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The destructive practice of online or cyber bullying can be just as harmful to a victim as physical or emotional bullying. Threats or insults received through online communications can even be more sinister, since the cyber bully may have the advantage of anonymity or alternative identities. There are steps a computer user can take to prevent or reduce incidents of bullying online, but a number of these steps may involve restricting access to an online social account or eliminating such accessible accounts altogether. In many cases, bullying online begins with bullying in the real world, so a victim may have to take proactive steps in order to keep both worlds as separate as possible.
One way to deal with bullying online is to treat it like the crime it is. This means keeping track of times, dates, email addresses and content of all harassing online communications. Emails received from a cyberbully should not be deleted immediately, but should instead be stored in a special online file or downloaded to a secure computer file. Many online chatting programs also allow conversations to be saved, so a victim may want to use that option following a disturbing or intimidating chat with a cyberbully. Some online bullies will post embarrassing photographs or other humiliating materials on the Internet, so a victim should record all of the information about the post, such as the domain name, date of post, screen name of poster, comments and any other identifiers. A large online video or photo hosting website may need all of this information in order to perform an internal investigation.
Many incidents of bullying online start out as incidents of real life bullying. The bully often knows the victim personally, and has enough information already to begin a cyberstalking or online bullying campaign. Knowledge of a victim's complete first and last name can literally be enough information for a motivated and computer-savvy bully to find out what online social or professional networks a victim frequents. Additional information about a victim can be discovered in public records or through paid online background checks. In order to deal with bullying online, a person should use every means available to reduce his or her online footprint, from increasing security levels on social accounts to changing online screen names and passwords.
If a victim continues to be assaulted online by a cyberbully, it may be time to inform the website owner or email service provider of the violation. Once the owner of the website or domain has been contacted, he or she may be in a better legal position to identify and penalize the offender. A victim should also make an effort to identify the bully by his or her real life actions. Did the bullying online begin after a real life incident, such as a job promotion, a new romantic relationship or a conflict with a fellow student or co-worker? Has the online bully mentioned specific incidents or used information only a limited number of real life associates would know? Few cyberbullies select their victims at random, so a person who receives threatening online communications could also be the victim of a workplace or school bully. Once their anonymity has been compromised, either by the victim or an authority figure, many cyberbullies lack the courage to continue bullying their online targets.
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