Cyber hate is real - here's how to deal with it

By YP cadet Andrea Zoen, additionally reporting by Young Wang

Online bullying - a problem that doesn't compute

By YP cadet Andrea Zoen, additionally reporting by Young Wang |

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Social media is a way to express yourself; to post whatever you're thinking, convey stories and update on life. But given this freedom, some people misuse and abuse it, and post things they wouldn't say in person.

This form of abuse is commonly referred to as cyber bullying. According to, a website managed by the US government, students who are cyberbullied are more likely to skip school, get poor grades, have lower self-esteem and have health problems. They are also more likely to be bullied in person.

And it happens frequently in Hong Kong, too.

Dr Angel Leung Nga-man, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Institute of Education says 30 to 40 per cent of the city's primary school students either had been bullied or had bullied others online, according to a study she ran in 2013. However, there is no legal protection for victims.

"It's best if Hong Kong can have legislation against cyberbullying, since the trend is [increasing] over the years", Leung says.

She acknowledges that, as awareness of the problem increases, it's hard to tell whether there are actually more cases, or just more cases being reported. However, she points out that as teenagers spend increasing amounts of time online, it makes sense that the number of cases would also increase.

The situation is especially bad for those who put themselves on a public platform and post regularly - they're bound to stumble across someone that doesn't like what they say.

Ashley Suen, a 15-year-old student at Canadian International School, knows this all too well. She has a follower count of more than 590,000 on Tumblr, which makes her around HK$17,000-HK$30,000, and 10,500 Instagram followers.

"Hate used to affect me until I realised and accepted that not everyone's going to like me and agree with the things I do," she says.

"I think people hate because they're either jealous of you … or they're just bored." She finds, though, the best way to deal with the haters is to shut them down - sometimes literally.

"When I first started getting hate, I would respond to everything and be all defensive, but now I don't actually think [it's] a real issue because you can literally just close your computer or delete the message and it's gone."

Markian, a 17-year-old student from Kellett School, and an aspiring YouTube star with around 25,000 subscribers, agrees.

"If it's ignorant hate, then the best thing is to ignore it," he says. "If it's constructive criticism I would consider changing my videos," referring to his video series Smile Talk. Cyberbullying, he says, "does affect me, but it has bothered me less over time." It's odd to think that someone well-meaning faces such negativity, has had to build up a tolerance to such

Growing a thick skin is one way of dealing with cyberbullies. But it's also important to know how to protect yourself online. Social media sites have "report" buttons inform of inappropriate behaviour. In most cases, you can also block offensive users.

But Leung says the most important thing to protect is your privacy. "Oftentimes, you see people's privacy being exposed online. Mostly, they didn't do a good job protecting themselves. You have to be careful when it comes to personal data; for example, don't enter your phone number online."

She also believes Ashley and Markian's approach is smart. "If you get into an argument or fight online, and people start to provoke you, ignore them - don't jump into [the fight]. If it gets serious … simply report [the bullies] to admins."

But she says never feel you have to deal with these situations alone.

"If [the bullying] evolves into threats, it's time to tell adults - teachers, parents, etc - or even call the police."