Advice for how to handle cyberbullying may seem bleak. Turn off the screen. Ignore it.
Although that’s often the first resort, if online harassment continues, it doesn’t hurt to reach out for help no matter how old you are.
Cyberbullying is discussed at an elementary level more and more as national stories about depression and suicide surface. But for many, it doesn’t stop in early adulthood. High schoolers and young adults easily can become victims, especially as more and more social media sites allow people to verbally abuse someone else from behind a screen.
Dave Brown, director of counseling at Missouri Western State University, says he and other counselors deal with about six cases of cyberbullying during an average year. And although he said his first advice to students it to just “shut it off,” it’s also important to seek help if things get serious.
“People need to be aware on the administrative level of what’s going on so that it can be addressed at a higher level, so we really encourage folks to tell somebody,” Brown said. “We consider cyberbullying a conduct issue, and as such, people can be sanctioned by the campus for this type of behavior just as if they were threatening any other way.”
He said severe cases of cyberbullying can lead to depression or even suicide attempts. An alleged local rape case involving Maryville, Missouri, teenager Daisy Coleman also involved severe cyberbullying. ABC News reported in a "20/20" interview that Coleman’s mother said "The stuff on Facebook and Twitter was just unbelievable, so horrible ... saying stuff like, 'Why don't you slit your wrists?'"
Although Coleman’s situation led to suicide attempts, fortunately she lived to tell her story.
Some victims of cyberbullying are able to brush off mean comments easier than others. One of those people is Gabrielle Klobucar. She says she’s heard it all and recently started a YouTube channel to encourage people to be themselves no matter what others think.
“My YouTube channel has helped because the way I look at it, there’s no one else out there being an idiot like I am. When it comes to being a comedian, there are very few women out there that just don’t care what people think, and I really try to push that on to people,” said Klobucar.
She says that people who struggle with cyberbullying really should try to step away from the situation.
“Once you let go of social media and what people are saying and focus on something else, focus on something that makes you happy -- go write some things down, go listen to some good music, go play a sport -- just get off your phone or your computer because people are going to say whatever they want,” Klobucar said.
She says that if that doesn’t work, people should reach out to someone or a group of people because no one should have to be alone. She and her boyfriend, Chance Pitcock, recently started a nonprofit organization called The Scott Alan Project, in honor of Pitcock’s uncle who committed suicide.
“We started this nonprofit because we want people to get together and be positive,” Klobucar said.
If you become a victim of cyberbullying and turning off the screen just isn’t enough, there are many ways to get help. Reach out to a counselor or your family. Join an organization with a positive message. Or at the very least, tell someone before it threatens your life.