What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyberbullying is a form of verbal and social bullying that occurs on digital devices, such as: messaging, online forums, gaming, social media, texting, and email. Our digital devices are always within an arm’s reach and are used for safety and work, as well as to connect us socially and to entertain us. This multidimensional use of digital devices makes cyberbullying potentially more insidious and overwhelming than face to face bullying.
What are Examples of Cyberbullying?
- “Spamming”- continuously texting, calling, or messaging someone. Sometimes multiple people will be involved. This can make using the digital device for other reasons very difficult.
- Creating or forwarding rumors with the intention of hurting or embarrassing someone.
- Excluding someone from social situations. This is often by teens creating a new group text/ chat to purposely exclude someone from the conversation.
- Threatening the safety of someone or telling them to kill themselves.
- Posting or editing photos publicly to humiliate someone.
- “Catfishing”- pretending to be someone else online. The person will often tell the bully information about themselves and this can be used to humiliate or blackmail the victim.
- “Doxing”- this is the endangerment of privacy due to the bully threatening to make personal information available for the public. This can be phone numbers, social media logins, or financial information.
How Prevalent is it?
Recent studies report that 1 in 5 teenagers (ages 12-18) will experience cyberbullying. Studies agree that women are more likely to face cyberbullying related to spreading rumors, while men have a higher likelihood of being threatened with violence.
How is it Different from In-Person Bullying?
Persistence: While someone may be bullied at school, they can return home to where they feel safe. Conversely, with cyberbullying, there is no safe space and the bullying can continue in any environment.
Permanence: Posts or images shared to the internet are difficult to fully eradicate, thus creating permanent reminders and records of the bullying. This can have long term repercussions for online presence and reputation.
Far Reach: Media posted online can end up on sites and servers all over the world. Instead of 10 people witnessing a humiliation in person, 100’s, 1,000’s, or 10,000’s of people can be a witness to an embarrassment due to sharing of pictures, videos, and messages.
How does this affect children?
Cyberbullying can exact a large emotional toll on children eliciting feelings of anger, shame, anxiety, sadness, isolation, depression, and helplessness. Cyberbullying has been shown to decrease self-esteem, lower school performance, and negatively impact the child’s relationship with family and friends. Children who are being cyberbullied are also at risk of becoming a bully themselves in retaliation.
What to do if Cyberbullying is Occuring?
- Do not engage with the bully or spread the bullying
- Keep evidence of the cyberbullying
- Brief description of incident
- Save/ print proof of bullying
- Block the Cyberbully
- Report the Cyberbully to online platform
- Inform School if bullying impacting child’s educational environment
When to get the Police Involved?
- Messages include sexually explicit photos or messages involving a minor
- There is a concern for safety or threat of violence
- Stalking behavior
- Potential or threat of hate crime
- There is video or photo evidence of someone in a situation or location where privacy was expected
How Can Parents Help with Cyberbullying?
- Review with your child what Cyberbullying is, how to handle it, and that they can come to you.
- Model positive behavior on social media that reflects how you would like them to act.
- Set boundaries about times that kids can spend online and sites, content, and apps that they engage with
- Monitor child’s content consumption. This may involve looking at their browsing history, looking at texts, and/or social media.
- Make clear family expectations on:
- If phones can have passwords
- Security settings
- If there will be phone checks
- Turning in phones at certain times
- If kids need to share their social media account information with you
- If parents will be using apps to monitor child’s media
How Can Therapy Help?
Bullying can damage children emotionally and lead them to retaliate by engaging in cyberbullying, which contributes to a vicious cycle. Therapy can help children who have been bullied by giving them a safe place to identify and explore how they feel, manage their emotions, and build their self esteem. Therapy for children who have been bullied may focus on goals such as:
- Advocating for yourself and reaching out for help
- Identifying core values and identity
- Strengthening self-esteem and self-perception
- Processing traumatic bullying and managing the involved emotions
- Managing anxiety that bullying has created (on social media, at school, at work).
- Setting boundaries that keep you safe
- Improving feelings of safety and trust with others
Studies have shown that people who act as cyberbullies are more likely to have anxiety, depression, poor life satisfaction, poor self-esteem, and drug or alcohol consumption compared to their peer group. The earlier that therapeutic intervention can occur for these children the sooner their quality of life can improve. Therapy can address the common motivations for cyberbullying (poor self-esteem, need for control, and finding it entertaining) by working on:
- Improving self-esteem
- Implementing impulse control
- Building empathy
- Managing anxiety
- Improving family relationships and support
For more detailed information on cyberbullying, modern slang and apps please visit: StopBullying.gov and click on the cyberbullying tab.
Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying – National Bullying Prevention Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/cyberbullying/.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). (2021, October 6). Stop bullying home page. StopBullying.gov. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Cyberbullying Identification, Prevention, and Response. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-identification-prevention-and-response
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Retrieved from Publications.http://cyberbullying.org/bullying-beyond-schoolyard-preventing-responding-cyberbullying-2nd-edition
Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., & Lattanner, M. R. (2014). Bullying in the Digital Age: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Cyberbullying Research Among Youth. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 1073-1137. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24512111
Patchin, J.W., & Hinduja, S. (2020). Tween Cyberbullying in 2020. Cyberbullying Research Center and Cartoon Network. Retrieved from: https://i.cartoonnetwork.com/stop-bullying/pdfs/CN_Stop_Bullying_Cyber_Bullying_Report_9.30.20.pdf