Happy slapping: What is it and how to deal with it?

The “happy slapping” or “happy slap” is one of the many faces of bullying. The term was born in the United Kingdom in 2005, although it was not until very recently that it was has spread to Spain. Basically, it is a form of harassment and violence in which an attack is recorded and posted online with the aim of aggravating the humiliation. This phenomenon is gaining more and more strength, to the point that it is estimated that some 76,643 Spanish children and young people have been victims of this type of harassment.

What exactly is happy slapping?

Unlike other forms of stalking, one of the characteristics that distinguishes happy slapping is the premeditated planning of physical, verbal or sexual aggression against the victim. As part of this planning, the aggressor looks for an excuse to isolate his victim and chooses the place where he will take carry out the aggression, often in a place where they cannot be interrupted. The victim is usually a child who has been bullied before, in 61% of cases it is a friend or partner.

Usually, there is also prior agreement on how and when carrying out the aggression between the aggressor and another person/s, who are in charge of recording the event. However, it is worth clarifying that sometimes the recording can be spontaneous, that is, one of the spectators voluntarily decides to record the aggression.

In the happy slapping, aggression is only the first phase of bullying, once it is over, it moves on to the second stage, which is what really characterizes this type of bullying: the dissemination of the event through digital channels, usually social networks. At this time, the aggressor himself or whoever accompanies him is in charge of uploading the content to the Internet in an attempt to strengthen his personal ego and further humiliate the victim.

The consequences of happy slapping

The happy slapping has much more devastating consequences than other forms of bullying since the dissemination of images causes the damage to persist. Public humiliation is added to the physical and/or verbal effects of the aggression, since sometimes the images have thousands of views and can go viral. In these cases, the affected child is also exposed to being ridiculed by Internet users, which enhances the negative consequences of the aggression.

In cases of happy slapping the victim goes from being “invisible” to becoming a “recognizable” person. This not only increases your embarrassment but also makes you more vulnerable and exposes you to attacks from new assailants.

Bullying happy slapping consequences

From a psychological point of view, this type of exposure in the social networks can significantly affect the child’s self-esteem and damage their emotional balance. In the long run, it is more likely to suffer from depression, sleep disorders, academic problems and in some cases, it can even lead to suicide.

How to act in a case of happy slapping?

The first step in dealing with happy slapping is to identify it. In these cases, children are usually very reserved for fear of reprisals that their parents may take, but there are always some signs that reveal the problem. Changes in the child’s mood, in their basic functions such as sleep or food, in your relationship with friends or family, your routines or the use you make of technology can be an indicator that something is not going well.

In the face of this type of situation, maintaining good communication with the minor is essential, not only will it allow the signs of abuse to be detected, but it will also make the child feel comfortable enough to talk about what is happening to him/her. Being receptive, being willing to listen and being interested in the child’s day-to-day life is essential to gain the child’s trust.

Once the happy slapping, the next step will be to resort to legal channels to solve the problem. If the aggressor goes to the same school as the child, it is important to inform the teachers and administrators so that they can take action on the matter. Another option is to speak directly with the parents of the aggressor and, if the problem persists, it should be brought to the attention of the police forces.

In any case, it is important to delve into the emotional wounds caused by happy slapping in the victims. Allowing the child or adolescent to vent and talk about her emotions will help her channel her resentment and frustration. However, it is also essential to transmit security, trust and, above all, affection. Recovery is not always easy, some have a harder time getting over it than others, in which case you can always go to a child psychologist.