It's likely that you, or someone you know, has been affected in some way by cyberbullying.

44% of Australian young people report having a negative online experience in the last 6 months, this includes 15% who received threats or abuse online. -ESafety Commissioner

Much of our lives are conducted through digital spaces, and the importance of understanding and managing the dynamics of online interaction is critical. Cyberbullying, a pervasive and growing concern, affects not only individuals but also the overall health and performance of organisations, extending its impact to younger generations as well. It is crucial for professionals to identify, avoid, and report such harmful behaviour and educate friends and family on appropriate online conduct.

Watch our educational video for kids: be nice on the net below.  

Understanding cyberbullying

Cyberbullying involves the use of digital technology, such as social media, email, instant messaging, and other platforms, to harass, intimidate, or otherwise harm individuals. This can take various forms, including spreading rumours, posting hurtful or false information, or threatening individuals with unwanted action if a condition isn’t met. It is a universal problem affecting both professional and personal lives, making it important to understand its signs and symptoms.  

Recognising cyberbullying:

Recognising cyberbullying in the workplace involves understanding the red flags.  These include repeated harmful actions, often characterised by a power imbalance, with the victim unable to defend themselves adequately.  
Some common forms include:

  • Harassing or threatening emails or messages.
  • Spreading rumours or personal information online.
  • Excluding or alienating an individual from professional online groups.
  • Posting derogatory or offensive comments on professional platforms.
  • Inappropriate requests, messages or attention.

In younger populations, additional signs may manifest as changes in behaviour such as unwillingness to go to school, changes in academic performance, or evident distress during or after using digital devices.

Avoiding cyberbullying

Prevention is a significant first step in combating cyberbullying.

In a professional context, organisations can:

  • Implement comprehensive policies and guidelines regarding online behaviour.
  • Foster an environment promoting open communication and mutual respect.
  • Provide regular training sessions to employees about digital etiquette and cyber safety.
  • Promote the use of privacy settings and secure networks.
  • Promote in person meetings and phone calls to prevent misunderstandings

To extend this to younger generations, parents, guardians, and educators can:

  • Teach about safe online behaviours and the risks associated with sharing personal information.
  • Monitor the online activities of young people without infringing on their privacy.
  • Encourage open dialogue about their online experiences and challenges.
  • Advise them to report any uncomfortable online encounters to a trusted adult.

Reporting cyberbullying

If cyberbullying is identified, reporting is a crucial step.  

In a professional setting, victims should:

  • Document all instances of bullying, including emails, messages, or other forms of communication.
  • Report the incidents to the appropriate person in the organisation, such as a supervisor, human resources, or a dedicated cyberbullying response team if available.
  • If necessary, involve law enforcement, especially when threats or identity theft are involved.

In your personal life, victims should:

  • Share any instance of cyberbullying with a trusted friend.
  • Not respond or retaliate as it could potentially escalate the situation.
  • Block the bully on your digital devices and report the abuse to the relevant social media platform.
  • If it escalates and you feel threatened or unsafe, please report it to law enforcement.  

For young people, they should be encouraged to:

  • Share any instance of cyberbullying with a trusted adult.
  • Not respond or retaliate as it could potentially escalate the situation.
  • Block the bully on their digital devices and report the abuse to the relevant social media platform.

Mental health at home and work is important for wellbeing, and the importance of recognising, avoiding, and reporting cyber bullying cannot be overstated. As professionals, it's our job to foster safe digital spaces, not only within our organisations but also within our spheres of influence, extending to the young and impressionable members of our society. Leading by example, we can collectively contribute to a healthier, more respectful online culture.

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