What is Cyberbullying?

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 mobile devices 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. 

 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.

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

                                       -The National Crime Prevention Council

According to a new survey from the British anti-bullying organization Ditch The Label, and as reported in Tech Crunch:

  • 50% of kids report having been bullied.
  • 1 in 10 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.

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 – impact their 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.


Cyberbullying is easy on this site, 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 easier to report harassment and inappropriate photos, or block profiles that might be causing the bullying on this site, as moderation has been made easier.


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 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.


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 of cyberbullying, especially if your child is unwilling to report the person doing the bullying.

Types of Cyberbullying


Harassment is fairly self-evident, and can take many forms - private messages, texts and emails - mean, malicious and harmful in intent.


Flaming is much like harassment, but is done in a public forum, such as an online group, chat room or mass email.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Spreading false, malicious or embarrassing rumors with the aim to hurt someone’s reputation.


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. 

  • Uneasy, nervous or scared about going to school or outside.
  • Nervous or jumpy when receiving a text, or while using social media on their device.
  • Upset or frustrated after going online.
  • Unwilling to discuss or share information about their online accounts & activity.
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain, headaches, stomachaches, or trouble eating.
  • Trouble sleeping at night or sleepy during the entire day.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
  • Child seems newly depressed or anti-social.
  • Withdrawn from close friends and family.
  • 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 sabotages their anonymity as they seek attention, hoping that others will find the teasing as “funny” as they do. 
  • The bully may be looking to find rank within a group of others who may encourage their behavior.
  • Bullies often have difficulty empathizing with those on the other side of the “joke,” which may stem from their own difficulty fitting in. 
  • Many of these kids have less involved parents or their parents may not see much wrong with a “silly online joke” which is interpreted as harmless juvenile behavior.
  • Bullies fall on both ends of the social spectrum—the kids on the fringe and the “cool kids” who are popular among their peers. 
  • Each end of the spectrum finds kids who are vulnerable—those who lack “status” and those who are afraid to lose the status they believe they have. 

Taking Action Against Cyberbullying

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

Educate Yourself

If you want to know how to prevent cyberbullying, arm yourself with information; learn about the social media platforms your child is using and educate yourself about the different forms of cyberbullying.


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.

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.

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.

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 Ok from parents to go back online.
  • Play with children not involved in the bullying.


If your child becomes the victim of cyberbullying:

  • Block the bully
  • Save everything as evidence
  • Take screen shots
  • Print out text or IM conversations 
  • Contact the bully’s parents and set up a time to talk 

Not only do the child’s parents need to know about the behavior, but involving the parents can immediately stop cyberbullying. If speaking with the parents is not effective, do not hesitate to contact your school (if the bully attends the same school as your child); most schools have a no-tolerance policy with cyberbullying.

Find More Resources on Cyberbullying Here:

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.

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