I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “late bloomer” per se, but there were definitely some awkward teenage years in my past. Glasses and a dire need for braces contributed to some occasional not-so-nice comments from some of my peers. However, I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of myself as someone who was bullied – personally I just chalked it up to kids being kids. Nothing that was said was ever malicious enough to cause me serious distress, so I can’t even imagine what some young people who are bullied must go through on a daily basis. Even more, I can’t begin to fathom having to deal with a similar type of bullying as an adult. Bullying is supposed to be something we grow out of, but it seems like old habits die hard, especially when it’s so easy to attack your target online. Adult cyberbullying is a reality for many and can cause just as much emotional damage in grownups as in teens.

To clarify, cyberbullying is defined as:  “actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm another or others.” Those technologies include the internet, email, instant messaging, and/or text messaging. Cyberstalking encompasses similar behaviors and is sometimes used in reference to cyberbullying in adults.

A recent study of workplace behavior by researchers in the U.K. revealed that 8 out of 10 adults reported feeling bullied online at least once in the previous six months. But a startling 14 to 20 percent of adults experienced some sort of cyberbullying at least once a week. And according to a Pew Internet study, 49% of adults using a social networking site reported observing some sort of mean or cruel behavior online. Another statistic from the Pew study showed that a full 45% of adults who witness or were victims of bad online behavior will frequently ignore it, leading to the possibility that many adults could be suffering in silence.

So what do you do if you’re the victim of adult cyberbullying? As with any type of harassment, keep any evidence possible including texts, emails, posts or comments. Contact the service provider of the online medium to report the problem, and it is always in your best interest not to respond or retaliate to an online bully. Legal action could be necessary and of course, if actual threats have been made or you have any reason to fear for your safety, you should contact your local law enforcement immediately.

Although cyberbullying is something typically associated with young people, adults can experience the same kinds of anxiety and depression as teens when exposed to similar online harassment. The troll hiding behind their computer screen making nasty comments on a website may not think much of it, but that behavior can do serious damage to another person’s psyche. Much still needs to be done, but laws are becoming stronger every day to combat cyberbullies of any age.

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