Being bullied is traumatic and when it moves online, things can actually get worse. Cyberbullying doesn’t just happen to kids and teens in high school — adults can be bullied, too. Luckily, there are other things to do if you’re being bullied online to protect yourself. Every state deals with cyberbullying and stalking differently, and it’s easy to talk yourself out of going to law enforcement, especially if you don’t know who the person is or they live in a different state than you. If you’re being physically threatened or know your cyber bully, you definitely should report it to your local police and see what legal options you have as soon as possible.
Cyberbullying is different than trolling, but they’re connected.
An internet troll will try to bait you; A cyberbully will be way more invested, and could possibly be someone you know. It’s an absolute travesty that reporting bullies on social networks like Facebook or Twitter doesn’t always result in the bully being banned from the site. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report them anyway.
Often, bullies can just create more accounts to harass you once they get suspended or blocked, so you’re stuck in an endless whack-a-mole game trying to shut them down. It can drive a woman crazy. Probably the most important thing to remember is to not keep quiet about what’s happening. Tell your friends or someone you trust about what’s happening, because you don’t have to go through this all alone.
Here are some good steps to conquering a cyberbully.
1Don’t delete anything.
It’s natural to immediately want to just delete or erase an offensive or cruel message from a bully. But you can do that later. First, take a screenshot of everything, especially if it’s happening on a social network and the bully has an option to delete their message when they get scared of getting caught. If you’re being bullied via email, save them in a special folder or print them out. Having records of everything is important if anything escalates.
2Report them and block the account.
Once you’ve made copies of their messages, report the account to the social network and then block them. If it’s happening via email, you can even report and block a Gmail user. When you block a bully, you’re likely going to rev them up a little more, so don’t be surprised when you see a different account bullying you in just the same way. This is when your head is going to start to spin. Keep blocking and reporting, even if you think you can just ignore it. If things get out of control down the road, you’re going to want to be able to show that you were cutting your bully out.
3Talk to law enforcement, if possible.
Again, every state deals with cyberbullying differently, since it’s still ridiculously considered a gray legal area. If the harassment is ongoing and there are physical threats, you should go to the police right away with your stack of nasty Facebook messages and hand it over. Depending on the laws, they might be able to contact the bully’s internet service provider or at least find the IP address.
4Don’t try to fight the bully.
It’s tempting to want to talk back to your bully and defend yourself. Whatever you do, don’t do that. Bullies get off on trying to make you feel powerless, and when you go back at them, you’re showing them that they’ve hit a nerve. It’s hard, but don’t respond to any bullying message. Not responding isn’t ignoring them. Take action in other ways: Screenshot, report, and block. That’s your new mantra.
5Don’t believe the bully.
Again, bullies are trying to break you down for whatever sick reason they have. Don’t believe the hype. Being bullied can lead to low self esteem, anxiety, and depression — all legitimate mental health issues. You are not anything the bully says you are.
6Talk to friends about it.
You don’t have to go through all of this alone. If you’re in a school or work setting, tell an administrator or human resources. In addition to documenting things, reporting the bully to a social network or law enforcement, tell a friend about what’s going on and talk about it. The effects of bullying can last for years, according to a wealth of research. It’s not your fault that you’re being harassed and talking about it will make it easier to deal with when you have to head back to your phone or computer.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue, so treat it like one. You don’t have to get offline, but you do have to stay physically and mentally safe.