By Max Wigfield
Cyber bullying is a term almost every young adult is acquainted with. Growing up in a world where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are often inescapable aspects of everyday life, it is a modern phenomenon that poses some serious threats to people’s lives. Cyber bullying is also a growing problem; a report from the charity Young Minds in 2016 suggested that 39% of young people had experienced online bullying in their lifetime, while 60% had witnessed another person being harassed or bullied online. This has led to recent calls for social media platforms to follow a stricter code of conduct in order to protect young people online by regulating harmful content. And what content should be regulated?
Everyone has that one friend who prides themselves on their banter abilities. They enjoy making a joke and then sharing it with everyone, always proclaiming it in the name of banter, and can even share this on every platform of social media to spread their jokes even further. But sometimes the jokes can go too far, and the banter becomes bullying. With the constant stress of exams, assignments and lectures, university presents an already challenging environment for young adults to overcome. This can make students more vulnerable to the dangers of cyber bullying. It is therefore important to define when banter becomes bullying, and if you do feel like a joke has gone too far, how to make it stop.
Cyberbullying is generally defined as the deliberate and repeated harm of someone through the means of communications and computers, usually through direct messaging or posting harmful content on social media platforms. There is a blurred line between what is a joke between two friends and what is publicly mocking a person on the internet; usually, that line is crossed when a joke becomes one-sided and the privately shared joke is brought into the public sphere where people do not know the context of the relationship. So, by publicly posting a joke about a friend, the ‘banter’ which you share with this person can become hurtful once taken out of the context of private friendship, particularly if it is a repeated occurrence. If you feel like a joke is repeated too often or made too public, you are within your rights to ask for this to stop. A further issue that has arisen in recent years is the dangers of sexting and the vulnerable position it can put people in.
So, what can you do to reduce the dangers of cyberbullying? The first action you can take is simply making the person responsible for your discomfort aware of their actions and ask them to stop. It is quite possible they still think they are having a joke with you, and don’t realise their actions are having a harmful effect. If this has no effect, there are measures built into social media platforms for reporting constant bullying. You can report accounts which are causing you distress, and therefore stop the problem head on. You can also manually stop the accounts that are responsible by blocking them, therefore not allowing them to send or post any content to your social media accounts. The dangers that are presented when sexting goes bad are amplified by their confidential nature. The best and most effective precaution you can take is not send nude images in the first place; this way, there will be no chance of putting yourself in a vulnerable situation. Disengagement with the person who is sending you harmful content in this context is also important, as well as following the steps of blocking and reporting accounts who are consistently sending you unsolicited posts despite signs they are not wanted. And remember, there is the support available from both Nightline and the Student Support services. They are always available and will be able to offer help for anyone who needs it. Never be too shy to ask your friends or these institutions for assistance when you need it.