The internet and social networks have long been an integral part of life for most people. But what many perceive to be an enrichment of everyday life is also a popular tool for cyberbullying. They want to make life difficult for other people. But how does cyberbullying arise and how can those affected defend themselves against it?
- Cyberbullying is a special form of bullying that takes place primarily on the Internet and via electronic means of communication.
- Victims of cyberbullying should contact a person they trust and, if necessary, report them to the police.
- If offensive content is circulating on the Internet, it is important to have it removed by the operator of the relevant website.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying – also known as cyberbullying – is the targeted, permanent insulting and exposure of selected victims via the Internet and / or a mobile phone. The harassment is often accompanied by threats. The perpetrator mobilizes followers, so that ultimately a whole group is formed that acts against the victim and socially marginalizes them.
Cyberbullying offers perpetrators the advantage of being able to act anonymously. Modern smartphones enable them to take photos, videos or voice recordings of the victims and post them directly to the public on the Internet or in private chats. In many cases, cyberbullying and traditional bullying outside the internet are linked: Conflicts in real life can continue in cyberbullying. Conversely, bullying can start on the Internet and spread to schools, neighborhoods, or work.
Cyberbullying is possible around the clock and from anywhere. It takes place on a wide variety of platforms and message forms on the Internet – for example:
- in social networks / online communities (e.g. Facebook and Twitter)
- by email
- on blogs
- in chat rooms
- in mobile messenger apps (e.g. WhatsApp),
- in forums and on boards
- on photo and video platforms (e.g. YouTube, Instagram)
- or on websites specially created for bullying
It is typical to create a fake profile of the victim with false information, photos, videos or voice recordings that embarrass or humiliate the victim. In cyberbullying, the perpetrators often also use calls, SMS or MMS to bully the victim.
How does cyberbullying arise?
There are many causes for cyberbullying. Wherever people meet or work together, conflicts can arise. Often it is very banal things that give rise to bullying – such as intolerance towards an unusual appearance, conspicuous behavior or towards social origin. Over time, the real reason for the bullying becomes less important. At the same time, the perpetrators’ constant desire to harass the victim and to make everyday life more difficult is increasing. Due to the anonymity on the Internet, cyberbullying perpetrators often have very low inhibitions. Since they are mostly active under a pseudonym, many of the perpetrators are not afraid of the consequences or of being caught.
What help is there with cyberbullying?
As difficult as it is for victims of cyberbullying to talk about their problems, it is important that they get help. Anyone who does not dare to talk to their parents, teachers, superiors or other people they trust can get anonymous help. For example, the number against Kummer e. V. Assistance to those affected with advice and action. The children’s and youth telephone can be reached Monday to Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. free of charge on 116 111. Parents and teachers can also find help there.
The most important thing after a cyberbullying attack is to react correctly. Those affected should not allow themselves to be provoked. Victims of childhood or adolescence should always show written insults or threats to a person they trust and think about the next steps together with them. It also makes sense to keep all evidence – such as pictures, videos, SMS or emails – in connection with cyberbullying. In particularly serious and threatening cases, those affected should report to the police.
What can parents of affected children do against cyberbullying?
The victims of cyberbullying suffer from permanent psychological stress that can make them sick in the long term. Possible consequences are, for example:
- aloof behavior, taciturnity
- sleep disorders
- Difficulty learning
- Afraid of going to school
- Self harm
- physical illnesses
- social isolation
Parents should always pay attention to their child’s behavior in order to spot any signs of cyberbullying in good time. These often differ from child to child: Most of the time, victims of bullying withdraw and appear more closed than before. School anxiety among children who previously enjoyed going to school is also a clear warning sign. If you are unsure how to best address your child, you can contact the number against Kummer e. V. or other organizations.
It helps when parents listen to their children and take the problems seriously. In case of doubt, the school management must be informed. Teachers should make it clear to students that no form of bullying will be tolerated. If unwanted photos or videos are already circulating on the Internet, parents should contact the operator of the platform concerned and insist on the content being removed.
What are the penalties for cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying in itself is not a criminal offense, but it is usually accompanied by criminal acts: insults, exposures, threats, unauthorized disclosure of information about the victim. Young offenders under the age of 14 are not yet of criminal age. They focus on educational measures in accordance with the Youth Courts Act (JGG) instead of punishment. However, adolescents aged 14 and over and adults face penalties in accordance with the Criminal Code (StGB).
Possible criminal offenses including their consequences are:
- 131 StGB – Depiction of violence: fine or imprisonment (up to one year)
- Section 185 of the Criminal Code – insult: fine or imprisonment (up to one or two years)
- Section 186 StGB – Defamation: Fine or imprisonment (up to one or two years)
- Section 187 of the Criminal Code – defamation: fine or imprisonment (up to two or five years)
- Section 201 StGB – violation of the confidentiality of the word (non-public sound recordings): fine or imprisonment (up to three years)
- Section 201a StGB – Violation of the highly personal sphere of life through picture taking: fine or imprisonment (up to two years)
- Section 240 StGB – coercion: fine or imprisonment (up to three or five years) – the attempt is also punishable
- Section 241 StGB – threat: fine or imprisonment (up to one year)
Often children and adolescents are not aware that they are going too far and that their actions go far beyond harmless fun. How children rate their actions depends largely on their social environment.