Bullies used to just corner you on the playground, push you in a locker, or spread unbelievable rumors about you. Today they take their power trips online, where they can do some real – and lasting – damage. Parents struggling to help their kids deal with cyberbullies are at one huge disadvantage: no one cyberbullied them – it wasn’t a thing back then, so how can you know what it’s like?
Cyberbullying is particularly insidious because it lingers online for a long time and because the anonymity of the Internet coaxes vicious responses from the bullies and their online gangs. Complicating matters further, kids live and die by their online personalities, they are as important (or more important) than who they are offline, so cyberbullies can have a devastating effect on a kid’s budding social life.
Identify Your Bully
Know who your bully is in real life. Targets of localized cyberbullies will usually know who it is – some other kid in class, or a punk that lives in the neighborhood. But a lot of time the attacks from someone online – someone hiding behind a profile or handle on a forum or website.
You should try to get the person’s email address. If you can, you can put it into a reverse lookup search engine and see who they really are. You can even get their home address. You can find an email address on their profile, usually, or you can create a fake identity and try to coax it out of them.
If someone is harassing you on social media, it’s even easier to find them. Take their name and general location and plug it into the same reverse lookup engine – you’ll be shocked at how fast you can pinpoint just who the bully is in real life.
Block Your Bully, Block Their Friends
Most social media platforms, websites and other online services have great ways to block abusive users. Report the bully and all of their friends, and block them. They may retaliate, calling you or your child a coward for running away, but if you’re out of sight you are out of mind. The bully will forget about you and move on. If you can’t ID your bully, this may be the best option you’ve got to keep your peace of mind online.
Take Your Personal Information Offline
Take all of your personal information offline. Don’t list your hobbies, family members, address or other personal info on your social media profiles or other online profiles. The less info a bully has to use against you, the less powerful they’ll be. This is also a good idea to protect you from real predators that are out there and keeps your privacy intact.
Make Internet Security a Priority
Make sure you’re logging out of accounts, changing passwords regularly and using secure browsers. Don’t leave browsing histories on public computers, don’t share passwords and use general common sense to keep your sensitive info under lock and key. Bullies love to hack into social media accounts, steal photos, friend lists and find incriminating info.
Fight Them in Court
Want to take the fight to the bully? Sue them. Report them to the police, the FBI, or other authorities. Schools are typically ineffective at responding to cyberbullies, but law enforcement may take it more seriously especially if there’s a possibility the bully is part of a terrorist group or is planning violent action like a school shooting.
Contact an attorney and hire your own, legal, bully. See if there’s a case for a lawsuit. Dragging a bully or their family through the expense and hassle of a lawsuit will teach them a lesson.
Cyberbullies shrivel and fade away when you shine the flashlight on them. Finding out who they are, posting it online and fighting back by reporting them or even suing them will help you end the problem.