YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
What if I’m Being Cyberbullied?
What you should know
The Internet makes bullying easy. It “allows even good kids to be mean because of the faceless power that the screen builds in,” says the book CyberSafe.
Some people are more likely to be targeted. That includes those who appear introverted, are perceived as different, or suffer from low self-esteem.
Being cyberbullied has serious effects. It can foster loneliness and depression, and it has even led some victims to commit suicide.
What you can do
First, ask yourself, ‘Is it really bullying?’ Sometimes people say hurtful things that they don’t actually mean. When that happens, we can follow the Bible’s wise advice:
“Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense is the mark of a fool.”—Ecclesiastes 7:9, footnote.
On the other hand, when someone intentionally harasses, humiliates, or threatens another person online, that is bullying.
If you are being cyberbullied, remember this: How you respond can make things get better or worse. Try one or more of the following suggestions.
Ignore the bully. The Bible says: “A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a discerning man will remain calm.”—Proverbs 17:27.
One reason that advice works: “The primary goal of bullies is to get targets to lose their cool,” writes Nancy Willard in her book Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats. “When targets lose their cool, they essentially hand over power to the bully.”
The bottom line: Sometimes the best response is no response.
Resist the urge to retaliate. The Bible says: “Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult.”—1 Peter 3:9.
One reason that advice works: “Anger shows weakness, which will encourage more bullying,” says the book Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. Retaliation could also make it appear that you are as much a part of the problem as the bully.
The bottom line: Don’t add fuel to the fire.
Be proactive. The Bible says: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil.” (Romans 12:21) There are things you can do to stop the bullying—without making the situation worse.
Block the person who is sending the messages. “What you don’t read can’t hurt you,” says the book Mean Behind the Screen.
Save all evidence, even if you do not read it. That includes aggressive text messages, instant messages, e-mails, posts on blogs or social media, voice messages, or any other communication.
Tell the cyberbully to stop. Send a firm but nonemotional message, such as:
“Do not send any more messages.”
“Remove what you have posted.”
“If this does not stop, I will take further steps to ensure that it does.”
Build your self-confidence. Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 11:6) Like physical bullies, cyberbullies prey on people who seem vulnerable.
Tell an adult. Start with your parents. You can also report the situation to the website or service that the bully is using. In severe situations, you and your parents should report the situation to your school, report it to the police, or even seek legal advice.
The bottom line: There are steps you can take to stop the harassment or at least reduce the effect that the cyberbullying is having on you.