There is a dearth of current research on cyberbullying incidences on a nation-state basis, so that’s why we’ve chosen to look at a 2013 academic study of Hinduja, S. and Patchin, J. W.
The researchers reviewed 73 articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals. 51 of those included cyberbullying victimisation rates and 42 included cyberbullying offending rates. Patchin says:
“The average across all of these studies was remarkably similar to the rates that we found in our work (about 21% of teens have been cyberbullied and about 15% admitted to cyberbullying others at some point in their lifetimes). Taken as a whole, it seems safe to conclude that about one out of every four teens has experienced cyberbullying, and about one out of every six teens has done it to others.”
Now that we’ve established the prevalence of cyberbullying, it’s time to look into the habits of a cyberbully and why one in four teens are victims of it. Understanding the actions of a cyberbully and understanding your own online habits can equip you with valuable knowledge to help protect yourself online.
Habits of a cyberbully
A cyberbully hides behind a screen and feels ‘safe’ in the knowledge they are protected from the anonymity bestowed on them by the World Wide Web. This is not necessarily true, but this is what they believe. While you can track down a cyberbully, it is important for us to step into their shoes for the purposes of this article.
They are drawn to their ability to control and have power over another person or group.
They may lack self-confidence in the real world, but find they have more control while on the Internet and naturally want to be in a place of power which gives them confidence.
A cyberbully may suffer from a sense of a misplaced sense of humour. This means that they expect everybody else to react positively to their online jokes – which could be in the form of fraping (hyperlink to your blog post which explains fraping), putting someone down online, tagging somebody in inappropriate photos or sharing offensive videos.
A cyberbully could be the class clown who is motivated by popularity and will do what it takes to get more likes, followers, subscribers, comments, shares.
More sinister cyberbullies have intentions to physically hurt or instill fear in you, especially in the case of cyberstalkers whose intention it is to meet you in real life. This is a very dangerous form of cyberbullying that requires intervention from your law enforcement agency.
Teens’ social media habits
It is natural to blame yourself if you are a victim of cyberbullying. The bully makes sure that this is the way you feel. However, it’s important to realise that it is not your fault. Here we outline some of the reasons why a cyberbully might choose you as their target. Cyberbullies take advantage of poor personal social media management such as:
- Open privacy settings, which allow all members of the public to view your social media posts.
- Over-sharing, which gives the cyberbully an insight into your personal life, your weekly routines, where you live, work and who you socialise with.
- Emotional sharing, which tells the cyberbully how you feel. For example if you feel lonely, you might unbeknown to yourself, invite attention from a cyberstalker who will befriend you and take advantage of your vulnerable state.
- Explicit sharing of controversial views, which might spur another person to attack you based on your opinion. While the Internet is a place of free speech, you need to consider how much of your views you want to share. The Internet is a haven for trolls who get satisfaction out of attacking other people based on how they look but often based on their personal opinions.
When undertaking cyberbullying workshops in schools I ask the students one simple question, which really gets them thinking about their own social media habits.
What type of young mind are you?
We show them the infographic below and ask them to make further suggestions based on their own experiences. This is a very thought-provoking exercise, which generates great discussion and interaction.
When students complete their studies I ask them to take a look back at the course and how their social media habits have changed. The responses below help shed some light on how cyberbullies create opportunities out of poor personal social media management.
What the teenagers say
“I have learned a lot about social media since studying. I have discovered the importance of being safe and I’m more aware about what I post or share on the social web – quite simply I think before I post. I also feel that I now have safe fun on the Internet.”
“I felt taking part in this project taught me a lot of life lessons that will stick with me throughout my life. I felt as teenager living in such a modernised and mechanised century, where every aspect of someone’s life is displayed and splattered over the Internet – be it good or bad for the whole world to speculate over and criticise their actions – is the norm in our society. I got a sense of fulfilment doing this project knowing that I had the power to set my own guidelines on how to use social media sites. In the world of today we (teenagers) especially become so engrossed in the world of social media that we put up absurd and crude information that could potentially harm us in the future. I felt this project really got me to wake up to they way I act online. It reminds me of the saying, ‘respect the present so you can enjoy the future’.”
“Well at the start of the entire operation I just thought ‘what we get to go on Facebook during class? Yes!’ and I thought it would be a complete doss. But nearing the end of my social media journey, looking back over the programme I can honestly say I’ve learnt a lot and come a long way. Before this project began I never really thought about what I posted online, but now I am a whole lot wiser. I never even considered the possibility that what we posted could affect our future career prospect – that piece of information shocked me.”
“I learned you should not react to anyone posted about you in a negative manner, you should step back, analyse the situation and respond in an adult responsible manner.”