Not too long ago, bullies would physically and verbally assault their terrified victims. From hitting to spitting, teasing to threatening, classic bullies would use an array of tactics to harass and demean their targets.

Though times have changed, human nature has not and bullying has simply evolved along with technological advances. While conventional bullying does still occur, today's bullies are more sophisticated, using the Internet – and particularly social media – to attack their victims in ways that can often be more vicious and damaging than the traditional means.

Cyber bullying ruins lives

"Cyber bullying" takes traditional bullying to the Internet and digital platforms. Using mobile phone calls, text messages, email, social media, and other Internet websites, bullies can harass their victims by threatening violence or other harm, insulting them, making false accusations about them, and even publicising explicit (often manipulated) images of them. This kind of cyber bullying can ruin a person's social life, damage their academic career or jeopardise their future employment prospects.

Fight smart; not dirty

Locally, there haven't been many studies to assess the extent of cyber bullying, but with the rise in mobile Internet use via smartphones, informal evidence suggests that the problem is growing.

These tips may help to reduce or resolve the problem:

  • Don't engage: By engaging with cyber-bullies, you just give them even more "airtime". While you probably won't be able to ignore what the bully is saying, you can reduce the attention the bully gets and you can definitely reduce the chance of those nasty messages going viral.

  • Document the bullying: Save all the abusive emails or messages and take screenshots of any social media harassment. Remember to record the date, time and web addresses of these instances. This evidence will be vital for legal and investigative purposes.

  • Secure your online profiles: Change your privacy settings to ensure that your information is not public. Block the person who is cyber-bullying you. If the bully has hacked your Facebook account, reclaim it.

  • Report it:

  • Get help: Use UCT's Student Wellness Service to help you deal with the effects of the cyber bullying.