Cyberbullying: Resources for Parents and Kids

Learn more about how to protect your kids from online bullies, haters and trolls.

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. 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.

Cyberbullying Facts & Statistics

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.

  • Three out of four teens know who is cyberbullying them. (National Crime Prevention Council)
  • In a 2017 survey of young adults ages 13 to 24, 38% reported being a victim of cyberbullying themselves or having a close friend who was a victim. (Report Linker)
  • Nearly 64% of teen social media users in 2018 say they come across racist, sexist, homophobic, or religious-based hate content in social media. (Common Sense Media)
  • Adolescent girls are more likely to experience cyberbullying. (Cyberbullying Research Center)
  • Girls are more likely to post mean comments online. Boys are more likely to post hurtful pictures or videos online.  (Cyberbullying Research Center)
  • LGBTQ youth are at special risk of being bullied. Up to 85% report having been verbally harassed and 40% physically assaulted. (Mental Health America)
  • Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide. (Yale University)

Who’s at Risk of Being Bullied?

All kids can potentially be at risk of cyberbullying but bullies some kids may be more at risk than others. Some risk factors may include:

  • Being underweight or overweight
  • Perceived as weak
  • Less popular than their peers or new to the school
  • Lower economic status than peers
  • Socially isolated or seen as different or an “outsider”

The Role Smartphones Play in Cyberbullying

Increased Access to Texting & the Internet

When a child receives their first cell phone, they’re given unlimited access to texting, social media and websites. Since many elementary aged kids are now receiving their first devices, they are more at risk for cyberbullying.

Vulnerability of Peers

Unlike schoolyard bullying where a victim can physically pinpoint their bully, cyberbullying can be a crime with no known aggressor, as bullies can hide behind anonymous screen names online. By having access to a smartphone, younger kids are increasingly exposed to potential personal attacks.

Cyberbullying and Social Media

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

Social Media

Facebook

Cyberbullying 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

Cyberbullying is prominent on Instagram, 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. 

Messaging & Video Apps

Snapchat

Snapchat 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 culprit.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a popular messaging app where users can easily send text, photo, audio, video and group messages. It is one of the most popular messaging services worldwide and provides secure end-to-end encryption that keeps messages private.

Kik

Kik is a free messaging app where users can easily send text, photo, audio or video messages. There is also a large “group” community where users can join various groups based on common interests. There is no validation of users, so many profiles are anonymous; for this reason, this app is popular among online predators and other shady characters.

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.

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.

YouTube

YouTube is a popular video sharing app where users can watch videos and live streams and upload their own videos for other to view. There is minimal moderation on this site, though it’s very limited and most of the bullying concern lies within each video’s comments section.

12 Types of Cyberbullying Parents Should Be Aware Of

As a parent, guardian or educator, it's important to know the various types of cyberbullying that kids may encounter at school and online. The following is a list of 12 different types of bullying that victims may face.

  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.
     
  12. Doxing
    Doxing is when a person researches private information about a person, then uploads it publicly for the world to see. This can include passwords, confidential records, bank accounts, credit card numbers, or other sensitive materials.
Cyberbullying

What Parents Should Know About Bullying & Depression

Cyberbullying can be detrimental to children and teens and victims can experience any of the following effects:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Academic decline
  • Suicidal thoughts

If your child is struggling with depression, seek help by visiting a doctor or counselor. If your child is having suicidal thoughts or displaying suicidal behavior, seek immediate professional help.

  • Remove harmful objects or weapons from their reach
  • Do not leave them alone
  • Visit your doctor immediately
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Go to the emergency room

For more support, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK

10 Signs Your Child is Being Bullied

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 Should You Do if Your Child is a 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

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.

What Parents Can Do About 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 school or counselor and set up a time to talk

Speaking with the bully's parents may not be an effective step and could end up causing more issues than resolving them. If you have a close relationship with the bully's parents, you may find that reaching out on a personal level first is an easier step. However, if you're not familiar with them, you may want to consider using a third party as a mediator for communication.

Find More Resources About Cyberbullying

4 Surprising Characteristics of Kids Who Bully

Cyberbullying on Social Media Linked to Teen Depression

9 Steps Parents Can Take When Your Child is Cyberbullied

When to Get the School Involved if Your Child is Cyberbullied

6 Steps to Escape Anonymous Cyberbullies

Cyberbullying Checklist for Kids

Cyberbullying: A Guidebook for Parents

Want a printable version of this information?

Download our Cyberbullying Guidebook for Parents.