By Tara Swords
The term “cyberbully” usually applies to minors bullying other minors online. But did you know that plenty of adults too are tormented by online harassers? It can be a frightening, unnerving experience, but if it happens to you or someone close to you, you don’t have to ignore it.
Here is exactly what to do if you’ve been targeted.
Cyberbullying Tip No. 1: Learn your rights.
Many states have laws protecting you from cybercrimes. Check out the National Conference of State Legislatures site to find out what qualifies as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and cyberharassment, and whether your state has laws that specifically address these offenses. Even if you’re not ready to report the activity to the authorities, knowing your legal rights prepares you to understand when someone crosses the line.
Cyberbullying Tip No. 2: Ask for it to stop.
Make it clear to the bully that you want the behavior to stop immediately. If your child is being bullied, help him send the message. Don’t detail your reasons, because you risk getting roped into yet another conversation with the bully. Simply demand that it end and state that you want no more contact in the future. If the contact continues, don’t respond. If necessary, change your user names and profiles in the places (e.g., instant messengers) where the harassment occurs.
Cyberbullying Tip No. 3: Keep records.
Don’t delete any of the harassing communications, no matter how offensive. Save emails, chat logs and text messages in a file on your desktop -- and back up copies to a cloud service like Google Docs. If the situation worsens and you need to alert the authorities, this evidence will be crucial in backing up your claims.
Cyberbullying Tip No. 4: Report the abuse.
Forward offensive emails to the harasser’s school and Internet service provider, and ask that they be investigated. If the cyberbullying is happening at work, notify a supervisor or your human resources representative immediately. And if the problem escalates and you feel that you or your family members are unsafe -- or that your legal rights have been violated -- file a report with your local law enforcement.
Cyberbullying Tip No. 5: Get support.
Ask for help. Such organizations as CyberAngels can provide detailed, one-on-one guidance in dealing with cyberbullies and remind you that you’re not alone. Other organizations, such as the National Crime Prevention Council , offer tips as well -- especially for parents and teens.
Tara Swords is a business and technology writer based in Chicago. She writes regularly for the Chicago Tribune and other publications.
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