Adult cyberbullying: Why it’s happening and what to do about it

Cyberbullying is not just an adolescent problem. Adults can be victims too. If this surprises you, just look at the comments on any social media of celebrities, athletes, politicians or public figures and you’ll see a prime example of online harassment by adults and between adults.

Cyberbullying isn’t limited to public figures, either. Anyone can be the recipient of online harassment of some kind. According a recent study from the Pew Research Center, approximately four in 10 adults in America have personally experienced online harassment, with 25% of respondents finding their experience very or extremely upsetting.

While much of the harassment we hear about takes place on social media, almost 60% according to the Pew study, it can also occur in other online venues such as text messaging, chat groups or forums, or even online gaming. Bullying and harassment can focus on many different issues, ranging from political and religious to other issues such as physical appearance, gender, ethnicity, career choice, or sexual orientation. While the person harassing you might be a stranger, they can also be someone you know such as a neighbor, coworker, former romantic partner or other acquaintance.

An informative resource where you can learn more about this disturbing issue is the official “Stop Cyberbullying Day” website. A global awareness day marked each year on the third Friday in June. Check it out at stopcyberbullyingday.org.

What to do if you are being harassed online

When children and teenagers are cyberbullied, they are told to turn to adults for help. But who should adults turn to? The same advice stands true: Adults should turn to other adults – such as law enforcement or authorities with the ability to help.

If you are being harassed or bullied online, here’s what you can do:

FIRST: Keep all evidence of the bullying including the actual messages, posts, comments, etc.  If there are ways you can determine who exactly is making the comments, also document that.

SECOND: Contact the service or content provider through which the bullying is occurring.  For example, if you are being cyberbullied on Facebook, contact them.  If you are receiving hurtful or threatening cell phone messages, contact your cell phone company. (See below for helpful links for the top 3 social media platforms.)

THIRD: Do not retaliate or do anything that might be perceived by an outsider to have contributed to the problem. If you must respond, only do so by calmly asking them to stop and letting them know that if they refuse, you will have to take additional legal actions.

*If you are afraid for your safety, you should immediately contact law enforcement.

FOURTH: Use social media anti-bullying resources. Most social media platforms have tools in place to deal with online abuse. On Facebook you can report or block offensive comments, posts, and profiles. Instagram and Twitter also encourages users to report bullying and harassment and offer resources for dealing with abuse on their platforms. Below are a few links you can reference:

FINALLY: Be an example of good behavior to your kids, your peers, and those you interact with online. Just because we are able to say anything we want online, doesn’t mean we should. If everyone does their part to model appropriate behavior, others will see and hopefully be inspired to act in the same way.

If you ever have a problem with someone interacting inappropriately with you online and need assistance in finding the right resources to deal with it, please give our customer service team a call at (800) 982-7675.

Kristy CooperAdult cyberbullying: Why it’s happening and what to do about it