What is Cyberbullying? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is Cyberbullying? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

What is Cyberbullying?

As technology continues to evolve, so do the ways people interact and communicate. Unfortunately, the convenience and accessibility of digital platforms have given rise to cyberbullying – a pervasive and harmful phenomenon that affects countless young people around the world.

In this blog post, we will dive into the world of cyberbullying, exploring cyberbullying, its definition, prevalence, and impact on mental health, as well as offer guidance on recognizing, preventing, and addressing this issue. By understanding and acknowledging the severity of cyberbullying, we can work together to create safer online spaces for everyone.

Summary

  • Cyberbullying is when someone intentionally uses digital media to harass, embarrass or humiliate another person. Examples of this include sending mean texts or IMs, pranking someone’s cell phone, and hacking into someone’s gaming or social networking profile.

  • Cyberbullying is an increasingly common issue, with 37% of 12-17-year-olds having experienced it. It takes many forms and can have serious mental health consequences for victims, so recognizing it is key to taking action.

  • Parents, educators & tech companies must work together to create safe digital spaces & educate young people on responsible online behavior.

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Understanding Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a form of online harassment that occurs when someone uses electronic devices – such as cell phones, computers, and tablets – to bully or intimidate another person online. This type of bullying is not limited to social media platforms; it can take place on messaging apps, gaming platforms, and even within chat rooms. The anonymity provided by the internet can encourage bullies, making their actions more aggressive and less likely to face consequences.

While both cyberbullying and traditional bullying can have devastating effects on the victim, there are some key differences between the two. Cyberbullying can be carried out anonymously and can happen anytime, making it more difficult to track and control. Additionally, the digital nature of cyberbullying means that it can reach a much larger audience, magnifying the humiliation and distress experienced by the victim.

The prevalence of cyberbullying is alarming, with studies showing that about a third of teenagers have experienced it at some point in their lives. The negative impact of cyberbullying on mental health cannot be underestimated – it can lead to feelings of isolation, guilt, and even drive victims to skip school or turn to drugs or violence as a means of coping.

Therefore, it is crucial to educate children and teens about the dangers of cyberbullying and equip them with the tools to combat it.

Cyberbullying Defined

Cyberbullying encompasses a wide range of behaviors, all of which involve the use of digital devices to harm or harass another person. Some examples of cyberbullying include sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else, such as embarrassing photos or private information. These acts are intended to cause embarrassment, humiliation, or distress to the victim.

There are several forms of cyberbullying, each with its unique characteristics. Masquerading involves someone pretending to be someone else to harass the victim anonymously. Outing refers to the act of sharing private information about someone else online without their consent, and exclusion is the deliberate act of leaving someone out of social media groups, chat rooms, messages, events, or activities.

What sets cyberbullying apart from traditional bullying is the digital trace it leaves behind. Unlike face-to-face interactions, cyberbullying creates a permanent record of harmful content, making it more difficult to remove or forget.

Cyberbullying vs. Traditional Bullying

While both cyberbullying and traditional bullying involve intentional harm inflicted upon a victim, there are distinct differences between the two. Cyberbullying occurs through digital devices and can be done anonymously, while traditional bullying is typically face-to-face and easier to identify. Cyberbullying can also happen 24/7, as opposed to traditional bullying, which usually takes place in person and during school hours.

Despite these differences, both forms of bullying can have severe consequences for the victim. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, suicide, are all potential outcomes for those targeted by either cyberbullying or traditional bullying.

The Scope of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a widespread issue, particularly among teenagers and young adults, who are often the primary targets of such behavior. The fact that young people are more likely to be engaged in online activities and social media platforms makes them more vulnerable to cyberbullying incidents.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation, as more people are spending time online, potentially leading to an increase in cyberbullying rates.

Cyberbullying Statistics

The statistics surrounding cyberbullying are disconcerting. Approximately 37% of children aged 12 to 17 have been cyberbullied, and 30% have experienced it more than once. In recent years, cyberbullying has been on the rise, presenting a growing concern for the well-being of young people.

