Online abuse and cyberbullying are not an uncommon problem. As a matter of fact, roughly 17 percent of middle school and high school students have been victims to cyberbullying, and a whopping 34 percent of college students identified themselves as victims at least once. But what is the internet like for the more vulnerable categories, such as the LGBTQ+ community?
A recent analysis by vpnMentor shows that more than 70% of all LGBTQ+ respondents have been personally attacked or cyberbullied online. Moreover, it’s transgender women who feel the least secure on the internet when it comes to gender identity. And when sexuality is put into question, asexual people felt the least safe online.
What’s even more disturbing is the fact that this analysis has shown that from the almost 700 respondents in all categories, 50% have suffered sexual harassment on the internet.
The Youth Risk Behavior Study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control back in 2015, also discovered that LGBTQ+ youth is more susceptible to bullying compared to heterosexual peers.
Whether it’s you, your loved ones, or a completely unknown person, this is a problem that demands us to find a permanent solution. For now, the only alternative is to educate yourself on the ways you can help yourself and others.
No matter if you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, or you are a supporter, there are some things that can be done in order to minimize the effect of cyberbullying and online harassment of any kind.
How to Treat Cyberbullying
While LGBTQ+ might, in fact, be a more vulnerable category, cyberbullying is a problem that has no limits, no gender, and no race. It affects everyone, even if they have not been bullied themselves. The difference between bullies and cyberbullies is that the latterare utilizing the network to their ‘advantage’. They hide behind their keywords and try to humiliate and hurt other people. It gives them more control over the situation and allows them to increase their impact. But their tactics are not flawless, and there are indeed ways to help the victims.
First of all, you need to educate yourself and understand exactly what you are facing. Read about cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. No matter where you look there are a few common things everyone will share with you.
- Don’t overshare information on the internet
Social media and the internet, in general, has been developed in a way that makes us all more connected because it allows us to share everything with anyone. We use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to share photos of ourselves and our loved ones, to share our best and worst moments, and many times we even reveal personal stuff like our exact location, date of birth, phone number, etc. All of this can make you a potential victim to cyberbullying despite your sexual orientation or gender. There are and will continue to be people who are willing to humiliate and hurt others. All they need is a little personal information about you, so why not try and avoid being the target?
Think twice before you share something on the internet. This goes for everyone. Additionally, you can always make use of two accounts, one of which will be more personal and will only consist of people that you trust.
- Block people on social media
When someone is bothering you on social media, what do you do? Of course, you block that person. Luckily every network provides you with this possibility. You can also report the person and the incident on the platform, although there isn’t a 100% guarantee that you will get the assistance you need. The best thing is that reporting someone on social media can be done anonymously and this way it won’t be too obvious that it was you who took action.
- Create or find a support community
It’s important to remember these words – you are not the only one!
Many people are going through the same things you are, and they are also struggling with this. It’s nothing to hide or to be ashamed of, nor is it your fault. We should not go through such things alone. You can find a support group or make one yourself. It’s very helpful to share your experiences with others, to let them hear your story, and do the same for them as well. Most probably your problem won’t go away, but you will definitely feel like a massive weight has been lifted from your chest.
- Share awareness
Instead of waiting for something to happen and someone to change things, do it yourself. Share the awareness of cyberbullying. Join movements, campaigns or start them yourself. You will be surprised just how many people will be interested. You might have felt the effects of cyberbullying yourself and understand the length of the problem, but many people don’t. So why not educate them. Make the best out of a bad situation!
- Be the better person
When you are dealing with online bullying, don’t start fights that are impossible to win. There is no need to engage in an argument because after all you are talking to a person that has one intention and that is to harm you. Instead of a hateful response, it’s better to just back off or worst case scenario, block the bully.
- Keep records and report it to the authorities
The final thing you need to do, and the most important one as well, is to report the case to the authorities. Of course, there are different cases of cyberbullying, and some are much worse than others, but online harassment is harassment and you simply should not be dealing with it. The authorities can handle the matter for you, and sometimes this is enough for a bully to back off and leave you alone. To do so make sure you collect the evidence, such as records of the conversations, emails messages, together with the date and time. Only this way can you actually file a report.
Finally, we would like to give you a few more words of advice that should serve as additional protection. For starters, make sure that all of your passwords are protected, as well as all of your devices. For practicing healthy internet habits you need to use anti-malware software, antivirus program, and Virtual Private Networks. This way, your computer will be safe from people trying to interfere with your personal information. Additionally, make sure you always log out your online accounts from places you don’t completely trust. Finally, don’t click on spammy emails, messages, or ads.
The better your internet habits are, the lower your chances of getting bullied will be.
If you have any questions regarding the topic, make sure you leave a comment below!