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How to beat the cyberbullies

From happy-slapping to online stalking

TOP 10 TIPS FOR AVOIDING CYBERBULLYING

Much of the security advice we provide is equally applicable to anyone concerned about or already subjected to unwanted and malicious contact. These tips offer common-sense advice.

* DON'T RESPOND TO MALICIOUS TEXTS OR EMAILS Letting someone know you're rattled will only encourage them.

* DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SEE OR READ It's all too easy for someone to pretend to be someone else online. Someone may claim to be 15, but that doesn’t mean they are. Keep your own profile vague and assume everyone else’s is also partially fictional.

* SAVE THE EVIDENCE If someone says something untoward online or via an email or text message, keep a copy. Instant-message conversations and Facebook comments can be saved as screengrabs using the Print Screen button on your PC keyboard. Keep a diary of any unwanted contact, recording the form and nature of it. This can be useful when trying to establish who’s doing the bullying (if the onslaught is anonymous) and can also be useful should any disciplinary or criminal action become necessary.

* REPORT CYBERBULLYING Don't suffer in silence. Tell someone you're being bullied - your teacher or employer is obliged to do something about it. You may even need to get the police involved.

* RING THE CHANGES If the bullying is happening by text or phone call, tell your operator and they may be able to block the caller or change your phone number. Improve your email security.

* KEEP YOUR PASSWORDS SAFE Some bullying can take the form of impersonation. If someone pretends to be you and sends defamatory emails, insults friends or colleagues or otherwise acts in your name without your knowledge or permission, it will aggrieve both you and others. Have a secure password that differs from site to site and from email login to email login, and change it regularly. This way you’ll avoid being hacked and someone snooping on you with a view to discovering personal information they could use against you or to spam others in your name.

* NEVER GIVE OUT PERSONAL DETAILS ONLINE Be wary of anyone soliciting personal information from you. As well as leaving you vulnerable to identity thieves, personal information you divulge can be turned against you, whether it’s a clue to your whereabouts or your likes and dislikes.

* NEVER SEND A MESSAGE IN ANGER You may be upset, but it’s better to turn off your phone, email or web browser and take some time out to calm down than to respond if someone tries to rile you. Easier said than done, of course, but it may also stop the situation from escalating.

* DON’T OPEN MESSAGES FROM STRANGERS If you’re not expecting an email message and it's not from someone you know and doesn’t appear from the subject line or other details to be a business email, send it straight to the junk folder. A cyberbully may use different email accounts or methods to contact you, particularly if one method of communication, such as instant messaging or sending Facebook messages, has been denied to them.

* NEVER ARRANGE TO MEET A STRANGER A face-to-face confrontation with an unsavoury character is not a good idea. Nor should you arrange to meet someone about whom you have only very sketchy, possibly unreliable, information gleaned online.

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