Which One of Them is the Cyberbully?
Nasty fake profiles, scathing sub-tweets, embarrassing snapchats—you know what digital drama is, but do you know how you can get sucked in? Read about four different types of online bullies—and make sure you don’t become one of them.
The Mean Mob
It’s Friday night, and you and your friends are having a sleepover at Ashley’s. You’re all bored, so you gather around a laptop, laughing hysterically as Ashley torments her crush’s new girlfriend on Ask.fm.
You tell yourself: “I’m just watching and laughing.”
The problem: An audience is what gives this cyberbully fuel (she’s doing it for the LOLs). So whether you chime in with your own insults or just laugh along with the group, you’re encouraging Ashley to keep it up.
Stand up: This bully is trying to entertain you, and if she doesn’t get the encouragement she’s seeking, she’ll lose interest. If you don’t feel comfortable saying “Stop it, Ashley, you’re being a jerk,” simply suggesting a better use of time may pull the group’s attention away from bullying. (“Hey, who wants to take the ‘Which Divergent Faction Are You?’ quiz with me?”)
The “Innocent” Avenger
Sarah posts a nasty status update about your GF, Jane, on Facebook that says, “Jane got the lead in the play? Barf.” You’re furious. Without thinking twice, you comment-bomb the status, bashing Sarah’s acting skills and calling her stupid. You’ve righted a wrong!
You tell yourself: I’m standing up for my girlfriend.
The problem: Sarah is posting because she’s looking for a reaction. And the crazy thing is, if the original post didn’t get everyone’s attention, your retaliation will. Responding to drama just adds fuel to the fire.
Stand up: Instead of mixing it up with the mean person, connect with the victim—message something supportive, like “Ignore the drama! You’re awesome!” That comment will actually make a difference to the injured party. If you want to “avenge,” say something in person to the perp, and nicely suggest an apology either online or IRL.
The “Oops, did I do that?” Bully
You’re on the bus on the way home from your soccer game, and everyone’s joking about the giant zit on Kayla’s forehead—even Kayla. Laughing, you take a photo of Kayla’s face, then snapchat it to a few friends. (Caption: “This party is about to POP!”) One of the guys you know takes a screenshot of the snap and posts it all over, leaving Kayla devastated.
You tell yourself: It was just a joke!
The problem: Some harmless gags just don’t translate online, and once you share something, you lose control over it—anything can happen.
Stand up: If you cross the line, you can help put out the fire by admitting that you made a mistake. “Even if you didn’t mean it, you have a responsibility to recognize that it’s upsetting or disrupting someone’s life,” says Justin W. Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
The Power-Hungry Harasser
You know what it’s like to be bullied. In fact, you rarely make it through homeroom without someone calling you “loser.” So when that jerk Jake and his friends pour milk all over your sandwich at lunch, it’s the last straw. You go home that night and create a bogus Instagram account, anonymously uploading fake, humiliating pictures of Jake (thanks, Photoshop).
You tell yourself: It’s payback time! Plus, if everyone’s making fun of Jake, they’ll forget about me.
The problem: You’re trying to frighten or embarrass your bully, which makes you feel powerful. But if you fight a bully online, the bully could go to the authorities and you (not him) will get in trouble.
Stand up: Instead of retaliating, talk to an adult you trust, like a parent, coach, or counselor. It sounds lame, but telling is not tattling. This person can help you come up with a plan to solve the problem. (It’ll make you feel stronger than stooping to the bully’s level and becoming a bad guy yourself.)