Think before you type - stop cyberbullying!
Fifteen years ago I was a really skinny girl who wore glasses and braces. I was in elementary school and people were calling me names. All kind of names which hurt. A lot. Someone may say - these are only words, but sometimes they hurt more than physical violence. Especially if you have low self-esteem and you're sensitive. Fifteen years later I'm a confidant young woman who wouldn’t think twice about these names, bad back then…
As if childhood or puberty were not hard enough there were this bullies who kept tormenting you. School was hell, but there was place where you could feel safe - your home. You know what I'm talking about, you probably experienced it as well. Now times have changed. Now this thing called „cyberbullying“ exists. We understand this word bullying, but… What? According to Wikipedia, cyberbullying is the use of information technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, cyberbullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them. With the increase of modern technology, cyberbullying is now everywhere and it's still increasing and the computers or cell phones has become the easiest way to hurt someone. Cyberbullying is open for business 24/7.
After all day of being exposed to bullying in school, kids nowadays are nowhere safe. They are receiving some hurtful messages via cell phone, via Facebook inboxes, just from everywhere and all the time. And what about these messages? They can get rude, nasty, outrageous or even obscene. Kids and teenagers are in this point of their life when they are really sensitive, take things really seriously and they personalities are not developed enough.
What impact does cyberbullying has on people affected by it? It can cause some psychological scars. People feel depressed, sad, and scared. They feel vulnerable, exposed, and powerless because they think they can't stop it. People can feel alone and isolated because they think they are alone in this. Some of them may even feel anger and may seek for a revenge which is even more dangerous because in that case the ones who were bullied become bullies. And the vicious circle continues.
It seems like you can't stop it. But, you can surely reduce it to minimum level! Here is what you can do if you have experienced cyberbullying - tell someone what is happening, ask for help, don't keep it to yourself. Also, don't let this people hurt you, these words don't mean anything. Show these messages, photos or videos to someone older whom you trust or to police if the messages get particularly ugly. If you have a profile on any kind of social media, don't post anything too personal about yourself, think twice before you post anything. Also, be careful with whom you're sharing your messages, photos, videos etc. Don't give the passwords of your accounts to anyone. Also, make your privacy settings stronger. Before you tell something to someone think how would you feel if someone said this words to you. If you are not affected by cyberbullying directly, but you witness it, report it either way and help your friend.
We, youth workers, teachers, parents, kids, we can all work together to stop it (or at least downsize it). Parents and teachers, talk with the kids and youth, take interest in their life, help them. Remember how were things when you were younger and try to understand. Cooperate together to make a better environment for growing and learning for youth.
Author: Ana Tavić, udruga Alfa Albona