What is Cyberbullying?

By definition, cyberbullying is a form of bullying using electronic technology, which can include cell phones, tablets, computers, social media sites, text messages, chats and websites.

38% of kids reported being a victim of cyberbullying themselves or having a close friend who was a victim. 

With the rapid advancement of mobile technology, many children are being given access to cell phones and social media sites at a young age. 

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, kids in third through fifth grades are experiencing an increase in cyberbullying – and children with smartphones given to them at a younger age are more susceptible to being bullied. 

Facts & Statistics About Cyberbullying

Parents are sometimes unaware that access to these devices at an early age has the potential to create a dangerous scenario for children and teens: cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council reports that:

  • 43% of children have been victims of cyberbullying at some point in their lives.
  • 58% of those kids have NOT told their parents.

According to a survey from the British anti-bullying organization Ditch The Label:

  • 50% of kids report having been bullied.
  • 1 in 10 kids report being bullied within the last week.
  • 50% report being bullied about their appearance.
  • 24% said they had their private information shared online.
  • 27% had photos & videos shared against their will.

What Parents Need to Know About Cyberbullying and Social Media

Parents need to understand the reality of the social platforms, both good and bad, that impact all of our lives, and most importantly, our children. Unlike schoolyard bullying, where one can pinpoint the bully, cyberbullying can be a crime with no known aggressor.

Anonymity is key for cyberbullying.

The ability to hide behind a fake profile picture or private account can make it easy for a bully to launch personal attacks and not face the repercussions for their actions. Some social media sites offer ways to report harassment and inappropriate images.

Where Cyber Bullying Occurs Online

Cyberbullying is prevalent on many social media sites and within popular apps than teens use, making it difficult to keep kids safe online. Here are few of the most popular sites and apps used by kids that have a high number of reports of bullying.

Popular Social Media Sites & Apps:

Facebook

Cyber bullying is easy on Facebook, as there are a lot of conversations happening every day, and many friends and school kids use it for keeping in touch. However, it is also easy to report harassment and inappropriate photos, or block profiles that might be causing the bullying on this site, as moderation has been made simpler.

Instagram

In a study by the Royal Institute of Public Health, Instagram was deemed the most negative social media platform for users aged 16-24 and therefore can be harmful to teens’ mental state. Cyberbullying is prominent on this platform, with trolls and negative comments on many posts. However, most concerning are the body image expectations from seemingly flawless photos of celebrities and Instagram stars. 

Twitter

Twitter has been popular in the cyberbullying world for celebrity fights, trolling and mean-spirited comments. Since tweets are short thoughts shared in 280 characters or less, it’s easy to type a quick comment that will land you (or someone else) in hot water. 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a popular platform for cyber bullying because messages and images disappear a few seconds after opening and users are notified if a screenshot is taken. This can make it difficult to get proof, especially if your child is unwilling to report the person doing the bullying.

Sarahah

Sarahah is one of the newest apps that teens use for cyberbullying. In fact, the hate speech and verbal abuse on this app was so widespread that it has been pulled from the app stores.

Musical.ly

Popular with kids, preteens and teenagers, Musical.ly can be used to tease, mock or bully victims. There have also been numerous incidents of sexting and reports of online predators using this app.

Houseparty

A group chat app, Houseparty is widely used among teens to keep in touch with friends and live stream moments of their lives. However, it is also a breeding ground for cyberbullying and rude comments.

Chatous

Similar to Snapchat, Chatous has expiring photos and videos, but also connects strangers within this app. Mean comments, hate speech and intimidation is easy to come across.

11 Types of Cyberbullying Kids Should Know

  1. Harassment
    Harassment is fairly self-evident, and can take many forms - private messages, texts and emails - mean, malicious and harmful in intent.
     
  2. Flaming
    Flaming is much like harassment, but is done in a public forum, such as an online group, chat room or mass email.
     
  3. Exclusion
    Exclusion is the online version of being kicked from the lunch table, and involves leaving a targeted child out of a messaging or group forum, and subsequently harassing them through messages and texts.
     
  4. Outing
    You’re probably already familiar with the ‘outing’ form of cyberbullying, as it happens frequently to celebrities. Outing involves the release of personal information, and often private photos, of a targeted person, and distributing it online.
     
  5. Masquerading
    Masquerading is one of the most harmful and personal types of cyberbullying. When someone bullies another through masquerading, they create a fake profile or identity with the sole purpose of harassment. Masqueraders often create a false profile in order to assume the identity of the target, and posting inflammatory or harassing comments as the victim.
     
  6. Roasting
    A roast is when a person subjects themselves to public ridicule and insults from their peers under the guise of joking. While this may seem like an easy way for some laughs on TV, it’s becoming a dangerous and harmful new form of cyberbullying among kids, especially young girls.
     
  7. Trolling
    A troll is someone who deliberately instigates conversation online, typically in comments. The goal of trolling is to upset, insult or otherwise inflame a situation and can happen on websites or social media sites.
     
