Protect Yourself from CyberbullyingWe’ve blogged in the past about bullying, and the various ways in which it contributes to eating disorders. As we have noted, many of our own clients come to us attesting to experiences with bullies; bullying can lead to body image issues, pervasive stress and anxiety, and in some cases even trauma—especially when the bullying includes acts of physical violence. Not all bullying happens face to face, however. Sometimes, bullying can take place over social media, text, or even email. This is what’s known as cyberbullying—and it, too, can be a factor in the development of eating disorders.
Understanding CyberbullyingCyberbullying is something of a catch-all term for any acts of bullying that take place over electronic media. Instances of cyberbullying can come in many different forms, however—including mean text messages, embarrassing photos posted to social media sites, or rumors spread through text and email. Those who are victims of cyberbullying often have a hard time getting away from it. Cyberbullying can happen 24/7, because it doesn’t depend on two people being in the same space together. In addition, electronic media makes it easy to anonymously spread hateful messages. The good news is that there are precautions you can take to protect yourself from cyberbullying—and from all its potential effects.
How to Protect Yourself Against CyberbullyingHere are just a few of those precautions:
- Be thoughtful about what you post. Remember that you never know when an email you send will be forwarded, for example. If you want something to remain truly private, it’s best to simply not post or share it at all.
- The Golden Rule is also helpful here—treat others the way you want to be treated, and refrain from posting anything that could hurt or embarrass others. When you participate in cyberbullying—even if you think it’s in jest—it’s easy to become a victim yourself.
- Ensure that you have secure passwords, and that you keep them to yourself. Sharing them with friends is a poor idea, even if you believe those friends to be trustworthy.
- Also ensure that you are aware of privacy settings on the various social networks you use, and that you set them appropriately. Be aware of who can see the stuff you post online.
- It is usually best not to respond to bullies, and especially not to respond to them through the same electronic media they are using against you; remember that whatever you say may be circulated and used against you!
- If cyberbullying gets out of hand, consider changing your contact information—closing down social profiles, signing up for a new cell number, etc. Also remember that social media sites usually have tools where you can report bullies. “Block” features can also come in handy.