Friday, November 14, 2014

Ignoring cyberbullies?

By Abigail Clarke: Contributing Content Blogger

When I was young, my eldest sister was bullied at secondary school. I remember her getting the proper sort of advice to ignore it and promised that it would eventually go away. As it turned out for her, the bullying did finally stop. But bullying has changed since then and her situation was tied to in person school days with peers looking to cause trouble.  Now, the internet provides a platform for a new type of bullying that operates differently so why is the advice in dealing with it still the same? Ignore it and hope it goes away? Sorry but this really does not work most of the time unless it's schoolyard bullying. Bullying is basically the same but the way it's perpetrated online is wildly different, and therefore, I think, needs wildly different defenses and countermeasures to fight it.

When a cyber bully is ignored, they usually ramp up their aggressive behaviours knowing they will eventually get a rise out of their target if they keep at them. They can easily recruit the aid of others to either inadvertently or directly gang up on a target. This is a way for them to share the blame by hiding behind others whilst carry out their aggression and creates the illusion they are actually in the right in what they are doing. By ignoring the cyberbully, several negatives are reinforced.  One, silence may give the perception that the bullied person is guilty of whatever is being leveled at them and makes it easier to convince others to join in on the aggression. Two, silence may signal weakness to the bully giving them the impression they are getting to the victim which prompts them to continue their activities and even increase them. The goal of many bullies is to coax and pressure their victim to suicide like it's some kind of sick dare. Three, silence shows the cyberbully that nothing is being done to stop them and that they can get away with the behaviour without responsibility. This encourages them to continue on and start to attack others. Silence can ironically condone the bullying.

So how do you deal with a cyberbully?  First of all, I suggest you don’t engage them directly.  Doing this is not the same as ignoring them but it is a way of cutting off the gratification they derive from their aggression. Without delay you should speak to whomever possible to reveal the bully’s activities. This may be simply going to adults or the websites hosting the activity. Cyberbullies prefer not to be revealed for what they do.  It also shows that in messing with you they will be held accountable and face consequences. One of the worst things a person can do is to be silent and internalise what is happening to them to the point they begin believing what is said about them and blame themselves. For adults who are being cyberbullied, my advice is the same.  Report bullying activity to company officials and to law enforcement. Never hesitate by thinking cyberbullying is trivial and will pass. It rarely does and should be addressed immediately.  It is so important to realise that the problem will not go away if you ignore it. Cyberbullying and abuse isn't the same is childhood bullying amongst children who can be stopped. When it's happening amongst adults that's a different playing field and the same rules don't apply.