A quick online search for handling online bullying yields millions of search results, but you may notice that virtually every article and blog post recommend the same things. The lists typically recommend not responding to the bully, blocking them on all social media, and then saving proof of their crimes with screenshots and pictures, just in case. Perhaps these few ideas are repeatedly suggested because they are the most effective, but if you have already tried these and are still looking for additional ways to work through online bullying, read on.
One of the most impactful tools for helping an online bully victim deal with a situation is to help them understand the underlying motivations behind bullying. People tend to feel helpless when in situations they don’t understand. So, knowledge can be extremely empowering for a victim, especially with young children. It is often not understood that bullies typically act out because of some insecurity or dysfunction in their life. This is obviously not an acceptable justification for causing harm to others, but it helps a victim to humanize and subsequently take power away from the bully in the dynamic. Research on this topic concludes that motivations for online bullying include, “revenge, boredom, jealousy, trying out a new persona, or redirecting feelings”.
Another way to shift focus on the issue is to recognize the mediation that happens with online bullying, compared with that of face-to-face bullying. Often bullies attack their peers to demonstrate their power in social situations, and reactions from the victims play a crucial role in communicating that message. But with online bullying, a victim’s reaction isn’t ever seen as it happens- there is always a barrier between when the victim reads a message and initially responds, versus their thought-out responses via that online platform. This means that the victim can entirely avoid giving that bully a response that would display that social power that they are looking for.
When deciding on a final plan for acting (which may be no action), it is important to reframe the terms of online bullying interactions so that the online platform begins to work for the victim instead of against. Take advantage of all the common suggestions mentioned above in tandem with some of the uncommon ones just laid out. And of course, don’t forget local resources like peer support, talking to a friend or parent, and hotlines–all these resources can provide additional support in the ultimate resolution.