Stop for a moment and ask yourself: How does social media make me feel? Does the content I’m looking at inspire me? Do people I meet online positively influence my life?
The Pew Research Center found that 59% of teens in the US have experienced bullying online. Pew also revealed that they think social media companies, educational institutions, and responsible authorities still don’t have efficient methods of addressing cyberbullying issues.
Often, our closest friends and family members become victims of cyberbullying, and we fail to notice the signs of abuse.
To help, we came up with a list of advice on detecting cyberbullying on social media when it isn’t as obvious and the steps to take to avoid becoming a victim.
Lesser known signs of cyberbullying
1. Frequent mood swings
Cyberbullying victims often struggle to regulate their emotions. Their mood may change quite drastically in a short period of time as a result of the helplessness they feel. Aside from experiencing common symptoms of depression like sadness, loneliness, and feelings of not belonging, people can start showing other uncharacteristic behaviors that we often don’t link to cyberbullying. For instance, those being harassed may show signs of aggression and lash out at people close to them because they are hurt and don’t know how to deal with the situation.
2. Avoiding communication
If someone you know suddenly becomes withdrawn and isolate themselves, it may indicate that they’re either being or have been harassed. Online bullying makes victims feel powerless and ashamed, and they may find it challenging to open up about their experiences. People who are usually outgoing and don’t struggle with communication may now avoid engaging in conversation, or start ignoring calls and messages.
3. Avoiding usual activities and changing habits
Bear in mind that any sudden change in someone’s behavior is worth addressing and may indicate something’s wrong. If you notice that someone you know who usually enjoys engaging in various activities begin to withdraw or drastically change their eating and sleeping patterns, consider it a call for help. Also, any abrupt withdrawal from social media without explanations may point to online harassment.
How to prevent cyberbullying
1. Tweak your social media privacy settings
Default security settings on social media profiles aren’t finely tuned to protect your privacy. Make sure you’re familiar with your privacy settings and take control over how much you’re revealing online. If you’re feeling unsafe, keep your social media profiles private and be more discerning about who you’re connecting with.
2. Block and report abusers
Never hesitate to block someone who has been harassing you on social media. Think of the block button as a form of self-care. Never engage with abusers and set clear boundaries on how you want to communicate with people online. Also, report abusive profiles to stop them from causing more harm in the online community.
3. Keep a record of abusive messages
If someone crosses the line and starts bullying you relentlessly, keep track of all the messages they’ve been sending you. If the situation escalates, you may need them as evidence in court. Bear in mind that inadequately acquired evidence may be labeled as tainted. If the situation gets even worse, seek legal advice on how to store abusive messages correctly.
4. Surround yourself with positivity
Finally, remember that you’re in control of your life and can always choose who you surround yourself with, especially on social media. Say goodbye to negative people and profiles that promote unhealthy behaviors, and surround yourself with those who positively affect your life and the wider community.
With cyberbullying becoming more frequent, we need to find effective ways of handling this issue and helping victims to recover from the trauma they’ve experienced. Remember to always positively influence others and never turn your back on harassment victims who need your help.