
- blackmailing via mobile telephone or internet;
- harassing and stalking by calling, sending messages or ringing.