The impact of cyberbullying on mental health is profound. In some cases, the online abuse can be so severe that it leads to tragic outcomes, such as suicide. This highlights the importance of addressing and preventing cyberbullying to protect the mental health and safety of young people.

The Role of Technology

The rapid advancement of technology and the growing popularity of social media have played a significant role in the rise of cyberbullying. Online platforms, messaging apps, and gaming platforms provide bullies ample opportunities to harass, insult, threaten, and intimidate others.

While technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in many ways, it has also provided cyberbullies with more opportunities to hurt their targets than ever before. As a result, it is essential for parents, educators, and technology companies to work together to create safe digital environments and mitigate the risks associated with cyberbullying.

Recognizing Cyberbullying

Identifying instances of cyberbullying is the first step in addressing the issue. Cyberbullying is unique due to its anonymous nature, its ability to reach a large audience, and the difficulty in tracking and controlling the behavior.

By recognizing the signs of cyberbullying, both victims and bystanders can take action to stop the harmful behavior and support those affected by it.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs that may indicate someone is experiencing cyberbullying or engaging in cyberbullying behavior. Some of these signs include a decrease in device usage, sudden withdrawal from social media, reluctance to participate in activities, emotional changes, uneasiness or nervousness about going to school or outside, being upset or jumpy when texting or using social media, increased depression and anxiety, becoming noticeably upset after being online or on their phone, not engaging with family or friends, and being very secretive or protective of one’s online activities.

It is essential for parents, educators, and friends to be aware of these signs and take them seriously. If a young person exhibits any of these warning signs, it is crucial to start a conversation with them about their experiences and offer support and assistance as needed.

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can take many forms, and understanding these tactics can help identify and address the problem. Harassment involves repeatedly sending hurtful messages or making hurtful comments to the victim. Exclusion is the deliberate act of leaving someone out of online groups or conversations. Outing involves sharing private information about the victim without their consent, while masquerading is the act of pretending to be someone else to harass the victim anonymously.

Another form of cyberbullying is fraping, which occurs when someone logs into the victim’s social media profile and posts embarrassing or inappropriate content under their name. By recognizing these various forms of cyberbullying, victims and bystanders can take action to stop the harmful behavior and support those affected by it.

Legal Aspects of Cyberbullying

The legal framework surrounding cyberbullying can be complex, as it often involves a combination of federal and state laws and policies. While there is no specific federal law addressing cyberbullying, certain behaviors may be classified as unlawful or criminal, depending on the situation.

For example, illegal activities such as blackmailing, hate crimes, stalking, or posting sexual photos of a minor can have legal consequences. In these cases, it may be necessary to involve law enforcement or other authorities to address the issue.

Federal and State Laws

Although there is no federal law explicitly addressing cyberbullying, some situations may be considered discriminatory harassment if they are based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, or disability. On the other hand, many states have their own laws addressing cyberbullying, often as part of broader anti-bullying legislation. These laws vary in their scope and severity, but they generally aim to protect young people from online harassment and abuse.

For more information on state laws and policies related to cyberbullying, resources such as the Cyberbullying Research Center and StopBullying.gov can provide valuable guidance and support. Understanding the legal context of cyberbullying can help victims and their families navigate the process of reporting and addressing these incidents.

Reporting Cyberbullying

Responding to cyberbullying involves several steps, including reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities. Victims should not respond or forward any harassing messages, as this can escalate the situation. Instead, they should save evidence of the cyberbullying, such as text messages, screenshots, and emails, and alert the police or other authorities if they feel unsafe.

Many social media, gaming, and online platforms also have reporting mechanisms in place for users to report instances of cyberbullying. By taking advantage of these tools, victims can help hold cyberbullies accountable for their actions and potentially prevent further harm to themselves and others.

Strategies to Prevent and Address Cyberbullying

Preventing and addressing cyberbullying requires a multifaceted approach, involving parents, educators, technology companies, and individuals. By educating young people about the dangers of cyberbullying and equipping them with the tools to recognize and report such behavior, we can help create safer online spaces for everyone.

