Online Students and Cyberbullying: Recognizing, Understanding and Overcoming It

Mar 08, 2019
Article Sources


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What Is Cyberbullying?

The Internet is a wonderful tool that has made it easier for people to connect with each other, as well as pursue higher education. However, it has also made it easier for people to bully others. When people commit cyberbullying, they use electronic devices -- like computers, cell phones and tablets -- to hurt and torment their victims through behaviors like posting private information online to humiliate them, sending hurtful and vulgar messages, and making threats.

The word "bullying" may make this sound like a problem exclusive to teenagers and younger college students. However, this issue is more common among adults than some may realize. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of adults have experienced some kind of cyberbullying.

Continue reading to learn more about cyberbullying in college, including the types of cyberbullying people engage in, how it affects victims and what can be done to stop cyberbullying.

Identifying Cyberbullying

Although most people are familiar with what face-to-face bullying looks like, many are not as well-versed with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a complicated issue, and as such it's important for everyone to understand how cyberbullying manifests itself, who is vulnerable to it, and how it affects victims.

The following are answers to some common questions that people may have about cyberbullying.

What are the types of cyberbullying?

The term "cyberbullying" can be used to describe several types of online behaviors. Here are a few examples of the most prominent kinds of cyberbullying people may engage in.

  • Harassment: Harassment involves sending someone multiple malicious and offensive messages. Generally, people who do this engage in these behaviors for prolonged periods of time.
  • Outing: Outing means that someone has released personal information about their victim on the Internet in order to humiliate them. Outing can include the posting of personal photographs and videos.
  • Fraping: Fraping is a form of social media bullying that occurs when someone logs into another person's account in order to post inappropriate messages under their name. This type of cyberbullying is usually done to ruin somebody's reputation.
  • Flaming: When someone is the victim of flaming, it means they have been subjected to harsh and crude messages posted in various places online. This may be in a public forum, such as a message board or social media, or it may occur privately, via e-mail or instant messenger.
  • Cyberstalking: This is a dangerous form of cyberbullying that often culminates in the bully sending physical threats to make the victim afraid for their safety.

What are the signs of cyberbullying?

When someone has been the victim of cyberbullying, there are often clues to let others know that something is wrong. For example, people who have been cyberbullied often act nervous when they need to go online or text someone. In addition, victims may not want to discuss their online activities, and can get agitated at the mention of things like social media. As this situation continues, it can cause the victim to withdraw from people in the real world, so they may not want to spend time with their friends and family anymore.

What are the effects of cyberbullying?

Students who have been the victim of cyberbullying may respond to it in different ways. The following are some examples of the effects that cyberbullying may have on people.

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits
  • Declining academic performance
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

Who can be the victim of cyberbullying?

While anyone can be the target of a cyberbullying attack, there are some common traits that link many of these situations together. In many cases, people who commit cyberbullying go after those who they consider weak. For example, people who seem socially awkward or shy may give off the impression that they won't fight against being bullied, which makes them a prime target for bullies to go after. It is also common for cyberbullies to decide to attack someone based on how they look or what their background is.

Reacting to Cyberbullying

People who have been cyberbullied may be confused and uncertain of what they can do to handle the situation. The following are some do's and don'ts that can help people know how to react when they have been the victim of these behaviors.

  • DO stay calm. Being bullied is stressful for anybody. However, it's important to remain calm and avoid doing something you might regret because you're hurt and angry. Rash, impulsive actions can easily make the situation even worse. Try to remain calm and think your options through.
  • DON'T reply to the bully. It may be tempting to respond to the bully directly and ask them to stop, but it's best to ignore that person. In many cases, cyberbullies harass others in order to get attention, so by not giving it to them, they often give up. At first, they may respond with even nastier behavior in an attempt to provoke a reaction, but if you continue to ignore them, it's hard for them to keep picking a fight.
  • DO take action. Although it's wise for the victims of cyberbullying not to contact the bully directly, that doesn't mean they shouldn't take any action at all. Students should find out how to report cyberbullying incidents to their school in order to get the help they need to make the situation stop. Also, they may want to file a police report, as well as report what the cyberbully has done to their Internet service provider.
  • DON'T delete the messages. While it is painful to revisit the messages sent by a cyberbully, it's important for victims to hold onto the evidence. Keeping a copy of all the messages makes it easier to prove what has been happening and end the situation.
  • DO avoid feeling shame. Victims of cyberbullying may feel ashamed and wonder what they did wrong to cause the problem. However, it's important to remember not to internalize what has happened or dwell on the situation to the point where depression and anxiety develops. Remember: it is not your fault.

Colleges Combatting Cyberbullying

As it becomes a growing problem for college students, many schools have worked to determine how to stop cyberbullying. The following are examples of schools working to combat this problem.

  • Florida International University: Florida International University's Victim Empowerment Program provides assistance to students -- as well as faculty and staff -- who have been the victim of cyberbullying. People who use this service are given the counseling they need to heal and cope with the experience.
  • Indiana State University: The Bayh College of Education at the Indiana State University has a Bullying and Cyberbullying Lab that works to increase people's understanding of cyberbullying facts through its research. The school's work focuses on bullying and cyberbullying among K-12 and college students. In addition, the school has also hosted seminars and other events related to cyberbullying.
  • University of Central Florida: The University of Central Florida's Behavioral Indicator Training program is designed to help educators understand some of the challenges that young people face, including cyberbullying, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and suicide. During the cyberbullying module of the program, people are taught the cyberbullying definition and how to identify if a student has been the victim of cyberbullying. Also, there is information on the appropriate steps educators should take to intervene in cyberbullying cases, as well as how to prevent cyberbullying.
  • University of Toledo: The University of Toledo created the Anti-Bullying Task Force in order to educate students on bullying and cyberbullying. In addition, it dispenses information on how to report cyberbullying incidents to the school's administration.
  • University of Cincinnati: The University of Cincinnati's School of Education provides resources to raise cyberbullying awareness. Students who visit the Social Media and Cyberbullying website can find research and projects dedicated to helping students learn about these issues.

In addition to these schools, there are several colleges and universities that are dedicated to combatting cyberbullying through administrative policies. For example, Regis University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Northwestern State University and the University of Arizona have anti-bullying policies designed to protect their students.

Cyberbullying Resources

Cyberbullying is a serious issue that online students should educate themselves on as much as possible so they know how to handle it if they become subjected to these types of behaviors. The following are some resources that can help.

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