Cyberbullying is a broad concept that encompasses all types of online harassment and other negative experiences you may confront online. The internet is polluted with bullies who send, post, or share negative content about others on various online platforms. You most commonly hear it in relation to online conversations. The web is world wide, and some might even say infinite. The perimeters of what happens on the internet are, therefore, also infinite.
The people you interact with on the internet will not always be good people. Although the internet is there to make the world a better place, the people who use it might not have the same intentions.
Their intentions might be only to insult, defame, degrade, harass and embarrass. These people are the cyberbullies on the internet’s playground.
What is cyberbullying?
Bullies are everywhere. The playground, at work and as, of late, bullies are online. That is what cyberbullying is. If it happens over any digital device like cell phones, computers, and tablets, it’s called cyberbullying.
It can happen in different ways. These ways include:
- Text messaging: Bullying via text message is common. People resort to cowardly methods to make fun of or hurt other human beings. They do this by telling lies, insulting others, and sending embarrassing messages. This is most common amongst children and teens, but is not limited to this age group. Cyberbullying can happen to anyone at any age. Caution should always be exercised. You need to think before you send out anything sarcastic or offensive via text message.
- Emails: Spam is not the worst thing about emails. Cyberbullying is worse, moreso when it happens in the workplace. Being harassed or threatened by colleagues will affect how you do your job. It could end up making you quit your job.
- Social media: Cyberbullying has extended to social media platforms too. For a cyberbully, social media presents an opportunity to spread rumours and mistreat people online. Cyberbullies exploit the instant access they have to you and your close circles. As of late, it is not just words. The use of memes, GIFs, reels is now the most prominent method of cyberbullying.
- Online forums: The one thing any bully hates is being wrong or being challenged. Unfortunately, that’s what online forums are usually for. Debates and back-and-forths between what is right and wrong. On these forums, cyberbullies use violent and abusive language. The foul language is usually used to intimidate, isolate, and degrade their victims.
- Blogposts and interactions: We all have freedom of expression. Blogposts are one of the best ways to express yourself. We all hope for our expressions to be met with kindness. This, of course, is not always the case. Strangers who could have simply skimmed through your blog post will take time to belittle you and your work.
- Gaming sites: Competition of any kind is a breeding ground for inflated egos and uncontrolled tempers. You could simply be playing for fun only to find yourself despising the game. This may happen due to cyberbullying or you experiencing unpleasantness online.
Even though most are just mean or spiteful acts designed to hurt feelings and intimidate, cyberbullying can get to a point where it crosses the line. It becomes unlawful or criminal behaviour. At Bidvest Insurance, we define any form of online harassment to include:
- Infringement or interference with your rights of privacy or publicity.
- Being portrayed in a false light. This can include false rumours and defamation of character.
- Unauthorised public disclosure of private information.
- Intrusion as a result of cyber harassment.
Are you a victim of cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is very similar to being bullied in person. The only difference is the medium. Cyberbullying includes;
- Crude names and labels (humiliation): The most basic tactic cyberbullies use is name calling. They constantly use profane language with the aim of humiliating you.
- Rumours and false information about things you said or did (defamation of character): The sad thing is people will believe a lot of the things that they read. This is regardless of how true or false they are. This is something cyberbullies use to their advantage. Before you can even defend yourself, the internet can be filled with misinformation about you.
- Threatening physical harm or violence: The extent cyberbullies will go to can be unknown and erratic. It can go past insults and become physical threats. It is always best to be cautious, regardless of how harmless the threats might seem.
- Withholding access to someone’s rightfully owned possessions: Most business activities have moved to the digital space. Selling on social media has also become very common. For some, this convenience can completely inconvenience their life. Once some online sellers have received payment they become unbearably rude. Alternatively, online buyers can use cyberbullying tactics to defraud or scam online sellers.
- Theft and/or extortion: It can be personal information or being forced through violent threats. Online theft and extortion is not just cyberbullying. It is also a crime.
- Coercion: It’s not just that people are gullible. There are people who spend hours on end scheming, and those people can be very convincing. Whether it’s money, time or resources. Online coercion of any kind can be seen as cyberbullying. Online coercion usually happens under the guise of a romantic relationship. People are coerced into sending personal information and images. The information and images are then used to bully and extort the victim.
- Impersonating someone: Identity theft is a very serious crime. There are millions of people who suffer from it, year in and year out. Although online impersonation might not seem serious at first, it can have serious consequences.
- Disclosing personal information: Cyberbullies seem to not understand that personal information means exactly that: personal. Disclosing your personal information is another tool in their arsenal of nasty tricks. This is without taking into consideration the dangers it could lead to.
- Social media posts or comments: The comments section has given power to bullies who use it for evil. Vile comments and attacks on a person/s or products have become common. At times, the comments can become violent and threatening.
Cyberbullying can be damaging. The effects may not always be easy to handle. Cyberbullying could lead to outcomes that result in criminal behaviour and dangerous medical conditions such as depression or suicidal thoughts.
It’s important that you know how to deal with it if you are being bullied.
How do I know if I am cyberbullying someone?
This might happen, even if you haven’t intended to behave like a bully. Your words and actions still might be perceived as threatening. It is important to have positive intentions or be clear in ambiguous situations. This is to make sure that you aren’t acting and saying things out of malice. Controlling our reactions in heated scenarios is difficult.
The best way is to make sure that you are abiding by the rules and regulations, the code of conduct and the ethical guidelines of the platform you are using.
Is cyberbullying a problem in South Africa?
The truth is that cyberbullying is a problem anywhere where there is an internet connection. And that’s available everywhere. South Africa does have a serious problem when it comes to cyberbullying. Although it has taken some time, new legislation is in place to fight cyberbullying in South Africa. On the 26th of May 2021, the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020 was finalised.
The effects of cyberbullying
It’s not just children but also adults who can be affected by cyberbullying. It might not always play out the same, but the effects are very similar. Cyberbullying can result in:
- Low self-esteem.
- Feelings of worthlessness.
This, at times, changes your behaviour even further. You might find:
- You no longer want to talk to friends or socialise.
- You never leave your home, or you’re isolated in your room.
- You can’t concentrate on work.
- You have trouble sleeping.
- You feel alone and suicidal.
Does cyberbullying happen to adults?
Yes, cyberbullying does happen to adults. Adults being victims of cyberbullying is an overstatement. It’s not hard to believe when you look at the comments under the social media posts. It’s usually people with large followings like celebrities, athletes and politicians. It does however also happen on a daily basis to everyday people too.
What is the best way to prevent cyberbullying?
Usually the best way to prevent cyberbullying is to block the bully. In cases where it is not just a few people, but feels like an entire platform or channel, take a break from said channel or platform. If it is beyond your control, Cyber Rescue from Bidvest Insurance can help.
What is Cyber Rescue?
Cyber Rescue is our personal cyber insurance solution. We insure you as the individual against a range of cyber risks. We also provide a host of unique benefits, such as a cyberbullying benefit. Cyber Rescue also provides a family package option so that you can make sure you and your loved ones are covered.
The Cyberbullying benefit offers you legal advice and mediation at your side if you become a victim of online bullying.
Cyberbullying is a growing concern, but luckily it is something that can be overcome. If you or your loved one are affected by cyberbullying, Cyber Rescue from Bidvest Insurance will provide you with the help that you need. Our policies result from our understanding of the ever changing world. The more things change, the more we keep you covered.
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