You are called all sorts of names on the internet… you are put down or someone mocks you… You are probably a victim of cyberbullying. You have options to help you to get rid of this extremely disagreeable situation. Unless… you are the one bullying someone else.

Cyberbullying is when a person or a group of persons use technology either to scare someone or to humiliate them. The side effects of these actions can be distress or lack of self-esteem, often associated with depression.

Hateful words, harassment, threats, blackmail and libel when spread using technology, are all forms of cyberbullying. These actions can be done directly (by email, chat, videoconference, etc.) or indirectly (Facebook, a web page, Flicker, etc.).

Cyberbullying can have serious psychological consequences for victims as well as legal consequences for cyberbullies. Simply transferring an intimidating message, either by Tweet, email or text message can make you an accomplice. What matters is how the victim feels and not what the intentions are of the cyberbully. When we hurt someone, it is no longer possible to simply say things like “it was just a joke” or “I did not mean to hurt”.

Here are some examples of cyberbullying:

Your friend sends embarrassing emails concerning you to another friend who then transfers them to other people in your college. The message is read by so many people that students that you might not even know will talk to you about it in the hallway or even send you emails.

During an online exchange, you play erotic games in front of your webcam. You later find out that you were taped without your knowledge and that if you don’t pay an amount of money, the images or videos will be broadcast on YouTube.

You receive anonymous threatening emails.

A classmate writes on her blog that you are a “fag”.

You are really attracted to someone who does not care about you. Still, you declare your love to that person on your Facebook page, on Twitter and even on your college’s Spotted page. That person asks you to stop, but you don’t.

Following a series of email exchange that became more and more aggressive, you call another girl a “bitch” on your Facebook page.

Even though it is not always possible to stop cyberbullying, we can still try to prevent it by avoiding leaving personal information such as intimate photos or descriptions of situations that could potentially become embarrassing.

One has to be careful in not becoming an aggressor. The internet is certainly not where issues should be resolved.

If you are a victim of cyberbullying, try to stay calm (easier said than done, we know) and act as quickly as possible. Here are some actions to take that will help you to face the situation:

  • Never reply to a text, a message or email which includes cyberbullying: this can spur the aggressor and you will then risk be considered an aggressor.
  • If you receive threats that make you feel insecure, we highly recommend that you contact the police force right away.
  • Keep all messages, emails and screenshots of the sites used to intimidate you: you may need proof later on. If possible, note the date, the time, the URL (address of the internet site, on top of the browser) and the name of the aggressor.
  • If possible, contact the site where the cyberbullying is taking place. For example, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have policies against abuse and they will remove all messages that are judged inappropriate and they will ban the aggressor from using their site. During communications with the site, mention that you are not the one who wrote the text but that it is your reputation that is at stake.
  • If possible, block the person who is sending these emails or message texts. For text messages, communicate with your phone company; in some cases you may need to change your phone number.

In all cases, do not keep the situation to yourself. Talk to someone you trust: a parent, a friend or your college’s Student Services department .