When I had my first encounter with online harassment, I didn’t know what to do. At the time (2009) people weren’t talking about online harassment like they do now. Although there were cases such as Megan Meier, it wasn’t a common subject. People then and now still don’t realize that online harassment has the same effect as physical harassment. The effects of online harassment can be even more severe.
Most people think of bullying as physical harassment or in-person harassment, where the victim can physically run away and escape, but when it comes to online harassment, there is no escaping these virtual bullies. Technology is involved in everything people do and it’s hard to completely disconnect. Victims often have to fully remove themselves from social media in order to get away from the harassment. Why should the victims be the ones who are punished and who have to remove themselves from participating online?
Since online harassment was not talked about when I first experienced it, I was embarrassed and thought it was my fault. I tried to hide what was going on. It wasn’t until somebody else brought it to my parent’s attention that I started to open up about it. Once my parents knew, it was better for me. I had the support from them to help me get through it.
The online harassment I experienced continued for so long because I didn’t say anything to anybody; I just took it. After my parents got involved, I learned that I should have been capturing everything the bullies said and did to me so I could take it to my middle school. After presenting what happened to my middle school, they told us there was nothing they could do. Because the harassment wasn’t happening on school grounds, they said they didn’t have any power to interfere. But they were actually going against their own policy by saying that! In fact my school did have a policy on online harassment; they still wouldn’t do anything about it.
Even after we presented school administrators with a folder, multiple inches thick of things bullies were saying to or about me and after countless of meetings, they wouldn’t do anything. That’s when the police had to get involved. But yet again, because this was happening online, they couldn’t do anything about it. They just told me I needed to log off of my social media and get a new phone number. Why should I have to suffer even more?
With my parents involved, I finally got the help I needed. That didn’t mean my depression and anxiety went away; but it did mean that it wasn’t me against the bullies. I was building an army and we were ready to fight this war. I no longer had to fight alone.
After going through that experience, I learned that you need to tell someone what is happening. Whether it’s a parent, family member, friend, or someone you trust, anyone is better than no one. You also need to be capturing everything and anything they say or do. Evidence is a bit part of proving your story and getting support and help. If your school doesn’t do anything like mine didn’t, you can take that information to the police. If they don’t do anything, don’t stop presenting your case to people. Somebody will help you.
If you know someone who is experiencing online harassment or you witness it yourself, you have a few options. The first being that you can step in and say something to the bully. You can try and intervene but that doesn’t mean you can bully the bully. Your can also take a screenshot of what they said and take it to your school.
What is NOT one of your options? Being a bystander. You may think it’s better to stay out of it, but your actions can make a big difference.
If you’re ready to pledge to stand up to online harassment, take the Hack Harassment pledge. It’s all about creating a kinder, braver world online and ending cyberbullying. Take it here: http://www.hackharassment.com/pledge/