Cyber bullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Online threats and mean, aggressive, or rude texts, tweets, posts, or messages all count. So does posting personal information, pictures, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass someone else.

Cyberbullying also includes photos, messages, or pages that don’t get taken down, even after the person has been asked to do so. In other words, it’s anything that gets posted online and is meant to hurt, harass, or upset someone else.

Intimidation or mean comments that focus on things like a person’s gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, or physical differences count as discrimination, which is against the law in many states. That means the police could get involved, and bullies may face serious penalties.

Online bullying can be particularly damaging and upsetting because it’s usually anonymous or hard to trace. It’s also hard to control, and the person being victimized has no idea how many people (or hundreds of people) have seen the messages or posts. People can be tormented nonstop whenever they check their device or computer.

Sometimes, people are afraid or not sure if they’re being bullied or not. So they don’t do anything about it. If you’re being bullied, harassed, or teased in a hurtful way — or know someone who is — you don’t have to suffer in silence. In fact, you absolutely should report any upsetting texts, messages, posts, or emails.

Tell someone. Most experts agree: The first thing to do is tell an adult you trust. This is often easier said than done. People who are cyberbullied may feel embarrassed or reluctant to report a bully. Some may hesitate because they’re not 100% sure who is doing the bullying. But bullying can get worse, so speak up until you find someone to help. Sometimes the police can track down an anonymous online bully, so it’s often worthwhile to report it.

Report bullying. Social media sites take it seriously when people post cruel or mean stuff or set up fake accounts. If users report abuse, the site administrator may block the bully from using the site in the future. If someone sends you mean texts or emails, report it to phone service or email providers (such as Comcast, Google, and Verizon).

Block the bully. Most devices have settings that let you electronically block the bully or bullies from sending notes. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a friend or adult who does.

Be safe online. Password protect your smartphone and your online sites, and change your passwords often. Be sure to share your passwords only with your parent or guardian. It’s also wise to think twice before sharing personal information or photos/videos that you don’t want the world to see. Once you’ve posted a photo or message, it can be difficult or impossible to delete. So remind yourself to be cautious when posting photos or responding to someone’s upsetting message.

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