  8. Happy Slapping
    Pulling a mean prank with the intention to embarrass, hurt or torment a victim. Most times, happy slapping is filmed or documented and posted online to further embarrassment.
     
  9. Fraping
    Fraping is an insensitive term, meaning to hijack someone’s Facebook account. Essentially, it is when a bully forces their way into a victim’s Facebook account (or other social media platform) and can be done in jest or as a way to post harmful things.
     
  10. Denigration
    Spreading false, malicious or embarrassing rumors with the aim to hurt someone’s reputation.
     
  11. Text Wars
    Text wars, or text attacks, are incessant messages sent to a victim’s phone as harassment. This can happen via text message or even through chats, emails or incessant posting.

10 Signs to Help You Spot Cyberbullying

As a parent, it can be hard to recognize the signs of cyberbullying. One or two of these signs may not be suspect, but if your child begins to display a multitude of the signs below, take a moment to talk to your child about their new behavior. 

  1. Uneasy, nervous or scared about going to school or outside.
  2. Nervous or jumpy when receiving a text, or while using social media on their device.
  3. Upset or frustrated after going online.
  4. Unwilling to discuss or share information about their online accounts & activity.
  5. Unexplained weight loss or gain, headaches, stomachaches, or trouble eating.
  6. Trouble sleeping at night or sleepy during the entire day.
  7. Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
  8. Child seems newly depressed or anti-social.
  9. Withdrawn from close friends and family.
  10. Making passing statements about suicide or making a suicide attempt.

What if Your Child is the Bully?

Online bullies have a target audience—most often their friends and acquaintances. Most victims are known to the perpetrator and many perpetrators will shrug off an attack as “just a joke.” However, the “jokes” continue and often become more abusive over time. 

There are some interesting characteristics about the bully that parents should know:

  • The bully may target others online because it can be anonymous. They can avoid facing the victim and believe they will not get caught.
  • However, they often sabotage their anonymity, hoping that others will find the teasing as “funny” as they do. 
  • The bully may be looking to within a group of others who may encourage their behavior.
  • Bullies often have a hard time empathizing with those on the other side of the “joke,” which may stem from their own difficulty fitting in. 
  • Many of these kids have parents who may not see much wrong with a “silly online joke” which is interpreted as harmless juvenile behavior.
  • Bullies can be kids on the fringe and not part of the “cool kids” who are popular among their peers. 
  • Each end of the spectrum finds those who lack “status” and those who are afraid to lose the status they believe they have.

How to Prevent Cyberbullying in 6 Steps

With the aid of technology, kids today can be bullied anytime and anywhere. By sharing proven ways to stop cyber bullying, we want to provide you with the information you need to help you take charge, should your child ever become a target.

  1. Educate Yourself
    Arm yourself and your child with information about cyber bullying. Learn about the social media platforms your kids use and educate yourself about the different forms of bullying online.     

  2. Communicate
    Not only should you communicate your electronic and online expectations with your child, but you also need to check in with them on a regular basis. Engage your child in conversations about their time online. Remember, the more comfortable they feel coming to you when a threatening or uncomfortable online situation arises, the better.

  3. Keep Computers in Common Areas
    If your child doesn’t have a smartphone, the best way to stay on top of their online activity is to set up your computer in a common area. Without spying, you can check in on your child while they are online, and can also look for signs if they’re involved in cyberbullying.

  4. Be a Friend
    Make sure to “friend” or “follow” your child on social media. Without actively logging into your child’s social media accounts, you can monitor activity and keep track of who your child is friends with. More importantly, you can ensure that your child is keeping their account private and that their profiles do not give out identifying information. 
     
    You still won’t know if your child is being sent malicious messages privately, but you can see how people are interacting with your child on the platform.

  5. Practice S.T.O.P.
    If your children are younger, use the acronym S.T.O.P. to remind them what to do if they become the victim of a cyberbully.

    • Stop using the computer.
    • Tell an adult about the incident.
    • Get the okay from parents to go back online.
    • Play with children not involved in the bullying.

5 Ways to Stop Cyberbullying

Not only do the child’s parents need to know about the behavior, but involving a parent's intervention can often times stop cyberbullying. If your child becomes the victim of cyberbullying, try these five things to help protect your child.

  1. Block the bully
  2. Save everything as evidence
  3. Take screen shots
  4. Print out text or IM conversations 
  5. Contact the bully’s parents and set up a time to talk

If speaking with the bully's parents is not effective, do not hesitate to contact your school, since most schools have a no tolerance policy with cyberbullying.

Find More Resources About Cyberbullying & Kids

4 Surprising Characteristics of Kids Who Bully

7 Myths About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying on Social Media Linked to Teen Depression

When to Get the School Involved if Your Child is Cyberbullied

Breaking the Culture of Sports Bullying

9 Steps Parents Can Take When Your Child is Cyberbullied

 

Want a printable version of this? Download our Cyberbullying Guidebook for Parents.