United against bullying online: Types of bullying

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Over the years, bullying has evolved and adapted to the changing world—and, unfortunately, technology now plays a significant role in many forms of bullying among young people. One third of all people on the internet are children, so their presence is significant. The anonymity, accessibility and abundance of online interactions can make people feel more at ease with harassing and hurting others.

As our lives have become increasingly virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand the forms of bullying that take place online so that we can unite against them and help keep young people safe on the internet.

Here are two elements of online bullying: what they are, why they matter, and crucially, how to stop them.

Cyberbullying is defined by stopbullying.gov as “sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.” Unfortunately, this type of behavior can be found on almost every website and messaging platform, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, online gaming communities and SMS. With all of these avenues available to bullies, cyberbullying can quickly become pervasive, with bullies targeting their victims on multiple different platforms, leaving them feeling as if there is no escape.

Targets of cyberbullying may feel helpless, as if there is nothing they can do to prevent this harassment, but this is not the case. On most social media platforms, you can report anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, whether it is photos shared without your consent, malicious rumors or unkind comments. In many states, online harassment is a crime and is taken seriously under the law, so you can even reach out to the police.

Internet trolls are people who post intentionally provocative or offensive messages on other people’s content to upset them. These comments are often focused on physical or personal things about the target, and they can be racist, misogynistic, homophobic or fatphobic. Trolls often feel more comfortable saying these horrible things because they can be anonymous on the internet, and they can make comments that they wouldn’t make in the real world. The effects of trolling can be significant, increasing anxiety and lowering self-esteem for the victim.

One of the most important pieces of advice for people who are being trolled is to not respond to the comments. It can be tempting to defend yourself or argue with them, but trolls are often out to get attention, and denying them a response can be a powerful tool. Additionally, targets of trolling can block the accounts that are leaving unkind comments, meaning that they will not be able to continue posting messages on your page.

To help protect their children from cyberbullying and other online threats, parents can use ESET Parental Control, which is found in a number of ESET products, including ESET Mobile Security and ESET Internet Security. Parental controls like these allow you to filter the content children see, removing access to inappropriate images and videos that they may be sent by cyberbullies.

Application Guard also lets you filter apps by children’s age, preventing—for example—underage access to social media platforms, where much cyberbullying takes place. Usage controls, meanwhile, restrict how long kids can use devices. Capping usage time can help prevent internet addiction, provide young people with a wider perspective, and stop them from becoming overwhelmed if they are facing cyberbullying.

For more information on ESET’s efforts to make the internet a safer place for children, visit SaferKidsOnline. Developed by and for parents, this site features practical advice for communicating with children of all ages about online safety and best practices.