Dealing with online harassment
For the vast majority of people the internet provides a positive and very useful experience. However, cyberbullying or online harassment is something that can potentially affect anyone. It can also take different forms from the annoying, to the traumatic – and everything in between. Experiencing online harassment can have a huge impact both emotionally and physically on the victim, but there are ways to deal with it, and supports are available to people.
Types of Online Harassment
- Personal threats and intimidation
This behaviour includes receiving threatening messages, posting abusive and threatening comments on the victim’s profile or other websites.
This involves setting up fake profiles and web pages that are attributed to the victim and it can also involve gaining access to someone’s social media profile or messaging apps and using it to contact others while impersonating the account or profile owner
- Stalking or harassment
This can include repeatedly sending unwanted messages, or making phone calls. Using social media or message boards, to repeatedly harass, or to post derogatory or defamatory statements. Tracking a person’s activity and collecting information about them.
This can include blocking an individual from a popular group or community such as a school or class group, deleting them from friends lists, and/or using ‘ignore functions’
- Personal humiliation
This behaviour involves posting images or videos intended to embarrass someone, it can involve users sharing and posting images or videos of victims being abused or humiliated offline, or users sharing personal communications such as e-mails or messages with a wider audience than was intended by the sender
- False reporting
This behaviour involves making false reports to the service provider or reporting other users for a range of behaviours with a view to having the user’s account or website deleted.
What can I do?
- Don’t Reply to messages that harass or annoy you. Even though you may really want to, this is exactly what the sender wants. Put down your phone or take a step back. Responding immediately can sometimes makes the situation even worse, particularly in serious cases of harassment.
- Keep the Message: You don’t have to read it, but keep it. If you keep getting messages that upset you, you will need to have evidence in order to get help. Website owners, mobile phone companies and the Gardaí will all look for evidence before they will be able to take any action to help you.
- Block the Sender: You don’t need to put up with someone harassing you. If you are getting messages that upset you, block the person. All popular social networks and messaging apps allow users to block other users. On most social networks this is a straightforward process done through the app setting or by clicking on the user profile. On some mobile phones you can block a caller’s number. You might need to check the manual or ask an adult to help you do this.
- Talk to someone you trust, and get support: Speaking to your parents/guardian, friends, or someone you trust is usually the first step in dealing with any issue. In the case of school related bullying messages you should also talk to a teacher you trust. If you need to speak to someone straight away please call Childline on 1800 66 66 66. In serious cases of bullying and harassment you should contact the Gardai. More services and supports are available from a number of organisations.
- Report the Problem: to the people who can do something about it. You can take control, by not putting up with offensive content by reporting it when you come across it. Responsible websites, social networks and mobile phone operators provide ways for their users to report things such as inappropriate content, cyberbullying or hate speech and or other offensive material.
What to do if a friend is being bullied online?
Remember to be a good friend and digital citizen, if you see someone being harassed online or are aware of bullying, there are steps you can take to help that person.
If you are worried a friend or someone you know is being bullied online:
- Let your friend know you are there for them
- Don’t join in or share any comments,posts or pictures that may hurt others
- Report the bullying to someone who can help – a parent or teacher.
- If you see offensive comments online report them to the platform
No one should ever experience harassment online, we can all help make the internet a better place by standing up to online harassment and bullying.