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11 tips for stopping cyberbullies and online trolls

Children aren't the only ones who face attacks online. There are steps adults can take when faced with someone who won't stop attacking you online.

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While children can fall prey to cyberbullies, adults are not immune to these kinds of attacks. While name calling and shaming may be the most common form of these problems, they can take the turn to something more dangerous including stalking, threats of violence and harassment.

In 2020, 40 percent of American surveyed reported they had been victims of cyberbullying, according to a September report from vpnMentor, "Cyberbullying in the shadow of Covid-19," which looked at the impact of these attacks as people shifted more of their lives online because of the current pandemic.

Certainly there are steps people can take if they're bystanders, to stop amplifying online messages of hate, and even find people or children support they need if they're being attacked. But sometimes additional steps are necessary to bring the help needed to get the bullies to stop — or to silence their voice.

Searching And Filtering Words On Blackboard Via FunnelSet up filters to block out certain words in emails and even on social media Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Set up filters to remove words that are coming up in emails and also social media. Twitter allows you to mute words as well, whether that's a specific phrase, a hashtag or even a word.

2. Block people who are sending messages from calling and sending texts, and even IM messages, suggests Common Sense Media. This can typically be done now through both Apple smartphones, and iOS, and through Android-based devices as well.

Young woman using smartphone for video callGet off social media, but use online tools like video chats to speak with friends Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. While easier said than done, get off social media — and even online — for a set amount of time. Google reported that 41 percent of parents said they were unplugging from technology in September, up from 34 percent in March. Give yourself a time period you know you can handle. Maybe that's a week, a month, maybe it's just one day. Have something ready to flip your attention to in the meantime, perhaps a movie marathon, or plans with friends, even online through FaceTime, Zoom or another form of video conferencing. You don't have to talk, you can just be together online.

4. Reach out for help. Groups including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line can offer emotional support to help you know you're not alone.

Concentrated serious office worker millennial woman analyzing resultsReach out to human resources if the bullying is happening at work Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. If the bullying is happening around work, reach out to your Human Resources department, suggests the National Cybersecurity Alliance. This is information they want to know and they can help support you, even by disciplining the person who is doing the bullying. You may also want to contact the HR department of a company where the potential bully works, as they may be interested in this information as well.

6. Contact local authorities to alert them about any threats, and be prepared to have documented evidence to show them. Cyberbullying.org suggests looking into whether your state has laws on the books that outlaw cyberbullying activities. And if the bullying involves children as well, consider contacting the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program.

Hands typing on laptop computerDocument the bullying through screenshots and screen recordings Getty Images

7. Document everything. Take screenshots, screen recordings, start recording calls (but make sure you're in a state that allows one-sided recording.) Note the time and date when this information is coming in to you. Keeping a record may be emotionally difficult but if you need this evidence later you'll be glad you have it.

8. If the bullying happens at school or college, reach out a counselor, a professor, a principal or dean. Often colleges have campus policies in place that forbid hazing and bullying. And for teens still in school, consider reaching out to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights if you don't feel your concerns are being addressed at a school level.

Social network homepage on a monitor screen.Report the bullying to social media sites if it's happening through their channels Getty Images

9. Report the bullying to the site where it's coming from, whether that's YouTube, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. These sites have ways to report cyberbullying.

10. Tell the bully to stop, suggests the Crisis Prevention Institute. Sometimes this can work. A bully may not know they've crossed the line and may not realize the harm they're doing. But this is only a tactic to try if you're an adult, and only if the bullying hasn't reached a level of threats.

11. Finally, take the time to also lockdown your digital accounts just in case a cyberbully is also trying to do more than just harass you. This can include anything from checking that your passwords are strong to updating software and operating systems.

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