Self esteem is important, especially when you’re growing up. Some kids have plenty of self esteem, but others run low, which can affect all areas of their lives. It can be the difference between living a happy, healthy life or not.
One of the things that can knock a young person’s self esteem out of the ballpark is bullying. As we spend more and more time on the internet, posting on Facebook or chatrooms and instant messaging, what’s called ‘cybwwer bullying’ is becoming more common.
Australia’s leading online youth mental-health service ReachOut.com defines cyber bullying as: “any kind of bullying or harassment done using technology. It can be public, hard to take down, or affect you at home. There are a lot of things it could be, and it can affect people in a lot of different ways.”
It can be hurtful and embarrassing and, as we all know, posts on the internet are shared quickly and can go viral. The most basic way for cyber bullying to occur is people posting untrue or embarrassing things online. This might be sharing embarrassing photos or videos you never intended to be made public, or it can be through name calling or setting up a fake identity and pretending to be you, and then posting things you would never say.
Sometimes the cyber bullying goes one step further with hurtful and/or threatening emails or direct messages to your inbox. Often, you don’t know who is doing the bullying and most people are unaware of how to stop it.
So what do parents and young people do about cyber bullying, given once something is online it is difficult to take down quickly, and you often don’t know it’s there until someone tells you about it?
Headspace (a national youth mental-health organisation), as well as ReachOut.com, has some good factsheets for parents and kids at au.reachout.com/Cyberbullying and www.headspace.org.au/media/41573/ed%2011.pdf
According to Headspace, 90% of 18–24 year olds and 92% of 15–17 year olds have used the internet. The figures for mobile-phone use are just as high with 88% of 15–25 year olds owning a mobile phone.
“Cyber bullying is different from traditional bullying as it can be anonymous, meaning bullies sometimes feel less responsible and uninhibited by their actions (people say and do things online that they wouldn’t normally do face-to-face). It can be more intense because, rather than it being limited to the schoolyard, cyber bullying can occur 24/7,” Headspace says.
But despite the online bully being sometimes hard to identify, there are ways to deal with it and most importantly put a stop to it. Firstly, ALL bullying and harassment is against the law, and that includes cyber bullying. Secondly, there are ways you can prevent cyber bullying from occurring.
Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. You are the best person to know who your friends are and whether or not they would bully you. Stick with your trusted group of friends online.
Use the privacy settings on Facebook and other applications so that your profile is as private as you want it to be. Then you can control who has access to it. For example, you can block everyone but your friends on Facebook from seeing too many details about you on your homepage.
Most social media will want an email address in order to set up your account, but be careful with your phone number and user ID. If you don’t want to identify yourself, then don’t. Set your username to a pseudonym (false name) if you feel more comfortable with this. And never share your password with anyone, as this is the quickest way someone can hack into your account or put unwanted posts on your pages.
Don’t be afraid to block people or ‘unfriend’ people if you don’t trust them or if they posted things you weren’t comfortable with. Just do it! You deserve to feel comfortable with your online platforms, not exposed or vulnerable.
Some of the unwanted posts on social media have been when people post about themselves or others at a party or when they’re being influenced by their peer group. Think before you post and ask yourself: is that going to embarrass or hurt me or others in the morning?
Always log out, even at home. You just never know when your big brother or sister might post something they think is OK, when it’s not. Logging out is particularly important at school as you don’t want someone logging in as you and sending out unwanted posts.
Remember cyber bullying is against the law. If you are being bullied, whether it’s online or in the school playground, report it. Talk to your parents, and talk to your teachers, and the police should be notified as well.