Anyone can be affected by online harassment. Many celebrities have also confessed to having been victims of it: the actress of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” Millie Bobby Brown, the content creator Léna Situations or the singer Eddy de Pretto. More than 40% of people under 50 have already been victims of cyberbullying (source 1). On the children’s side, 20% of minors say they have already been cyber-harassed (source 2). And according to a study of the moderator’s blog, they were mostly harassed by strangers (Source 3).
Cyberbullying: how to define it? When can we talk about cyberbullying?
Cyber harassment means any malicious act against a person by electronic means: social networks, instant messaging… in general behind a screen. As with “classic” harassment, what counts is the repetition and duration over time.
What situations are considered cyberbullying?
According to the government, several situations are considered cyber harassment (source 4):
- bullying, insults, teasing or threats on line ;
- the broadcast of rumors ;
- the account hacking and digital identity theft;
- the posting a photo or video of the victim in bad posture. “This practice is increasingly common among young people“, estimates Axelle Desaint, director of the program Internet Without Fear, the National Program of sensitization to the screens and the numerical uses of the young people.
Cyber violence: definition? what is the difference with cyberbullying?
The cyberviolence is to be differentiated from cyber harassment: it isisolated actions (therefore not repeated over time), for example a hateful or humiliating message on a website, or an online threat.
“In general, cyber violence is going to be the starting point of cyberbullying. Increasingly, isolated actions are seen as cyberbullying and therefore as misdemeanors. To prevent the situation from degenerating into cyberbullying, you have to act at the first malicious remarkat the first insult, at the first disturbing or hurtful message”, specifies Axelle Desaint.
Prison sentence, fine… what does a cyber stalker risk according to the law?
Cyber harassment is considered in French law as a crime. As such, a cyber stalker risks prison sentence as well as a fine. The penalty differs depending on the age of the perpetrator and the victim.
- If the author is major : the penalty is 2 years in prison and €30,000 fine. If the victim is under 15 years old, the penalty can be up to 3 years in prison and a fine of €45,000.
- If the perpetrator is between 13 and 18 years old, and the victim is over 15 years old: the penalty is 12 months in prison and a fine of €7,500. For minors, it is up to the parents of the child to pay the fine.
- If the perpetrator is between 13 and 18 years old and the victim is under 15, he risks 18 months in prison and a fine of €7,500.
- In case of cyber sexual violence and in particular the online publication of intimate images without consent, the penalty may be up to 2 years in prison and €60,000 fine.
- Specific rules are applied for minors under 13 years old.
He is possible to prevent the risk of cyberbullying. The first thing is to pay attention to the use of your mobile phone and in particular social networks:
- have a secure password and kept secret;
- have a private account rather than public, especially when posting content about privacy;
- pay attention to the photos and content published;
- to have in its subscribers only close people, that we really know.
While the subject of discussion is sometimes difficult, online resources exist for inform and educate children and parents, especially the website Internet without fearone of the three lines of action of Safer Internet France’s national program for the protection of minors.
What is the typical profile of young victims of online harassment?
Although anyone can be bullied online, studies show that young victims tend to be:
- aged 13 years on average. Indeed, cyberbullying is present in primary but especially in middle school and high school ;
- mostly girls ;
- in particular on online network games;
- more registered on social networks and more equipped.
What to do in case of cyberbullying? in adults? in the child?
In the event of cyberbullying, several things must be done:
- if the cyberbullying took place via a social network, block the author(s). Reporting tools exist in all social networks: you must immediately report the cyber stalker account. There is also a illegal content reporting platform : Point-of-contact ;
- it is essential to keep all evidence online harassment, and make written copies or screenshots of any malicious account, message or content;
Where and how to talk about it?
Next, It is necessary to talk about it. Being harassed, whether online or offline, can have significant psychological consequences : we must not isolate ourselves but rather seek listening and support.
Since cyberbullying is a crime, the victim can file a complaint. The gendarmerie and the police are trained in these situations: they can help you to lodge a complaint, but also if you simply wish to be referred to an aid structure or an association in order to benefit from appropriate care.
- Several listening and assistance devices exist: the free and anonymous listening number managed by psychologists 3018, and theapp 3018deployed throughout France since February 2022. Other associations offer their help in this regard, in particular the E-Enfance association, in charge of number 3018, but also Marion la main tendue, an association approved by the Ministry of National Education (see website).
Cyber-harassed child, how to react?
For minors, it can be more difficult to dare and know how to react. “Too often the children wait for the situation to become dramatic before talking about it”, believes Axelle Desaint. But the rules are the same: block, report, keep evidence and talk about.
The pHARe system has been implemented by the Ministry of National Education since the start of the 2022 school year in all schools and colleges. The principle: referents, school staff and students), are trained in cyber harassment to prevent these situations and listen to young people so that they do not remain isolated and can be helped.
What are the consequences of cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a crime for a reason. Like any form of harassment, it can have serious consequences on the psychological health of the victims. “He tends to accelerate the phenomena of isolationdepression, with all the impacts that this can have on health: behaviour changesleep, concentration, mood, eating disorderssuicidal thoughts… There have been very significant increases in suicides due to situations of cyberbullying”, according to Axelle Desaint. Online harassment “leave no respite” and can have public dimensions given the number of people using social networks.