Many people think of bullying as a schoolyard activity. It’s something that kids do to other kids, and that both bullies and their victims outgrow.
As much as we would like to believe this, the truth is that bullying is more than just something kids do on the schoolground. Instead, it’s an activity that can persist long after childhood. Bullying occurs in the workplace, at the gym, in parking lots everywhere, and even in the White House these days. And, unfortunately, the Internet has expanded the access of bullies to their victims. It’s also increased the number of bullies that can attack individual victims, amplifying the damage they can cause.
One recent example of this is a woman in St. Louis who was savagely attacked by cyberbullies for her smile. We all need to stand up against cyberbullying, but people who find themselves bullied and are themselves unhappy with their smiles might want to improve their smiles.
Why Cyberbullying Can Be Worse
One of the things that makes cyberbullying so hard to deal with is that it can happen 24 hours a day. There is no safe space where someone can get away from cyberbullies if a person wants to be online. And for many of us these days, that’s where all our friends are.
Cyberbullying messages can reach a very wide audience very quickly. It’s not just people who were at a place and heard what was said who experience it, it’s everyone online that can see a comment or image. They can also quickly share these comments to many more people.
And because of the fluidity of online communication, many people who are not even acquainted with the victim can join in the bullying. They can easily say hurtful things about someone they don’t know. And their own anonymity online serves as a cover under which they feel free to say things they would never think conscionable in person.
And once images and messages are out there, they can be hard to remove. Unlike hateful spoken words, which dissipate into the air, online comments and images can remain in place, reiterating their damaging message.
What We Should Do about Cyberbullying
First, it’s important to protect yourself and your children from cyberbullying. Make sure you know about your children’s activities online. For younger children, monitor their accounts by being friends or have another adult do this. Make sure that everything shared is reasonable for posting. Any embarrassing or revealing statement or image can lead to serious problems in the future. Keep personal information secret. Take advantage of privacy settings to control who sees your posts. And make sure to report cyberbullying activity to those in a position to help.
And remember not to engage in cyberbullying yourself. Sometimes the temptation to be seen as clever or funny can overwhelm your natural sympathy. Before you post anything, ask yourself not only how this comment might make someone feel, but also what other comments might follow.
But we also need to take a stand against cyberbullies online. If you see inappropriate comments and you have the power to delete them, you should do so. If you can’t delete them, make it clear to the person posting and others that this kind of conduct is not acceptable on your feed or page. Unfriend or block offenders.
If you know offenders IRL, talk to them about their online conduct. Many people who make offensive comments online count on being sheltered from real-world consequences by anonymity. If you bring their deeds home to them in person, they’re more likely to understand that it’s wrong.
If You’re Unhappy with Your Smile
Let’s be clear: your smile is your own, and you don’t have any responsibility to anyone online or in person to fix your smile or try to be someone you don’t want to be.
But if you’re unhappy with your smile, the comments of a cyberbully can cause lingering damage. It can make living with your current smile unbearable. It may make you want to fix your smile even more.
If that is the case, we’re here to help. Cosmetic dentistry can help you get a smile you love, one that you’ll be proud to share. It isn’t a protection against cyberbullying, unfortunately–jerks online can find mean things to say even about the best people–but it can help you feel better about yourself and your smile so maybe the comments don’t hurt so much.