Educating Children and Teens

Teaching young people responsible online behavior, empathy, and digital citizenship is a crucial step in preventing and addressing cyberbullying. This includes discussing the importance of treating others with respect, understanding the potential consequences of hurtful online behavior, and emphasizing the value of kindness and compassion in all interactions.

Having open and honest conversations with children and teens about their experiences online can help them feel more comfortable discussing any instances of cyberbullying they may encounter. Encouraging children to speak up if they witness or experience cyberbullying can empower them to take action and seek support when needed.

Monitoring Online Activities

Supervising children’s and teenagers’ online activities is essential for ensuring their safety while still respecting their privacy. Parental control software, monitoring social media use, and using apps to track online activities can all help parents keep an eye on their children’s digital lives. It is important to strike a balance between monitoring online activities and respecting the privacy of young people, which can be achieved through open dialogue and setting clear boundaries and expectations.

In addition to using monitoring tools, parents should also engage in regular conversations with their children about online safety, establish rules and guidelines for internet use, and encourage responsible online behavior. By fostering a supportive and understanding environment, parents can help their children navigate the digital world safely and responsibly.

Responding to Cyberbullying

When dealing with cyberbullying, it is important to take action promptly and effectively. This may involve reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities, seeking support from trusted adults or mental health professionals, and promoting a positive online environment by modeling respectful behavior and encouraging empathy.

Blocking cyberbullies, adjusting privacy settings on social media accounts, and creating a supportive network of friends and family members can also help victims of cyberbullying cope with the harmful behavior and minimize its impact on their well-being.

The Role of Tech Companies and Mental Health Professionals

Technology companies and mental health professionals play crucial roles in addressing the issue of cyberbullying. Tech companies are responsible for creating safe digital spaces for their users, while mental health professionals can provide valuable support and resources to both victims and bullies.

These two groups have a shared responsibility to ensure that the internet is a safe and secure place for everyone. They must work together to create policies and procedures that protect users from cyber attacks.

Creating Safe Digital Spaces

Tech companies can contribute to the prevention of cyberbullying by implementing policies and tools to detect and address inappropriate content or language online. This includes developing algorithms to identify hate speech, abusive language, and other forms of harmful behavior, as well as creating clear and accessible reporting systems for users to report instances of cyberbullying.

By promoting transparency in their policies and demonstrating a commitment to user safety, tech companies can help foster a safer online environment for all. This may involve working closely with educators, parents, and mental health professionals to develop and share resources, provide training, and raise awareness about the issue of cyberbullying.

Supporting Victims and Bullies

Mental health professionals play a vital role in helping victims and bullies cope with the effects of cyberbullying. This can include providing counseling and support to those affected, as well as offering resources and guidance to help bullies understand the consequences of their actions and learn healthier ways to manage their emotions.

In addition to providing direct support, mental health professionals can also collaborate with schools, parents, and technology companies to develop comprehensive strategies for addressing cyberbullying. This may involve creating educational materials, facilitating workshops, and participating in community outreach efforts to raise awareness and promote a culture of empathy and respect.

By working together, we can create a safer digital environment for everyone and ensure that those affected by cyberbullying receive the support and resources they need to heal and thrive.

Summary

Cyberbullying is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects countless young people around the world. By understanding its nature, recognizing its signs, and taking action to prevent and address it, we can create a safer and more empathetic online environment for all. Together, with the collaboration of parents, educators, technology companies, and mental health professionals, we can empower young people to stand up against cyberbullying and foster a culture of kindness, respect, and support in the digital world.

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Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the meaning of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is an increasingly prevalent form of bullying that occurs when someone uses digital technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. It can take the form of mean or inappropriate text messages, emails, and posts on social media.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue, as it can cause significant emotional distress to victims.

What is an example of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when someone intentionally uses digital media to harass, embarrass or humiliate another person. Examples of this include sending mean texts or IMs, pranking someone’s cell phone, and hacking into someone’s gaming or social networking profile.

Being rude or mean to someone in an online game is also considered cyberbullying.

What are the mental effects of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can have a negative impact on mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. It can also cause low self-esteem, decreased confidence, and even lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.

Talking to your children about the risks of cyberbullying is essential for their mental health.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.