Are You Secretly a Cyberbully?

You know digital drama—the cruel snaps, comment trolls, and passive-aggressive subtweets are everywhere. But did you know that there are sneakier forms of cyberbullying? Here are four kinds to watch for—and what to do if you spot them.

1. THE CARELESS CLASS CLOWN

Everyone’s joking about the giant zit on Kayla’s forehead—even Kayla. Laughing, you take a photo of Kayla’s face, then snap it to a few friends. (“This party is about to POP!”) But someone takes a screenshot and posts it all over, leaving Kayla devastated.

It was just a joke!

Some harmless gags don’t translate online, and once you share something, you lose control over it.

If you’ve gone too far, you can help make up for it 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 Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

2. THE INNOCENT BYSTANDERS

It’s Friday night, and you and your friends are having a sleepover at Ashley’s house. You’re all bored, so you gather around a laptop, laughing hysterically as Ashley torments her crush’s new girlfriend by sliding into her DMs with savagely mean memes.

I’m just watching and laughing.

An audience is what this cyberbully craves. So whether you chime in with your own insults or just laugh along with the group, you’re encouraging Ashley to keep it 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, that’s really cruel,” simply suggesting a better use of time may pull the group’s attention away from bullying. (“Hey, who wants to take the ‘Which Riverdale Character Should You Date?’ quiz with me?”)

3. THE REPUTATION PROTECTOR

Sarah posts a nasty status update about your girlfriend on Facebook that says, “She got the lead in the play? Barf.” You’re furious. Without thinking twice, you comment-bomb the status, bashing Sarah’s acting skills. You’ve righted a wrong!

I’m defending my girlfriend.

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 this social media fire.

Instead of throwing shade at 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 really want to remedy the situation, talk to the perp in person and nicely suggest an apology to the victim either online or IRL.

4. THE REVENGE SEEKER

You know what it’s like to be bullied. So when Jake and his friends pour milk all over your sandwich at lunch, it’s the last straw. You create a bogus Instagram account, anonymously uploading totally fake, humiliating pictures of Jake.

It’s payback time! Plus, if everyone’s making fun of Jake, they’ll hopefully forget about me.

You’re trying to frighten or embarrass your bully, which makes you feel powerful. But if the bully goes to the authorities, it’s you—not him—who will get in trouble.

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. (Bonus: It’ll make you feel stronger than stooping to the bully’s level and becoming a bad guy yourself.)

A Sincere Compliment
Duration: 2:14 | Jeremiah created a Twitter account to combat bullying and spread kindness at his school.
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