In a 2018 global survey1, South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying amongst 28 countries surveyed.
Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs on digital platforms or through digital devices. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. It can be described as the deliberate use of digital media to communicate false or hostile information about or to someone. Cyberbullying is often more harmful than traditional bullying, because the victim cannot escape the attacks, even at home. Teens and young adults are particularly at risk and more than 60% of children surveyed (through The National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey) agreed that cyberbullying is worse than traditional bullying.2
Examples of cyberbullying include:
mean text messages or instant messages
pranking someone’s cell phone
starting or spreading secrets or rumours about someone online
posting or sharing embarrassing pictures or videos of someone without their permission
setting up fake profiles and posing as someone else
hacking someone’s social media or gaming profile
creating cruel websites as an attack on someone
Harsh emails and texts
The effects of bullying are serious, and many victims suffer from anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. While many victims are reluctant to share that they are being bullied, it’s important to tell someone what is going on if you are experiencing it.
If you suspect that someone you know may be the victim of cyberbullying (or bullying), these are some signs to look out for. If the person3:
becomes sad, angry or distressed during or after using the Internet or a cell phone.
appears anxious after receiving a text, email or having been on social media websites.
avoids discussions or is secretive about computer or cellular phone activities.
withdraws from family, friends and activities they previously enjoyed.
refuses to go to school or to specific classes or avoids group activities.
illustrate changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite, or shows signs of depressionor anxiety.
Victims of cyberbullying
Dealing with Cyberbullying
Here is some advice should you find yourself in a cyberbullying situation:
It’s not about you: When it comes to bullying, it’s always about the bully, not the victim. Their insecurities, fears or need for acceptance is what motivates their unpleasant behaviour. You are not the one to blame for another’s actions.
Use your privacy settings: Learn about the privacy settings on your social media accounts and use them. Block users who send nasty messages or emails. Keep your passwords safe and change them regularly.
Keep evidence: Cyberbullying leaves a clear trail. Make sure you save copies or take screenshots of any evidence of bullying should you decided to report it or take action later on.
Don’t retaliate: As much as you may want to respond or retaliate – resist the urge. Bullies are after your reaction – so offering them no response is the best way to react.
Ask for help: If the situation becomes too much to bear, reach out and ask for help. The impact of bullying can quickly spiral out of control, so before this happens, speak to someone close to you. If you don’t have anyone to talk to contact SADAG on 0800 12 13 14 or on 0800 567 567 (suicidal emergency contact) they are skilled and there to help.
Even though cyberbullying is particularly insidious, all types of bullying are damaging. It’s important to be aware of the signs so that you can watch out for it, whether you find yourself victim to it, or whether you happen to witness it happening. Speak out and stand up whenever you can. The more people who say ‘no’ to bullying, the more we can stop these harmful situations and prevent the detrimental impact they have.