How to Respond to Cyberbullying


How to Respond to Cyberbullying

Last month, we published a blog post titled How to Recognize Cyberbullying, where we defined cyberbullying as purposeful repeated, unwanted, aggressive behavior (both physical and verbal) that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. In this post, we will go one step further and discuss how you can respond to a cyberbully. Studies show that 33% of teens are cyberbullied at some point, so it could easily happen to you, a close friend, or someone you know. While it’s important to understand what cyberbullying is and how to recognize it, it is equally important to learn ways that you can react to victimization by a cyberbully.

How can I respond if I am being cyberbullied?

  • Don’t retaliate. Cyberbullies are trying to get a response out of their victims, and if you choose to respond, it gives them exactly what they want. As difficult as it may be not to react, this is one of the most important things to understand about cyberbullies. Don’t stoop to their level by texting or responding with comebacks or rude responses. Instead, respond nicely and be nice to them in person. Take the higher road and you will take away their power.
  • Try ignoring it. If this is the first time you’ve been cyberbullied by someone, try ignoring them; they might choose to stop on their own. As mentioned above, cyberbullies are looking for a reaction. If you simply ignore them, they won’t get their desired response and therefore might stop. If they don’t, you have other options (below). It’s also important to note that the cyberbully might move on and begin bullying someone new, in which case there are still things you can do to help the victim.
  • Document everything. If you are being cyberbullied, it’s important to keep track of the dates and times of the occurrences. In our digital age, screenshots make it very easy to do this. Each time the cyberbully victimizes you, take a screenshot and keep the proof so that you can show someone. If you receive any harassing emails from a cyberbully, don’t delete them. Save them or print them out to show a trusted adult.
  • Tell the bully to stop. If you are comfortable confronting the cyberbully, contact them and tell them to stop. When someone is harassing or bullying you, it is okay to use progressive actions with them. First, ask them to stop (it may not have been intentional!). If they continue with their behaviors, tell them to stop. If bullying still continues, warn them that you are seeking outside help and will be reporting their behavior to an adult. This tactic only works if you’re comfortable confronting the cyberbully, but you may find that it is highly effective.
  • Be civil. If you can’t ignore the bully’s actions or if you decide to confront the cyberbully, remember to be civil. Remain calm in your responses and don’t let strong emotions take over. State facts like, “You have said this three times and I want you to stop,” or “If this continues I will be forced to report it.” Remember, a cyberbully is looking for an extreme reaction, so make sure that any response you give is relaxed and respectful.
  • Block the person. Many digital platforms (messaging apps, social media sites, etc.) allow you to block other users. If you can, block the person who is harassing you. This removes you from the situation and prevents further direct contact with the cyberbully. You may find that your cyberbully reaches out on other platforms in an attempt to elicit a reaction after realizing that they won’t get a response on the first platform they chose. It is okay, and encouraged, for you to block them on all social media sites and online messaging platforms.
  • Report them to content provider. After you have blocked the cyberbully, check with the site directly to find out if you can report them. Many social media platforms and services give users the option to report abusive behavior simply for the reason that cyberbullying is a common occurrence. By reporting the cyberbully, you allow the site’s administrative team to take further action against them to protect other users from their abuse.
  • Get outside help. If the cyberbullying is continuous and affecting you in any way (mentally, emotionally, physically), tell someone. Reach out to a trusted friend, parent, teacher. These people can help provide the support you need to help you deal with the situation or find someone else who can help you through it. A teacher may help you involve the principle, a professor may help you involve the dean, and a parent may help you involve the bully’s parent. You don’t have to face anything alone.
  • Know that it’s not your fault. Nobody deserves to be treated poorly by anyone for any reason. It is important to remember that if you are being cyberbullied, it is not your fault.

What can I do if someone else is being cyberbullied?

  • Don’t be a bystander. If you see someone else getting cyberbullied or know that it’s happening to a friend or acquaintance, it is important that you don’t just let it happen. Instead you can:
    • Stand up for the person. Following the tips listed above, you can respond to the cyberbully. In a calm and civil manner, tell them to stop on the victim’s behalf.
    • Be a friend. If you know the person being cyberbullied, try reaching out to them to see how they feel. Listen to them and try to help them find a solution. Encourage them to reach out to the cyberbully themselves, or to involve a teacher or their parents.
    • Report the bully. If you see cyberbullying happening to someone else, you can report the bully yourself. It is helpful to have some examples of the cyberbully’s behavior, so take screenshots of Facebook or Instagram comments or mean Tweets to submit with your report.

Are they any ways to prevent cyberbullying from happening to me?

It’s important to remember that becoming the victim of cyberbullying is not your fault, and often there is no way to control or prevent it. The reality is that we all use social media and are connected to others constantly. Short of ditching social media altogether (an almost foolproof, but unrealistic, method of preventing cyberbullying) there are a couple things you can do to limit your risk of being targeted.

  • Keep privacy settings high. Many cyberbullies don’t know their victims, so by having your privacy settings at a level where only people you know can contact or interact with you, you can prevent some unwanted attention. However, this can’t eliminate the risk of being victimized by someone you know.
  • Never share your passwords. The last thing you want is for a “friend” to post something on your social media pages while masquerading as you that results in negative responses. Remember to never share passwords or login information with anyone (except maybe your parents).

Cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality in society today, so it is important to know how to respond if you are being bullied. Remember that it is not your fault and there are plenty of people who can help. Have you ever dealt with cyberbullying, either personally or as a witness? How did you handle it?


About Shannon Whitney

Shannon loves traveling, watching Friends, and all things Florida Gators. While she grew up in Northern Virginia, she left the state to attend the University of Florida in 2001. After earning a master’s degree in education, she returned home and has worked as an elementary school teacher for the past 11 years. Shannon recently decided it was time to put teaching on hold and venture down a new professional path. During her free time, Shannon is either traveling, cheering for Florida, binge-watching a Netflix series, or preparing to be an aunt!

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