Digital expert and bullying survivor Harvey Morton shares his top tips for protecting yourself from cyberbullying
This week is Anti-Bullying Week. While it’s upsetting that human beings need a week to remind them to be kind, it’s also heartening that so many people stand to be “united against bullying.” I wanted to be one of those seeking to be united in finding a solution.
I was born prematurely, and my hand-eye coordination was impacted. Therefore, I have always struggled in PE at school. I also speak slowly. People have felt it acceptable to make fun of my limitations and to mimic my voice as a means of shaming me. While this bullying was difficult, it has been more challenging to deal with online attacks. Cyberbullying seems to follow you everywhere, and the manipulated videos posted on YouTube impacted my mental wellbeing.
The experience of insulting messages is challenging, but it has taught me lessons on how to protect myself. I wanted to share these with you today, so you might be better protected.
1. Protect your boundaries
The current rise in online bullying is, I believe, a consequence of our loss of boundaries. We don’t keep our lives for ourselves and instead share it with everyone. This makes us vulnerable. While you might not think there is any harm in telling the world your business, you invite comments each time you do.
It’s not your fault that people are unkind. I must say this now, so you know there is no blame on you. However, you can keep yourself free of unkind people by maintaining your boundaries. Let only those people you know and trust into your online and offline world.
2. Review your privacy settings
With your privacy being a prized possession, it’s helpful to look at the privacy settings on your social media networks. Keep those settings high and if you’re concerned, don’t accept people you don’t know in the real world as your contact or friend.
3. Never respond
You want to stick up for yourself - it’s a natural reaction when someone says something unkind to you. Even if all you do is say something in your defence, this opens the door for further attack. You certainly don’t want to retaliate or post something in revenge to humiliate those who have hurt you. Not only would this take you down to their level, but you may make matters worse for yourself.
4. Block and report
The best reaction to cyberbullying is to exclude the offender from your world. You don’t have to let them repeat the offence – block them. While ‘telling on’ people is strangely taboo, you should report the behaviour. Remember, they will likely be doing the same to other people too.
5. Try to understand
Trying to understand the bully is the hardest of these suggestions but by far one of the most helpful. If you can stop it from feeling personal to you, what a gift this would be. Most bullies are unhappy and confused. When people are hurting, they hit out in anger at whoever is close. Of course, feeling sympathy for the person who is being cruel to you is a lot to ask. However, at least it allows you to realise it is nothing about you.
6. Believe in yourself
One of the hardest things to do in life is to trust that you know yourself best. You know you are not the things they say – so why be bothered? While this is hard to do, and most people are still striving to believe in themselves and know who they are, it is your best defence against other’s opinions.
7. Talk to someone
Don’t stay silent. The most important advice I can offer is to talk to someone. This conversation will not only document what is happening to you should it escalate, but you lift the weight of the upset from your shoulders. Find someone you trust, a teacher, parent or another adult who will offer you an opportunity to seek mediation if possible.
Remember, though, more than anything, that you are not alone. I write so you know I am united with you in the battle to stop bullying. If we all reach out with kindness to others, then this will eventually quieten those who seek to make us unhappy.
Find out more about the work Harvey does on his website harveymorton.digital.
If you're dealing with bullying in any form, or the repercussions of bullying, and are looking for support, consider speaking to a counsellor. Visit Counselling Directory to find support.