How to deal with cyberbullying
A cyberbullying victim who considered killing herself has a message for the bullies — cope with your own problems instead of lashing out at others.
I spoke with one victim who literally Googled ways to kill herself. That’s because she was being bullied on Instagram over her appearance.
We’re going to tell you “Sandra’s” story. That’s not her real name.
We’re protecting her identity — and we’re disguising her voice — to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue.
“I was thinking mostly about myself and how much easier my life was going to be once I was in the ground, Sandra told the ABC 33/40 News iTeam. “And I was thinking about how mad those people were going to feel after they posted all that stuff and then I died.”
That’s how bad it got after someone Sandra knew set up a secondary fake Instagram account to try to escape detection.
It’s called a “Finsta” account — and it’s often used for teenage cyberbullying. The bully wrote posts attacking Sandra’s appearance — and then the bully’s followers piled on. Each cell phone notification made Sandra sick.
“I kind of started hyperventilating.” Sandra said. “It felt like my heart dropped.”
Why do cyberbullies bully people?
But why do cyberbullies, bully in the first place? Justin Patchin, Ph.D., is co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“Part of the reason why teens are involved in these behaviors is the desire to fit in with the other peer group and they don’t think they’re going to get caught or punished,” Dr. Patchin said.
Psychologist Diana Paulk, Ph.D, treats cyberbullying victims at the Birmingham Anxiety and Trauma Therapy center in Vestavia Hills, Ala. She also treated Sandra. She helps patients put negative social media comments into perspective.
“I promise you that the reality of your life is better than what your emotions are telling you it is right now,” said Dr. Paulk.
Police met with the cyber-bully, Instagram deleted the “Finsta” account
Sandra ended up going to police, who met with the bully, and the bullying stopped. Instagram also deleted the cyber-bully’s account.
She has an important message for cyberbullying victims.
“Know your self-worth—that you’re a valuable person and that a lot of people care about you,” Sandra said.
How to respond to cyberbullying
Here’s how the Cyberbullying Research Center says teens should respond to cyberbullying:
- Screenshot the negative posts for evidence, then hide or delete them.
- You could also ignore the posts. If there’s no response, the bully will often move on.
- Ask your friends to stand up for you online. But don’t start a fight.
- Block the bully from your social media accounts.
- Report the abuse to the social media site.
- Notify your parents. The sooner you get help from an adult, the better.
- If you know the bully through school, then notify the administration.
- Finally, call police if the bully is threatening you or continues to harass you.
Meantime, Sandra is doing much better now. She’s in a much better place psychologically and emotionally.