Social media has become an integral part of our everyday communication, and everyone can share their opinion with millions of other users, no matter how valid this opinion is and what it’s based on.
The idea of unlimited online communication seems great, and social media platforms, as well as countless forums, can create a perfect environment for healthy discussions.
However, online communication also creates plenty of opportunities for those who may want to use such platforms as tools for verbal abuse. The anonymity of many online communities enables users to say whatever they want to anyone, no matter how horrible these things are, while being able to avoid any consequences of their online behavior.
There’s no secret that online forums and social media often become playgrounds for heated political or ideological debates, but such conversations often go beyond discussing the subject and shift to criticizing a person’s appearance, race, gender, etc.
Cyberbullying has become even more common than traditional bullying. It is particularly dangerous for children and teenagers but the range of cyberbullying victims includes people of all ages and backgrounds.
The effects of cyberbullying can be severe so it’s important to know how to handle cyberbullying properly. It can be very traumatizing, so if you’ve become a victim of cyberbullies, you shouldn’t hesitate to get professional emotional support.
In the run-up to World Mental Health Day, we’re going to consider the impact of cyberbullying on mental health in more detail and share some tips that will help you deal with it.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can take various forms. Bullies are active on all social media platforms and forums, sharing offensive content and leaving rude and insensitive comments. Quite often, cyberbullies go beyond commenting and post direct threats.
They may also leak the victim’s sensitive information, hack their accounts, and share embarrassing content.
Just like traditional bullying, cyberbullying is particularly common in schools. However, given that cyberbullying takes place online, it feels permanent, as it doesn’t stop when victims are at home.
Besides, once the offensive content is posted online, it can be quickly shared by others. As a result, victims of cyberbullies often experience an intense feeling of humiliation.
According to statistics, girls are three times as likely to be bullied online as boys, and they also deal with body shaming more often. Body shaming is a very common type of cyberbullying, and it can lead to the development of various eating disorders and warped self-concept.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect People?
Cyberbullying is associated with multiple risks. Victims of cyberbullies might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and in some cases, children may even attempt suicide due to cyberbullying.
Research data shows that children and teenagers who become targets for bullies are more likely to deal with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues.
There is also a connection between cyberbullying and other types of antisocial behavior. The same research demonstrated that cyberbullies are more likely to demonstrate other types of aggressive behavior and to engage in substance abuse.
Therefore, it’s important for parents to not only teach their kids to protect mental health from the consequences of cyberbullying but also to recognize bullying behavior in their kids, including blaming others for their faults or getting into verbal and physical fights.
Cyberbullying can negatively impact not only the victim’s mental health but also that of other people. The research revealed that bystanders who become witnesses of bullying but don’t participate in it can experience increased depression and anxiety, regardless of whether they take the bully’s or victim’s side.
Quite often, cyberbullies focus on what makes their victim feel most vulnerable and use the victim’s insecurities against them. As a result, cyberbullying can have a significant negative impact on the victim’s self-esteem.
While some parents suggest that their kids stop using their smartphones and computers to avoid being bullied online, it’s important to keep in mind that victims often feel isolated and excluded. Online communication is extremely important for modern adolescents so preventing them from using their devices might only make them feel worse.
Bullying is also linked to self-harm. Victims of cyberbullying often try to cope with their feelings by hurting themselves in other ways, and they may also look for escape by fantasizing about death. As a result, cyberbullying is also associated with an increased risk of suicide.
Therefore, if you’re dealing with cyberbullies, you should know how to take care of mental health and practice self-care.
Here are some effective tips that can help you deal with cyberbullying and protect your mental well-being from its negative consequences.
How to Deal With Cyberbullying
1. Avoid emotional responses
Cyberbullies want to annoy their victims and to make them act emotionally. Keep in mind that the person who harasses you online wants you to respond so that they can continue their attacks.
If someone leaves a hurtful comment or tags you on inappropriate photos, don’t rush to respond. Take your time to distance yourself from this situation and think of whether or not you need to respond, in the first place. In most cases, not responding is the best thing you can do to maintain good mental health.
2. Take screenshots
If the person who targets you realizes that they might face consequences of their actions, they may delete their comments in an attempt to destroy the evidence.
Therefore, the best solution is to take screenshots. This way, you will make sure that that person won’t be able to say that you’ve just made up the whole story.
3. Report and block
The majority of social media platforms have tools aimed to make users feel safer. You can report offensive content and block users who disturb you. All such tools are anonymous so the bully won’t know who reported them.
If your child is bullied by their peers in school, you can contact the school counselor, principal, or superintendent, as well as the State Department of Education.
If the school fails to address harassment based on race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, you can also contact the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education or the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the case of direct threats or if the bully sends you sexually explicit materials, including child pornography, don’t hesitate to contact the police.
4. Limit your social media usage
This is one of the best self-care tips for mental health in general, and it can be particularly useful when dealing with multiple cyberbullying attacks. In this case, it may feel like bullies are constantly present in your life and you cannot escape them.
Even if you do everything right and report every offensive comment, you may still need a break from those who harass you online. Therefore, limiting your social media usage and spending more time offline is a great solution.
5. Consider counseling
Children and teens who become victims of cyberbullying may feel shame and hesitate to talk about their problems to parents. Therefore, it’s important for parents to observe their children’s behavior and to be aware of the cyberbullying effects on mental health.
If your child seems depressed, withdrawn, anxious or demonstrates bullying behavior, you should talk to them and consider visiting a counselor.
A professional counselor or social worker can help you better understand your child’s behavior and suggest possible steps that you can take in each particular situation.
You can also benefit from counseling if you’ve become a target for cyberbullies.
Of course, in-person counseling might take a lot of time, and it may also be quite expensive. Fortunately, those who are too busy to visit a counselor in person can use online counseling platforms and get the necessary support from virtually anywhere.
Cyberbullying is a very common problem that affects users of all social media platforms and online forums. Cyberbullying can have various negative consequences for the victim’s mental health, including:
- Low self-esteem
- The feelings of isolation and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts.
When dealing with cyberbullies, it’s important not to engage in retaliation and not to give them what they’re looking for: a quick emotional response.
Make a screenshot to have evidence against a bully, report their comments or posts, and block them so that they cannot target you again. In some cases, you may also contact the police.
We hope that our tips will help you maintain good mental health and withstand cyberbullying. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional help, and don’t let cyberbullies ruin your self-esteem.
Practice self-compassion and consider taking a break from social media if attacks are too frequent.