What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Cyberbullying can take many forms. Sometimes, it could be as simple as someone sending your teen abusive messages; for instance calling them names or sending insults. It could also entail sending out your teen's private personal information to others in order to publicly shame them. It could even include a coordinated campaign of harassment by multiple individuals.
If something written to or directed at your teen is:
- Making them uncomfortable
- Making them feel embarrassed
- Done with malicious intent
- Done to your child by many people
- A continuation of real world bullying
- or doesn’t stop after attempts to block or ignore the user(s) in question,
It is harassment, and you and your teen do not have to tolerate this behavior.
Whatever the form it takes, cyberbullying is a serious matter. It can lead to the victims feeling depressed, angry and frustrated. It destroys self confidence, and can lead to academic problems and even violence.
We take cyberbullying on Formspring very seriously. We want our site to be a fun, inclusive community for everyone, and cyberbullying is absolutely not acceptable. It is against our Terms of Service (TOS), and may even be illegal (depending on the severity). If we find someone cyberbullying, we will immediately remove the account, and if requested, work with law enforcement to add real world consequences for online bullies. If your teen or someone they know is being bullied on Formspring, please contact us as soon as possible. You can read about how to report bullying at the bottom of this page.
How is this different from regular bullying?
While cyberbullying is related to traditional bullying in many ways, it differs in a few key regards.
Many victims do not know who is bullying them. Unlike traditional bullying, which is often done face to face, cyberbullying is often done anonymously. Cyberbullies can use fake names, temporary emails, or even virtual phone numbers to harass victims. Cyberbullies also deal with a much more public space than traditional bullies. Internet abuse can easily be spread across various social networks or websites, making the victim feel more publicly humiliated than regular bullying.
Since the internet allows for anonymity and pseudonymity, many victims who don’t know their abusers think that nothing can be done to help them. We, along with many other social networks are working hard to dispel this conception. Even seemingly anonymous users can be held accountable for their actions by both the website and law enforcement. If your teen or someone you know is being abused by an anonymous individual, always report them to the site on which you’re being harassed. You can read more about how to report bullying on Formspring at the bottom of this page.
Is Impersonation bullying?
Absolutely yes! Impersonation is when someone creates a fake profile in your teen's name in order to harass, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person. Thus, there are a number of ways impersonation can be used to bully somebody. One way is when an account is made in the victim’s name and used to say compromising or inappropriate things in their name. Another way is that the abuser uses the victim’s name to gain the confidence of their friends in order to learn private things about them. These are just two of the ways that impersonation can be used to harm others.
Everyone should know that impersonation is completely in opposition to Formspring’s Terms of Service. And, like cyberbullying, it is also against the law! According to California Senate Bill 1411, criminal impersonation can be punished by thousands of dollars in fines an even jail time!
If your teen is being impersonated, see our guide on how to report Impersonation here.
How do I talk to my teen about cyberbullying?
If you suspect your teen is being bullied, or just want to talk to them about it in general, there are many resources out there to assist you, such as www.connectsafely.org orhttp://www.stopbullying.gov/topics/cyberbullying/.
Here are some general tips about how to ensure your teen avoids cyberbullying, and how to react if they are being bullied:
- Check in with your teen regularly about what they are doing online. Be familiar with their online activity. This includes not only know what websites they visit, but what users do on those websites, and what safety and privacy guidelines are in place there.
- Consider signing an internet safety pledge with your teen, such as the examples found here.
- Make sure your teen does not respond to bullying. This can often make it worse. Instead, make sure they know how to report bullying on Formspring. There is a guide on reporting content below.
- Document the bullying. Taking screenshots (http://take-a-screenshot.org/) is a great way to save evidence to give to school administrators or law enforcement if the situation escalates.
- And if the situation does escalate, call your local police force! Here are some examples of behavior that warrants the involvement of law enforcement:
- Child Pornography
- Stalking or hate crimes
- Sexual exploitation