Cyberbullying – Concept, characteristics and how to prevent it

We explain what cyberbullying or cyberbullying is and the characteristics of each of its types. Also, how to prevent cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a periodic, insistent and malicious aggression.

What is cyberbullying?

It is known as cyberbullying. bullying, harassment or bullying), cyberbullying or virtual harassment use of platforms and digital media for the purpose of exercising emotional and psychological violence on an individual or a group of them, through constant personal attacks, disclosure of private information or false information, generally by aggressors protected by anonymity.

Given the omnipresence of the Internet and the technological media in life at the beginning of the 21st century, this type of harassment causes the victim significant margins of anguish, stress, humiliation and other more or less serious forms of emotional suffering, which can perfectly well be lead to major ailments. For this reason cyberbullying may constitute a crime in some cases and some laws.

Many digital practices can be understood as cyberbullying, but in general they are carried out in a digital environment, by anonymous actors (or not), directly against an individual or group of them, in a periodic, insistent and malicious manner.

In addition, the fact that the harasser and the victim do not have direct physical contact further accentuates the violence of the act, since it prevents the appearance of any vestige of empathy or compassion on the part of the harasser, when contemplating the victim’s suffering live.

Types of cyberbullying

There are various forms of cyberbullying, many of which have been given a neologism as a name, in an attempt to typify them and make them more recognizable. We refer to:

  • Psychological harassment. It consists of the public, constant and malicious disqualification of a person, exposing and / or exaggerating their weaknesses and defects, or systematically censoring their comments and interventions on online socialization platforms. The purpose of this practice is to humiliate the other and damage their self-esteem, by making them feel exposed or unjustly attacked in front of others.
  • Cyberstalking. It is thus known the practice of investigating the victim’s digital information, with the purpose of finding old, confidential or personal information that serves to attack him at present, expose him, ridicule him, etc.
  • Pedophile harassment or grooming. In this case, it is a series of behaviors carried out by an adult, in order to gain the trust of a minor, in order to seduce him sexually. This can happen openly, or through disguises and tricks that seek to confuse the minor and make him believe that he is communicating with someone of the same age or close.
  • Sextortion. It usually consists of the blackmail, intimidation or extortion of a person at the hands of one or more individuals who have in some way taken intimate material of their property (photographs, videos, messages, etc.). It is often at the hands of former partners, who disclose intimate content as revenge, and can be considered a type of gender-based violence, since in the overwhelming majority of cases, the victim is a woman.
  • Defamation on social media. Through digital instruments and fake accounts, many stalkers launch defamation campaigns, caricatures or incitement to lynching against a person, either impersonating them, falsely accusing them or disclosing confidential data (addresses, telephone numbers) so that receive unsolicited calls or messages.
  • Communicational bombardment. In this case, it is about calls, messages or other types of communications that are given in a massive, insistent and overwhelming way in social networks, video games or video call services, messaging and email. These messages have no other purpose than to insult, assault and torture the victim, often as a dynamic of revenge or supposed punishment.

How to prevent cyberbullying?

Although no one is exempt from the risks of cyberbullying, their risks are usually greater in the case of children and young people, more dependent on technological instruments for their emotional life and less prepared to face the risks that they entail. Thus, information and education on the responsible use of so-called ICTs will always be the main strategy to combat cyberbullying. This implies:

  • In the case of child or youth victims, close communication between parents and children it will allow the latter to go to the former in case of emergency or doubt. It is key that parents know with whom and how their children communicate, just as they would on the street.
  • Learn about the technology platforms used: your risks, privacy profiles and options, to configure the accounts in the safest and most respectful way of our individuality and privacy. In the case of a minor, this work must correspond to their parents or guardians.
  • Design security strategies for accounts and devices technology, as designed to safeguard your home or personal property: strong passwords, antivirus programs, and informed judgment about how to take risks online. Avoiding malware and malicious pages is key.
  • Go to the authorities appropriate in the event of virtual harassment, and immediately suspend contact with abusers: block, silence, report misconduct to web administrators or, in the worst case, temporarily suspend the account and the participation of the victim in digital space.
  • Avoid voluntary dissemination of sensitive material, confidential or compromising on social networks. This applies to erotic material (especially if it reveals the face or other identifiable features), telephone numbers, email addresses, postal addresses, and so on. Nothing that we would not give to a stranger on the street should be disclosed on our social networks.