Young people are using the Internet more than ever and most have Internet access from home. For many children, the Internet isn't simply a convenient way to research or a fun afterschool activity - it's a big part of their social life. Posting to social media and messaging with friends are children's most common online activities, after studying and playing games. But like many other social situations, some kids bully other kids online.
Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but most often they do know their victims.
Examples of Online Bullying
- Sending someone mean or threatening emails, messages, or texts
- Excluding someone from a social media account, a messenger list or blocking them for no reason
- Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others
- Breaking into someone's email or social media account to send cruel or untrue messages while posing as that person
- Creating accounts to make fun of another person such as a classmate or teacher
- Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.
Both boys and girls, bully online and, just as in face-to-face bullying, tend to do so in different ways. Boys more commonly bully by sending messages of a sexual nature or by threatening to fight or hurt someone. Girls more often bully by spreading rumors and by sending messages that make fun of someone or exclude others. They also tell secrets.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Victims of cyberbullying may experience many of the same effects as children who are bullied in person, such as a drop in grades, low self-esteem, a change in interests, or depression. However cyberbullying can seem more extreme to its victims because of several factors:
- It occurs in the child's home. Being bullied at home can take away the place children feel most safe.
- It can be harsher. Often kids say things online that they wouldn't say in person, mainly because they can't see the other person's reaction.
- It can be far reaching. Kids can send emails making fun of someone to their entire class or school with a few clicks, or post them on a site for the whole world to see.
- It can be anonymous. Cyberbullies often hide behind screen names and email addresses that don't identify who they are. Not knowing who is responsible for bullying messages can add to a victim's insecurity.
- It may seem inescapable. It may seem easy to get away from a cyberbully by just getting offline, but for some kids not going online takes away one of the major places they socialize.
Cyberbullying can be a complicated issue, especially for adults who are not as familiar with using the Internet, messaging apps or social media. But like more typical forms of bullying, it can be prevented when kids know how to protect themselves and parents are available to help.
Taunting and teasing is not often criminal, but can escalate to that level. The harassment should be brought to the attention of the police if it involves any of the following:
- Repeated or excessive harassment with or without threats of harm.
- Encouraging or suggesting that a person kill themselves.
- Threatening to harm to a person, a person's property, a person's pet or anybody else.
- Threatening to kill a person, a person's pet or anybody else.
- Threatening to commit a crime.
- Fraudulently posting private information in a public forum.
- Posting private information such as names, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in a public forum, chat room or on a web site when a reasonable person would know that doing so will put the target at risk or open them up to new harassment.
If the acts are clearly criminal, you should save the evidence to the best of your ability. Do not erase messages, posts or e-mails. Take screen shots when possible. It may be possible to draft a warrant in order to obtain subscriber information and confirm the identity of the person responsible.
For more information: National Crime Prevention Council