Cyberbullying is electronic communication via the Internet and other digital technologies to frighten, intimidate, and/or threaten another individual causing emotional distress.
- Obtaining information on the Internet about the victim in order to harass or intimidate online or offline
- Sending or posting false information or messages about the victim
- Impersonating someone online
- Posting personal information about the victim online
- Sending computer viruses to the victim
Cyberbullying occurs via:
- Chat Rooms
- Instant Messaging / Texting
- Social Networking sites
There are many different forms of cyberbullying, but seven are commonly encountered:
- Flaming: Sending messages that are rude or vulgar in nature about a person via an online group, e-mail, or instant/text message
- Outing: Posting or sending content about a person that is sensitive and/or private
- Exclusion: Deliberately and cruelly excluding someone from an online group
- Cyberstalking: Harassment via the Internet involving threats and intimidation
- Online harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive messages online
- Denigrating: Sending or posting untrue and cruel statements about a particular person. This can include e-mail or text insults about another peer’s physical characteristics, such as looks or weight. Girls are the more frequent target of insults than boys, and the insults often focused on weight (e.g., calling someone a “whale” or “ugly pig”) and promiscuity or sexuality (e.g., calling someone a “whore” or “slut”).
- Masquerade: Posing as someone else for the purpose of sending information via the Internet that makes that individual look bad. Some perpetrators manage to steal victims’ passwords in order to access computers or cell phones and pretend to be that person. Adolescents report that it is not difficult to obtain a password, and exchanging password information is often a sign of friendship.
Online sexual solicitation is another form of cyberbullying, whereby perpetrators identify victims online and entice them to perform sexual acts on or offline.
Boys have been found more likely to be perpetrators and the peak frequency occurs between 13 and 15 years of age while girls and women tend to be the victims.
A full 50% of our youth are bullied online!
Cyberbully victims also tend to be victims in other areas of their lives, such as traditional bullying. Not surprisingly, victims of cyberbullying tend to use the Internet more than non-victims.
Although this can have devastating effects on victims, many are reluctant to seek help. Adolescents have stated they would not necessarily seek help from school staff due to:
- Fear of being stigmatized as an informant
- Fear of retaliation from the perpetrator
- Concern of getting friends into trouble
- Belief that it is not a school problem
- Concern that parents would restrict their Internet activities
Youth feel that their parents, and adults in general, are unable to understand the cyberworld and cyberbullying.
POTENTIAL INDICATORS OF CYBERBULLYING
Signs that youths may be victims or perpetrators of bullying on the Internet have been identified. Parents should be aware of:Signs of depression or anxiety, particularly when the Internet is not available or is inaccessible for periods of time
- Signs of depression or anxiety when e-mails or instant/text messages arrive
- Academic difficulties or behavioral problems offline (e.g., not being on time at school, dropping grades, relationships suffering)
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Viewing pornographic material on the computer
- Sacrificing normally enjoyed offline activities to participate in Internet activities
- Attempting to maintain level of secrecy about online activities (e.g., quickly turning computer off when parent is walking by, deleting browsing history, turning monitor screen off when someone walks by)
Effects of Cyberbullying
Youths who experience bullying of any kind often face academic problems, perhaps in part because they are distressed and preoccupied. Teachers will often report that victims’ grades drop, and some will have other academic problems, such as cutting classes, increased detentions, and carrying weapons to school.
The most significant psychological effects appear to be depression and anxiety with victims also reporting increased anger.
Due to the rapidly changing nature of the Internet and technology, parents, educators, practitioners, and youths will require continual education regarding cyberbullying including how it occurs, and its impact.
In cases of identified cyberbullying, victims may benefit from crisis intervention and counseling.