Many people mistakenly believe only children and teens can be the target of cyberbullying. However, 64% of young adults aged 18 to 29 have experienced cyberbullying, and 41% of all adults have reported experiencing online bullying. As an adult experiencing cyberbullying, you may feel caught off guard, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to handle the situation. After all, you might come from a generation when bullying stayed on the playground. Recognizing cyberbullying and what you can do about it can make the situation more manageable and less stressful. In this blog, we discuss what cyberbullying is and five tips for dealing with adult bullying online.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Before diving into ways to combat adult cyberbullying, let’s discuss what cyberbullying is. The bullying you may remember from childhood can look much different from bullying today. Generally, cyberbullying is using electronic communication to bully an individual with intimidating or threatening messages. Cyberbullying can consist of verbal threats, harassment, humiliation tactics, and more. It occurs within the digital space either through the internet or phone. Cyberbullying can occur on social media platforms, messaging services, forums, comment sections, threads, or gaming platforms. Cyberbullying can target your physical appearance, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, as well as your religious and political beliefs.
How to Handle Cyberbullying
As an adult facing bullying, you may be shocked and confused about why this is happening. It can be disheartening to make it through your teenage years only to end up facing a bully as an adult. Here are five helpful tips to handle suspected cyberbullying as an adult.
1. Recognize It
It is essential first to understand what might be considered cyberbullying or harassment and what isn’t. Not every negative or unkind comment is cyberbullying, no matter how hurtful it might be. An essential aspect of cyberbullying is that it often involves repetitive behavior, not just a one-time post.
2. Document and Keep Records
If you believe you are the target of cyberbullying, start documenting everything. Keep records of the harassment, comments, and behavior. If possible, save or print the screen. Having these records later will be crucial in pursuing any legal action.
3. Block, Ignore, and Report
Most online platforms, including social networking sites, have tools to address online bullying. They typically can block a user, ignore the user, or report them. These mechanisms are there for a reason—use them. Sometimes, dealing with online bullying is as simple as blocking them from your page and removing their ability to interact with you. However, it can be more complex, and cyberbullies often know how to get around these protections. For instance, when you block them, they may create new profiles to harass you continually. Most major social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, have tools to protect you from bullying and harassment.
4. Look to New Jersey Law for Help
If the situation is severe and persistent, it might be time to seek help from the law. In New Jersey, cyberbullying is a crime of the fourth degree punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
In New Jersey, a cyberbully may also be charged with harassment if they make offensive communication in a manner likely to cause alarm or annoyance. The cyberbully must intend to harass to be guilty of the crime. Harassment is generally a petty disorderly offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
If you have experienced repetitive cyberbullying, it might be time to report it to your local law enforcement authorities. They can begin an investigation and determine whether the cyberbully should be criminally charged.
Whether the bully is criminally charged does not impact your ability to file a civil suit, which brings us to our last tip.
5. Meet with an Attorney
Compared to other areas of law, cyberbullying and online harassment are relatively new. The law still has to catch up to the technology in many ways. The best way to determine if you have legal recourse is to speak with an experienced attorney in your state. If you reside in New Jersey and are having trouble handling a cyberbullying situation alone, meet with one of our seasoned New Jersey attorneys today. We are happy to discuss what legal options you have.
New Jersey Attorneys Ready to Help
At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, we are a team of award-winning attorneys trusted among our clients, peers, and adversaries. We provide compassionate and approachable representation. If you believe you or someone you love is a victim of cyberbullying, are looking for more information and resources, or are curious about your legal options and rights, we are here to help. We understand adult victims of cyberbullying may feel a bit embarrassed about it. Contact us today for a confidential and compassionate consultation.