As we adapt to progresses in Technology and changes in attitudes and behaviours, Cyber-bullying is an area that is constantly changing.
Social networking sites, messaging apps and gaming sites can be great fun and a positive experience. But what do you do when things go wrong?
21st century youth are constantly switched-on in a socially connected world. Social media represents a new model of relationship for today’s generation, where global connection is the norm. Today’s young people have been born into a world of advanced technology, which is not only normal but an expected right. The right and ability to use technology manifests itself in a myriad of ways, far outstripping the uses of most adults, with young people communicating, socialising, networking and creating through, with and because of, technology. But with rights come responsibilities and as parents and educators afford and promote the use of technology, often neglected are the responsibilities that must come in tandem with these rights.
Technology is easily abused and misused and if you are using and accessing these tools, you must ensure you use them safely and respectfully. These technologies are extremely useful and particularly help us to learn, play and connect with others. Problems occur when people do not understand the consequences of using the technologies and fail to use them with respect.
The recent rise of cyber-bullying incidents highlights the dangerous and harmful ways in which technologies can be manipulated to harass or degrade others. As technology has become more accessible and imbedded in daily life, many people have rapidly found themselves dealing with the fallout of abuse and misuse of the Internet, mobile phones and more.
Potentially, vast numbers of people can witness a cyber-bullying incident take place. The relatively new phenomenon of something ‘going viral’ describes the way in which the internet can be used to spread an act of bullying to thousands, even millions of people. The media is full of high profile cases of young people taking their own lives after suffering from cyber-bullying and the spreading of their humiliation. This is a clear indicator of just how dangerous cyber-bullying can be.
There are many ways in which a person can be cyber-bullied and for some people, it happens in more ways than one. Some types of cyber-bullying are:
Flaming: This is sending really offensive, angry, rude, vulgar messages directly to a person or persons or to an online group with the purpose of causing online arguments or fights.
Harassment: This is when a person sends repeated and prolonged offensive, rude, insulting and abusive messages to another person. It can also be consistent nasty or humiliating comments on posts, photos and in chat rooms or being explicitly offensive on gaming sites.
Denigration: This is when someone sends or posts harmful fake, untrue rumours, information or photos about a person to others. This can be on any site or through an app.
Cyber-stalking: This is the act of repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, harassment, intimidation or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for their safety. Depending on what has been done, the actions may be illegal.
Impersonation: This is when a person hacks into another person’s email or social networking account and uses their identity to post/send online material to or about others.
Outing or trickery: This is when a person is tricked into sending secrets or personal information that can then be used to forward to others online. This can also be done with private images and videos too.
Exclusion (Ostracising): This is purposefully excluding someone from an online community/closed group or gaming site. This is a form of social bullying and is very common.
Threats and intimidation – sent to people by mobile phone, email or online. Anyone who makes threats to another person on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It is against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause distress or alarm to another person. If someone threatens you, it is vital you make a complaint to the police. The police will need to see the threats made against you so if you are unable to print out the threats use the ‘print screen’ button to take a snapshot of the computer screen and then save that somewhere safe. If you have a phone or tablet, use the ‘screenshot’ function and keep the images safe.
Vilification / Defamation – This is the act of injuring another person’s reputation by slanderous communication, whether written or oral. It is when a person maliciously tries to damage the good name of another’s individual character, product or business. Don’t spread rumours or make up false things about a person you have fallen out with. You are not allowed to upload anything which is threatening, abusive or which is defamatory. It’s defamatory if you say untrue things about someone which can give them a bad reputation they don’t deserve. It can also be harassment which is a criminal offence in the UK.
Identity theft, unauthorised access and impersonation – ‘hacking’ by finding out or guessing a username and password. Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common problem in the United Kingdom, as fraudsters discover more and more ways to get hold of the information which is required to steal someone’s identity
Identity theft involves the perpetrator of the crime taking a person’s personal information and then using this in an unauthorised way for their own personal gain.
Manipulation and Blackmail – This can involve getting people to act or talk in a provocative way. Many young people have been pressured by ‘friends’ online to take their clothes off and film or take images of themselves. If they refuse, threats are then made to tell their parents embarrassing and/or sensitive information. If they have already sent images over and refuse to send more, they are threatened further and told the images will be sent to everyone they know if they don’t continue to send them.
This is a criminal offence called ‘Grooming’ and those found guilty of grooming can face a prison sentence.
Everyone you meet on the Internet is a stranger and it is essential that you do not share personal information, secrets and images with them. If you are asked to anything that makes you feel concerned, uncomfortable or afraid, DON’T DO IT. Tell a parent or guardian and report the person immediately.
Sexting – This is when one person sends to another a naked picture or ‘nudes’, underwear shots, sexual or ‘dirty pics’ rude text messages or videos. These can be sent to or from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone you’ve met online.
When you’re under 18 it is against the law for anyone to take or have a sexual photo of you – even if it’s a selfie.
This means that if you pressure someone into taking a photo or you share or redistribute a sexual photo with someone, you are breaking the law. The law is there to protect young people and the police have the power to decide whether it is for the best to record what’s happened or to take things further.
Inappropriate Images – In today’s technological world, it is very easy to save pictures of anyone on any site and upload them to the Internet – on view for thousands to see. If you upload a picture of someone to the Internet, always make sure you have their permission and they’re happy for you to do so. Don’t let people take pictures of you that you may find embarrassing and always make sure they have your permission before uploading a picture of you to the Internet.
Be careful when ‘tagging’ or ‘hash tagging’ as this can send the picture out to an even wider audience.
Never upload a picture for other people to ‘have a laugh at’ or digitally alter pictures of other people – even if you fall out with a person. This is hurtful and upsetting and can be seen as harassment.
Internet service providers, such as, Sky, BT or Virgin, have an electronic note of our online activity. Every time you visit a website or post on a website, even if you create an anonymous email address, you can still be traced. If you post abuse about anyone else online or if you send threats, you can be traced by the police without any difficulty.
When using passwords, always make sure they are unusual. Use a combination of letters, lowercase, uppercase, symbols and numbers. Don’t use any part of your name or email address and don’t use your birth date. When you do use information like this, it is easy for people who know you to guess what your password might be. Don’t let anyone see you signing in and if they do, change the password as soon as you can. Never share your password with anyone.
If you are using a public computer such as one in a library, computer shop, or even a shared family computer, make sure you sign out of any online service you are using before leaving the computer so that you can protect your privacy.
Being bullied online can have a detrimental effect on a person. It can affect a person’s self-esteem, confidence and social skills. In many cases people who have been bullied have had to leave school, work and social networks to escape their bullying. Try to consider the impact your words may have and think twice before posting. Remember, cruel words, nasty texts, messages and emails are all weapons – and weapons can hurt and kill.
Think twice before you post anything online because once it’s out there you can’t take it back. It is very easy for any comments or posts you make online to be taken out of context and these could be damaging to you in the long term. Read more about digital footprints and how this can affect your life both online and offline