3.3.2 What happens next?

After the hurtful messages, comments or pictures have been posted recipients are likely to respond inwardly with feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety. Even if cyberbullying is done jokingly or unintentionally, it does not change the fact that this action can deeply hurt the targeted individual.

Signs that someone is being cyberbullied are similar to signs of being victimized in other ways. Some emotional, academic, social and behavioural indicators to look out for are listed in the chart below12.

Outward responses of cyberbullying recipients can also vary. Some recipients may just ‘shake it off’ and not let it bother them; others may react aggressively or retaliate. Some might respond, but be assertive but polite and others may stay passive and not do anything about the problem.  Some might plan steps and actions to take. Some might respond emotionally. They might tell someone or hide what is happening from others or do a range of other things.

In prevention work with young people, it is important to teach them how different kinds of responses are likely to impact the outcome of cyberbullying. For example, retaliation or aggressive response has been shown to make the situation worse, whereas passive avoidance could lead to serious psychological consequences for the targeted individual.

Some basic tips for young people who encounter cyberbullying are:

  • Tell a trusted adult if they are being cyberbullied.
  • If they know someone who is being a cyberbully tell them to stop or report it.
  • Contact host/site providers if inappropriate material is being posted on their site.
  • Save all evidence if they are being bullied online. Do not delete anything without keeping a copy for yourself.
  • Do not respond to rude messages. Rude comebacks only make things worse.
  • Do not post anything online that they would mind their parents and friends seeing.
  • Most importantly, treat others as they want to be treated. Consider what they are posting or uploading and ask themselves: “Would I want someone saying or putting that about me online?”