The problem with bullying, any sort of bullying, is that it is adaptive. The people doing it are rewarded for doing it. Which means, to get it to stop, you have to stop rewarding it. However, because humans are free range animals, they can always get their rewards elsewhere. Which means, you can’t really eliminate it.
What you can do is stop it when it happens to you. Here is the bullying cycle in a nutshell.
1) bully tests target to see how they respond.
2) if target responds the way bully wants, they continue.
3) Eventually target tries to get bully to stop.
4) this triggers an escalation of behavior by the bully (known as an extinction burst)
5) target gives in, bullying continues at a heightened, more aggressive level
This cycle is so common that most people are under the impression that there is nothing you can do to stop bullying. But actually, when you look at this more clearly – you see there are 2 places to interrupt the cycle.
1st – if the target does not respond the way the bully wants, they stop. (2) – This is fairly easy to do and immediate. This is why most anti-bullying programs focus on prevention. What they are referring to is how to shut the bullying down in the initial testing phase before bullying behavior becomes an established pattern.
The second place to stop it is the extinction burst process. If the target does not give in (5), the bully will cycle through the extinction process all the way to extinction. This is extremely hard to do which is why almost no one teaches it and why the association of school psychologists is so heavily invested in prevention. Regardless, if a target can stay firm and refuse to give the bully their reward, the bully will eventually stop. This can take a while and the bully will escalate their behavior to get the target to respond the way they want again.
The reason most attempts to get bullying fail is because people give in during the extinction process. They try the techniques they were taught for prevention and it escalates the behavior. What they don’t realize is that is normal. It’s what the extinction process looks like – you just have to ride it out and stay strong and if you do, the bullies will eventually give up and find another target.
This process plays out in EVERY bullying situation. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, this is the cycle and there are only 2 places to interrupt it. The key is to learn how to stop rewarding the bully and to keep not rewarding them until they go away. Is it easy to do? No. Does it work? Yes. Even for cyber bullies.
Now – the good news about cyberbullying is that they leave a documentation trail behind them which means that getting assistance and creating consequences for their bad behavior is easier than with verbal and physical bullying. So document away.