CYBERBULLYING

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik-tok

  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices

  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet

  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit

  • Email

  • Online gaming communities

 

Special Concerns

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

 

How to Prevent Bullying 

Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can: 

Help Kids Understand Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

  • Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.

  • Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away

  • Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.

  • Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.

  • Watch the short webisodes and discuss them - PDF with kids.

Help Kids Understand Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

  • Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.

  • Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away

  • Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.

  • Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.

  • Watch the short webisodes and discuss them - PDF with kids.

 

Cyberbullying Tactics

It is important to understand how children are cyberbullied so it can be easily recognized and action can be taken. Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:

  • Posting comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing.

  • Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves. 

  • Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video. 

  • Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else. 

  • Posting mean or hateful names, comments, or content about any race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics online.

  • Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone. 

  • Doxing, an abbreviated form of the word documents, is a form of online harassment used to exact revenge and to threaten and destroy the privacy of individuals by making their personal information public, including addresses, social security, credit card and phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other private data.

Viral Tactics: Examples

Because cyberbullying can happen in different ways, examples based on real-life experiences can provide a deeper understanding of the tactics typically used. Along with other risk factors, bullying can increase the risk for suicide-related behaviors. Furthermore, cyberbullying can be relentless, increasing the likelihood of anxiety and depression. Some states have chosen to prosecute young people who bully for criminal harassment, including encouraging someone to die by suicide. Some forms of cyberbullying are forms of harassment that cross the line into criminal activity, and some tactics occur in dating relationships and can turn into interpersonal violence. 

The stories below are examples of different cyberbullying tactics that could happen. In reality, with the right interventions, cyberbullying can be addressed positively to lessen harm and the negative outcomes that could result. When not addressed, cyberbullying can have long-term mental health effects. Cyberbullying and bullying can negatively impact the lives of all who are involved.

Nude photo sharing 

A teenage girl sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend while they were dating. After they broke up, he shared the photo with other children, who then called her hurtful, derogatory names via text and social media. 

Lies and false accusations

A group of students got into trouble at school for being drunk, and accused a girl who knew nothing about it of reporting them to school officials. They began texting her day and night, and posted hateful, derogatory messages on social media. Other students saw their messages and joined in harassing the girl. She was bullied constantly via text, and in person at school. She eventually shut down her social media accounts and changed her phone number. Still, the bullying at school continued.

Bullied for being economically challenged  

Students posted mean, negative comments on another classmates’ social media account, commenting on his clothes and sneakers, which were not the more expensive name brands most of them were wearing. They ridiculed him, calling him “poor” and continued the bullying in school. The boy missed many days of school trying to avoid the harassment and embarrassment.

False identity profile, sometimes referred to as a “Sockpuppet” 

A girl’s classmate created a fake social media account in a boy’s name, and began an online relationship with her. Though she had not met him in person, the girl divulged personal information about herself and her family to this “boy.” The classmate who created the fake account then shared the personal information with other children, who used it to bully, shame, and harass the girl. 

Encouraging self-harm or suicide 

A young boy with a physical disability and scars on his face was harassed on social media and via text by other students. They called him derogatory names, told him he’d be better off dead. They wrote “why don’t you die?” on his school locker and encouraged him to take his own life.  

Bullied for being gay 

A teenage boy who was openly gay began receiving death threats via phone, text, and social media for being gay. Students created an anti-gay social media group and harassed him, posting hateful messages about him.  

 

Jealousy bullying 

A teenage girl was harassed by other girls in her class for dating a very popular boy. The girls sent her hateful messages via text and social media, and wrote derogatory messages on her school locker.  

Doxing Over Online Gaming

A teenage boy posted comments on a public gaming forum, expressing his dislike of certain game features and tactics. Another user disagreed with him in the forum, then searched for the boy’s information online and posted his address, email address, and social media links in another comment. The boy then received multiple emails and messages from strangers threatening to come to his home and assault him, and to block him from games.

Building a Supportive Classroom Community in Early Childhood

Preventing bullying in the early grades starts with fostering an environment that is safe for all students.

As an educator and researcher who specializes in early childhood and also works with older grade levels, I’ve used National Bullying Prevention Month to reflect on ways bullying progresses as children age. I’ve been wondering what can be done in early childhood to prevent bullying in later grades.

I’ve reviewed the literature on bullying, including sites that provide suggestions on how to prevent and address bullying, but figuring out how to get started can be overwhelming as it involves deciphering what approaches align with who I am as an educator and researcher, and what principles I can incorporate in my work with young children. I’ve found it easier to focus on key concepts that I believe apply in all work with children.

One of those concepts is a strategy presented by StopBullying.gov for making the classroom a safe environment. Building a classroom community that is supportive of all learners and their families aligns well with a focus on early childhood. In my master’s and doctoral work, I’ve found that early childhood education often emphasizes the importance of building a classroom community that supports educators, children, and families.

What does creating a safe early childhood environment mean? How does one go about creating one? A combination of findings from research conducted in preschool classrooms and my experience with young children provides some guidance on how to start building a supportive and safe environment with young children.

As an educator and researcher who specializes in early childhood and also works with older grade levels, I’ve used National Bullying Prevention Month to reflect on ways bullying progresses as children age. I’ve been wondering what can be done in early childhood to prevent bullying in later grades.

I’ve reviewed the literature on bullying, including sites that provide suggestions on how to prevent and address bullying, but figuring out how to get started can be overwhelming as it involves deciphering what approaches align with who I am as an educator and researcher, and what principles I can incorporate in my work with young children. I’ve found it easier to focus on key concepts that I believe apply in all work with children.

One of those concepts is a strategy presented by StopBullying.gov for making the classroom a safe environment. Building a classroom community that is supportive of all learners and their families aligns well with a focus on early childhood. In my master’s and doctoral work, I’ve found that early childhood education often emphasizes the importance of building a classroom community that supports educators, children, and families.

What does creating a safe early childhood environment mean? How does one go about creating one? A combination of findings from research conducted in preschool classrooms and my experience with young children provides some guidance on how to start building a supportive and safe environment with young children.