The internet is an important tool, especially during COVID-19 as it keeps us connected and informed during this difficult time. Research shows that cyber-bullying has increased 70% during the quarantine period. Racist comments towards China and Chinese populations around the world have increased 900%. Toxic comments on gaming platforms have increased by 40%. These statistics are unacceptable and need to change!
First let’s look at why cyber-bullying has increased during this time:
As people spend more time at home, it gives bullies and online trolls an opportunity to spread negativity while having a larger audience to give them attention. For others, boredom or the lack of social interactions with others pushes this urge to use digital platforms to seek attention (even if it’s negative).
For instance, the increased use of Zoom has led students to disrespectfully interrupt private conversations or classes. The current quarantine and social distancing situation could lead to fights or misunderstandings between friend groups and increase stress. To express these bottled up feelings, people may take to the internet to spread hate. The internet is an easy way to troll, bully, or disrespect others as they can remain untraceable or sometimes anonymous. It’s also easier to say harsh things through a screen than it would be to someone’s face.
What can you do to prevent cyber-bullying?
Talk to people. It’s easy to get caught up in social media and lose sight of the things that are important. Whether or not you are being bullied, prioritize your in-person relationships, especially during COVID-19. If you are being bullied online, talk to a trusted adult or parents and let them know about the situation. They can help take action against the issue and support you during a tough time. Remember to talk to your friends through messages or video chats to maintain healthy relationships!
If there are any problems with friends, talk to them directly about it to try to resolve misunderstandings. This may prevent someone from turning to social media to spread negativity against you. It may not though. You may do all the “right” things and still be a victim of cyber-bullying. Remember that if you are bullied, it’s not your fault. It’s not about what you’ve done, the bully is the one choosing to bully instead of trying to work your problems out in a mature way.
You may find yourself being bullied even though you’ve never had a fight with the bully. They have simply decided to target you. This is such a difficult thing to go through. Remember that it’s not a problem with you, it’s a problem with them. Bullying often stems from the bully having their own issues with their self-esteem self-worth, and bullying is a result of the insecurities they have.
Use available resources to take action. Make sure you keep your passwords private and not easily detectable. Protect your account by using the restrict, block, and unfollow functions to remove bullies or toxic people from your social network. If you see someone being bullied online, stand up for them if you feel safe doing so, and encourage the person to block the bully. Lastly, you can report harassing or offensive posts or comments anonymously. Facebook and Instagram have guides that can help you navigate these functions and learn more about creating a supportive and inclusive online platform.
Protect your account by using the restrict, block, and unfollow functions to remove bullies or toxic people from your social network.
Follow positive people and accounts who make you feel good. Turn your social media feed into a space where you feel safe and accepted. Yes, it is beneficial to seek out people and opinions that are different from your own, but you shouldn’t feel belittled or attacked.
Finally, think through your own comments and conduct. Create a supportive, informative and positive environment online!