What Is Cyberbullying?

Teenage Girl Victim Of Bullying By Text Messaging

While the definitions of cyberbullying, sometimes called online bullying, vary from source to source, most definitions consist of:

  • 1. electronic forms of contact
  • 2. an aggressive act
  • 3. intent
  • 4. repetition
  • 5. harm to the target
  • (Hutson, 2016)

Cyberbullying can be anonymous, which can sometimes make it even worse. It also has a wider audience and can spread quickly. Finally, targets of cyberbullying often feel like they can’t escape the bullying. If someone is bullying you at school, it’s over when you leave for the day. But cyberbullying can follow you home and continue all night.

Imagine a classmate posts a photo of themselves online. Someone else makes a mean, mocking comment about the photo. Soon, that photo has been shared, liked, reposted—even made into a meme. Thousands of people have seen it, even people the person being targeted doesn’t know. That’s why cyberbullying can be extra hurtful: it’s public, it spreads quickly, and it’s 24/7.

Cyberbullying is often defined as an aggressive, intentional, and repeated act against someone using technology, such as email, texting, social media, or instant messages.

What You Can Do About Cyberbullying

Prevent It

Here are some tips to protect yourself from cyberbullying, and to prevent yourself from bullying others:

  • Never share your passwords, private photos, or personal data (such as address or phone number) online, not even with friends.
  • Think before you post. If you’re upset, sad, or angry, wait to post or respond. Give yourself some time to cool down, so you don’t do something that you can’t take back.
  • Never publicly reveal anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone knowing. Remember when you share something online, it can be shared with anyone, including your parents and teachers.
  • When you make comments about someone else, imagine how you would feel if someone said that about you.

When it Happens, Take Action

Talk about it with someone, reach out for help.

  • You don’t have to go through this alone.
  • It’s important to know that it’s not your fault.
  • Tell a parent or another trusted adult, such as someone at your school – a teacher, counselor, coach, or principal.
  • Ask for their help.

Keep Records

An important part of addressing a cyberbullying situation is keeping a record of what has happened. You may want to delete what is being sent, so that you don’t have to see if again, but it’s important to NOT delete messages and other bullying content that you receive. Keep records as you may need to provide proof of the cyberbullying to a parent, school officials or law enforcement officials.

Save the evidence:

  • Save everything -use screenshots when necessary- including emails, text messages, posts, URL’s, and photos.
  • Don’t delete anything until you have a copy.
  • If bullying is also happening in person, make sure to record the date and description of each event.

Block: Remove the opportunity for the person to contact you.

Report the activity to the social media site

Many social media sites have safety pages that provide guidelines for how to report and address cyberbullying on their site:

Want more information?

Visit the cyberbullying section at PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

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