5 tips to protect yourself from online harassment

To protect yourself from online bullying, you need to take preventive measures and act early when it happens. We tell you some keys about it.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 01 July, 2022

Online harassment is a reality to which we are all exposed and from which we must protect ourselves. Nevertheless, children and adolescents are vulnerable; not only because of the extensive use they make of technology, but also because of the ignorance and impulsiveness typical of their age.

If the consequences are not anticipated and prevented, they can be very harmful. For this it is convenient to teach them to protect themselves in the virtual world.

Online bullying is becoming more prevalent as children start using the internet and social media at an early age. It is estimated that more than 20% of cases of bullying are produced through digital channels.

And since it’s not possible or desirable to completely cut young people off from technology, we face the challenge of showing them how to stay safe. Here are some guidelines in this regard.

What is online bullying?

Online bullying, also called cyber bullying, in very similar to what occurs in the real world in terms of intentions or effects. However, in this case it is social networks, messaging systems on-line or web pages, the environment in which they are developed.

We call “harassment” a series of repetitive behaviors that seek to harm, attack the integrity or dignity of the victim. Thus, it is not a punctual comment, but a dynamic that occurs repeatedly and that generates a serious alteration in the person’s daily life.

This harassment can take different forms:

  • Abuse, derogatory comments or threatening messages.
  • Spreading hoaxes or rumors about the victim, defaming her.
  • Identity fraud or hacking of a personal account.
  • Sharing personal or sensitive content about the other person.
  • Encourage and encourage the victim to be excluded or attacked by others.

In addition to this, it is worth mentioning that online bullying has some peculiarities that differentiate it from traditional bullying:

  • There are no barriers of space or time. For example, bullying occurs in the classroom, but stops when the child leaves school and can feel safe at home. In this case, on the other hand, the persecution can take place at any time and place, since the internet and social networks are always with us.
  • The Internet provides a certain anonymity and a sense of impunity which can make the bullying worse. In addition, by not having the victim in front of him, empathy also decreases.
  • In the digital environment it is very easy for harassment to have a greater scope, since the information goes viral easily. This, without a doubt, means that the repercussions may be greater.
Bullying in its face-to-face form can stop when the child goes home. In cyberbullying it continues beyond physical barriers.

How to protect yourself from online harassment?

Being bullied online can seriously affect the emotional well-being and mental health of children. It is common to generate high doses of anxiety and anguishwhich affects self-esteem and the ability to relate.

It can even trigger depression and have long-term repercussions. Thus, it is important to teach children and young people to protect themselves from online bullying with different measures.

1. Communication and information

This is a basic key, but essential: we must speak with our children with the truth, explain what virtual harassment is, how it occurs and what consequences it has. It is relevant not to treat it as a distant issue, but as something to which we are exposed and that must be prevented.

The objective of this communication is that minors can identify which acts constitute harassment, whether they suffer them or observe them when someone else is the victim. That they become aware of the importance of preventing them, that they can detect them when they occur and know how to ask for help.

In this regard, children should be clear that their parents are a safe place to gothat no matter how naive or irresponsible they have sinned, they will not be judged or punished, but supported.

Otherwise, they may tend to hide what is happening.

2. Parental supervision and control

Minors increasingly access technology at younger ages, without being fully prepared for the responsibility that this entails. Therefore, it is essential that parents supervise, employing parental control systems and being aware of their children’s activity on the internet.

This does not mean that you have to violate their privacy or spy on their conversations. But they have to know that their parents may ask them for access to their profiles or messages at some point.

3. Privacy protection

A fundamental aspect is to teach children and young people to protect their privacy online. This means keeping your profiles private and not accepting strangers, avoiding posting personal data, and not sharing sensitive content with anyone.

They must be aware that once they publish content on the internet, they lose control over it. Thus, even if they are communicating with their partner or with their friends, they should avoid sharing images or information that compromises them in any way.

The responsible use of networks is not easy in childhood and adolescence, so there must be appropriate education for it.

4. Healthy mistrust

In childhood and adolescence we are vulnerable to hoaxes, rumors or scams, precisely designed to make us fall and take advantage of our naivety. This is why it is important warn about false profiles, fraudulent contests or tempting propositions that come from strangers (such as the cryptosect).

5. Take action against online bullying

Finally, if prevention has not been enough and the minor is already a victim of online bullying, it is essential to take action. These will depend on the specific case: from notifying the school of what happened to putting it in the hands of the authorities if the harassment is serious and repeated.

Minors must know the importance of not eliminating evidence and go to their parents or trusted adults as soon as possible.

Support is key to overcoming online bullying

In addition to the above, the best way to protect yourself against online bullying is to get help. Minors need the listening, support and guidance of their parents to go through this difficult situation and take the appropriate measures.

Just having an adult who believes and supports the child can mitigate the harmful psychological effects of virtual bullying. Therefore, do not ignore the signs that suggest that your child is going through this process.

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