There’s an old saying that has been repeated for decades: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. In recent years, we are learning that may not be as true as we once thought.
Types Of Bullying
A lesser known type of bullying is relationship bullying. This would be using your relationship with a person to hurt them, such as refusing to talk – or the “silent treatment” – excluding a person from groups or group activities, spreading lies and rumors about someone, or making a person do something they don’t want to do for fear of losing that relationship.
Statistically speaking, boys are more likely to engage in physical bullying while girls are more likely to use verbal or relationship bullying. However, the last couple of decades of technological advancement have brought another form of bullying to the forefront.
Cyberbullying has made it possible for bullies to continue their aggression even when their target is at home. With the prevalence of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and all the forms of communication these devices provide, a bully can attack any time of day and from anywhere.
Because cyberbullying relies on the internet, many times bullies can hide their identity, making it harder to find the bully. It also means the ones being bullied have nowhere that they can feel safe. While physical and verbal bullying is damaging, it requires that a person is engaging with someone in some kind of physical way. Once the person is away from the bully, they can find some relief. Cyberbullying is dangerous because it strips a person of their safe space. It also makes it easy for a cyberbullying victim to turn the tables and become a cyberbully.
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Does Cyberbullying Affect Us The Same Way?
The results of bullying and cyberbullying are similar and prove that words can hurt us, just as physical violence does. The goal of all bullying is to hurt another person. That might be making a person feel angry, afraid, helpless, ashamed, guilty, embarrassed, even suicidal.
Because of the intensity of these feelings, a person’s physical health can deteriorate. There are some mental health issues that may arise, like depression or anxiety, and some even develop a form of PTSD. Students and young people who are bullied are also more likely to drop out of school or at least do poorly.
And while face-to-face bullying can have serious consequences, cyberbullying can, in some ways, be even more painful for a victim. This is partly due to the ease of which a bully can target someone any time of day, even when they are not physically in the same location. It allows the bully to invade your home and your time with family.
Because it can be done anonymously, cyberbullying is also difficult to handle. A person may not know who the cyber-attacker is and, because they can’t see your reaction, a cyberbully may take their torment much further than they would if it were face-to-face. Additionally, it allows the torment, rumors, taunts, etc, to be seen by potentially thousands of people. Social media is great for connecting with people, but it can often allow a cyberbully to publicly target a person with a much wider audience.
A person being bullied may wonder why they are being targeted. In grade school, it can sometimes be a result of not “fitting in” or a bully choosing a target that falls in a demographic that makes them uncomfortable. Kids can also start bullying to make themselves popular, to gain attention, out of jealousy, to look tough, to escape or distract from their own problems, or because they are also being bullied.
No matter why a person is being bullied, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Many people experience some form of bullying in their lifetime. And there are ways to cope with bullying that are healthy and constructive.
While there is no simple solution to stop bullying, some of the most effective ways to handle it are to remember that it’s not your fault. Even if you are being targeted for something that makes you unique, you shouldn’t blame yourself. If you can, try imagining the bully’s perspective. Perhaps they are insecure or experiencing their own set of problems. While that doesn’t make their bullying ok, it can help to empathize with them.
You can also try stress management tools. Bullying will often lead to higher levels of stress and knowing how to manage those will improve your quality of life. That could mean exercise, meditation, positive self-talk, self-care, and breathing exercises.
Also, find hobbies and activities that you enjoy. Engaging in those things that make you happy and reduce your stress will help to alleviate some of the pain that bullying can cause.
Most importantly, find support. It is vital that you turn to trusted people to help you deal with a bully. Parents, teachers, counselors, or other trusted adults are great options to help you resolve issues with a bully. Rely on your friends, as well, to help you emotionally navigate the impact of bullying. You may also want to take a break from technology. Unplug and focus your thoughts elsewhere.
If you are experiencing cyberbullying, consider avoiding any response to the bully. That removes the satisfaction they get from a response. It’s also important to manage your emotions enough that you don’t seek revenge. And while you shouldn’t seek revenge, you should definitely save evidence of the cyberbullying. Take that evidence to a trusted adult to show the type of abuse you are experiencing.
If you ever receive threats of harm or inappropriate messages, you should absolutely report them to the police. In these cases, cyberbullies can be prosecuted.
Cyberbullying Warning Signs
If you’re the parent of a child or teen, be sure to look out for signs that your child is being bullied. They may have a sudden withdrawal from family, friends, or activities they normally enjoy. Keep track of any drops in grades, especially if they begin to refuse to go to school or skip classes. Any sudden change in personality or mood is another thing to take note of. They may also become more secretive with their cell phone or computer. Also be aware of how they seem to be reacting to text messages, emails, and social media posts. If they seem anxious or ill-at-ease, talk to them about it.