How to Protect yourself from Cyberbullying
and Ensure Your Happy College Life
By Steven Mehler
Bullying is a real problem, even at college. Fortunately there are steps you can take to avoid it and things you can do when it does happen.
Bullying can destroy lives. Instinctively, people don’t pick the brave ones or the strong ones, but people that often already suffer from low self-esteem and poor confidence. These are exactly the people who are going to suffer the most under the effects of the bullying. They get upset, depressed and become ever less social, which in turn makes them even bigger targets for bullying.
You’d think by the time people headed off to college their bullying days would be behind them. Think again. Quite often bullying actually intensifies after school, as many people have adult bodies but still have children’s minds. 22% of college undergraduates have experienced bullying at one point or another, while 38% say they know somebody who’s been bullied.
For that reason, if you think you might be at risk for bullying, make sure that you take steps to prevent that. After all, if you can avoid the bullying starting then you won’t have to struggle later on to get it under control.
Realize that the other person might not realize they are bullying you
The first thing to understand is that quite often bullies don’t realize that they’re being bullies. They just want to be funny in front of their friends. They find one joke that got traction last time and because they want to fit in, they’ll use it again – unaware of how much pain that is causing.
In these cases you can try speaking to that person directly. Explaining how those words made you feel (preferably without yelling) will quite often be enough to make that person stop. If that doesn’t work, be aware that almost every university has a cyberbullying department.
Don’t wait with going there if you feel you are being bullied. For once it becomes the norm, it will be very hard to change. What is more, when it’s still early days the repercussions are going to be minimal, while if the bullying has been going on for quite some time the emotional distress will have been severe and the bullying student might suffer sever repercussions. So get there early.
Whatever you do, don’t feel the need to retaliate. It doesn’t work. Often, it will only make things worse, as it will almost invariably lead to escalation. You see, the moment you retaliate it’s no longer a joke. The reason for that is that they won’t understand that they’ve hurt you, but will most certainly understand that you tried to hurt them.
Be careful with social media
Of course, it would be easier to never let it get that far. The best way to do that is to realize that social media is not private and that people that you might think are your friends might well not be. There are plenty of situations where somebody might be perfectly civil to your face, only to gossip and talk trash about you behind your back.
You might not even know what they’re targeting. So give them as little ammunition as possible, by not posting personal details about your life. Don’t talk openly about emotional experiences. Don’t discuss things that other people might find odd. And keep things that other people don’t understand off your feed.
Check your privacy settings
Also, whenever you start using a new app or social media network check the privacy settings. These might not be configured optimally as quite often the app builders want you to share more than you might want to. Don’t be afraid to screw down the privacy settings further. You can always turn them back up again if you find that they’re too restrictive, but you can never take information out of a person’s head once they’ve learned it.
Similarly, check what is available about you online. There might be information that you’d rather not have out there, out there. In that case, you can often request for it to be taken down. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try.
Make sure your security is up to scratch
All that will come to naught, however, if somebody can break into your personal email, your smartphone or your laptop. For that reason, boost your online security. Always have a password on all of those devices and make sure it isn’t one that anybody can easily guess.
Even better, switch it up occasionally so that people can’t crack it over time. Even better, have different passwords for different devices, so that if they manage to get into one somehow (maybe by looking over your shoulder) that doesn’t mean they can get in everywhere.
And don’t ever share your passwords with anybody. Yes, they might be your friends today, but you never know what tomorrow may bring. So don’t tempt the fates.
They’re in the wrong
If you are the target of bullying, then speak up. Contact somebody that matters and that can help you. For example, speak to professors, campus police or anybody else that you think can help. Yes, that might be bad for the bully, but that shouldn’t concern you.
They are, after all, in the wrong. They are causing your emotional anguish. That isn’t how people should treat each other. Also, immediately block the person causing you the emotional harm. This is a much better strategy than responding, as it means that whatever hateful or hurtful things they might want to say won’t reach you.
This will quickly reduce the bullying, as the point of bullying is to provoke a reaction from the bullied party.
Yes, you won’t get the satisfaction of venting in that case, but don’t vent at the bully, instead why not join a contest about cyberbullying? Then you get the satisfaction of expressing yourself and instead of escalating a situation, you’ll have a chance at a scholarship.
Remember, it isn’t the bully who gets to decide if they’re being a bully. It’s the person being bullied who gets to decide that. And if it causes you emotional trauma, it’s bullying. It’s how the message arrives that matters.
Bullying is not okay. You don’t need to accept it. If you feel you are being bullied take action. If you’re afraid of being bullied, then make sure you give them as little ammunition as possible.
Social media is a lot like a car. It is incredibly convenient, but every time you use it, you risk getting into an accident. So be careful.
Steven Mehler is an experienced writer, blogger, social psychologist and the inventor of RatedByStudents App, that works as an editor at a local newspaper. Steven also runs his own content agency and is writing a book about dealing with stress. He has a long-term experience in writing articles based on blogging, education and social psychology.