April 15, 2024

South West News

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How to recognise the signs of online abuse

While the internet can offer excitement, laughter, and a place to connect with friends, it can also act as a dangerous place when met with the wrong types of people.

Online abuse refers to any form of abuse that occurs on the internet. It can happen across several devices, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones, and can be seen on social media, text messaging, emails, and online gaming.

The signs of online abuse can be difficult to spot, but it’s important to recognise these as early as possible. Each case is different, too, which is why we should be aware of all possible circumstances.

Types of online abuse

People may experience different types of online abuse, which could include:

  • Cyberbullying: This type of bullying happens online and can follow that person’s online presence, wherever they go. This can often cause you to feel trapped and unable to escape the situation.
  • Emotional abuse: This involves the emotional mistreatment of an individual and can include blackmailing them into sharing personal information and explicit images. The perpetrator will usually threaten the victim with repercussions if the demands are not met.
  • Sexual exploitation: Sexting typically involves two people sharing sexual content via private messages. However, this can turn into sexual exploitation if someone receives unsolicited sexual content or is forced to take sexual images.
  • Online stalking: This involves the use of online platforms to track and harass an individual. This could include constantly checking on someone, trying to get their attention, or tracking their whereabouts.
  • Grooming: This is where someone builds a relationship with a vulnerable individual so they can sexually abuse or exploit them. Groomers tend to hide their real identity and pretend to be of a different age or sex.

Recognising signs of online abuse

There are some warning signs to look out for in case someone you know is experiencing online abuse. These include:

  • Sudden changes in behaviour
  • Spending increased amounts of time online, texting, gaming etc.
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to
  • Unexplained financial transactions
  • Noticeable decline in mental health
  • Emotional distress
  • Social isolation

Impacts of online abuse

Online abuse can have long-lasting effects on all victims. Those who experience it might not suffer in the same way, especially as each case is different. Some of these effects include:

  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Relationship difficulties with family and friends
  • Drug and alcohol problems

Preventative measures

Unfortunately, online abuse can be difficult to stop. It’s now easier than ever to communicate with people from all around the world, and there’s always going to be some that intend to cause harm. However, some measures can be put in place to prevent it from occurring.

  • Ensure accounts and passwords are secure
  • Discuss the importance of online safety with children and young people
  • Stay well-informed with the latest sites
  • Strengthen privacy settings
  • Utilise reporting and blocking features on the respective platform
  • Encourage open communication
  • Reporting and blocking features on platforms
  • Encouraging open communication

Steps to take if you suspect online abuse

If you suspect online abuse is taking place, be sure to document all evidence and report it to the platform or service provider as soon as possible.

Online abuse can potentially lead to more dangerous situations if not tackled early on. If this abuse occurs offline, you should consider seeking professional help from domestic abuse solicitors who can handle your case with professionalism and care.

Or, in the event of an emergency, there are several domestic abuse helplines and charities that can offer advice and support.