Cyberbullying is any bullying behavior that takes place virtually. It can be harassment or humiliation over text, social media, or any type of technology from one person to another.
Cyberbullying is often linked to traditional bullying (e.g., bullying at school). In fact, studies have shown that it is relatively rare for a child to experience cyberbullying alone. Some experts suggest that cyberbullying is an extension of offline bullying.
This indicates that children who are being cyberbullied might be in a particularly tough situation. They are likely to be targeted anywhere, anytime – at school and at home. It becomes very hard for them to escape attacks.
Other factors that distinguish cyberbullying from offline bullying are:
A Vicious Cycle: Another important characteristic of cyberbullying is that it is not uncommon for victims to become cyberbullies themselves.
Posting provoking and insulting comments on social media, in discussion forums, or on gaming platforms. Trolls can be complete strangers to their victims. Their goal is to trigger responses from other users to stir up arguments.
Continuously sending hurtful, threatening, and abusive messages to a victim. Can be classified as a criminal offense.
Distributing someone else’s personal information without their consent.
A pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, or contact online that causes fear in the victim - often occurs on the basis of intense feelings.
Spreading false information about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation.
Publishing sexually explicit content of the victim on the internet. This kind of revenge might be pursued by an ex-partner after a breakup.
Creating a false profile on the internet to lure someone into a relationship.
Children and young people will bully others for a range of reasons. They may be part of a friendship group that is bullying a particular individual, and they might have been put under pressure to participate in the bullying. In which case, they are also victims of indirect bullying and intimidation.
Alternatively, it could be that they experience poor and inconsistent discipline at home or are being abused themselves. Whatever the reasons, it must never be condoned, only understood.
It can be difficult for a parent to think of their child as a perpetrator. Signs of cyberbullying behavior can be easily missed. You might not even find out that your child is bullying others until you receive a complaint from their school.
Some signs to look out for:
As mentioned above, it is also not uncommon for the roles of a victim and perpetrator to become blurred in cyberbullying. This might be a possible explanation for your child’s behavior – but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for attacking others.
Some children might also think that they are simply having fun and joking around. The latter might be particularly true for trolling, when the victim is not personally known to the child. That is why it is important to ensure your child understands how things that happen online can influence feelings and relationships in real life.
If you have been approached by someone else about your child’s behavior, you should first have a conversation with your child. Be direct about the issue, but also give your child a chance to explain their side.
Help your child understand how the other child may have felt. Together reflect on the importance of kindness and the responsibility that we all share in building a more accepting and positive world. Explain why bullying is harmful and suggest positive approaches to handle negative feelings and possible conflicts.
Disciplining your child in a meaningful way can be effective. In cases of cyberbullying limiting or taking away the privilege of a mobile phone could be an adequate punishment. It might be also necessary to cooperate with their school. Explain the consequences and punishments to your child. Focus on your child’s behavior rather than their personality – emphasize that what they did was wrong, but they are not a bad child.
Children are easily influenced by the behavior of adults and peers. Assess if there are any unkind interactions occurring within your family environment that your child might be witnessing. As part of your reflection, reassure your child that you still love them, and model positive, calm behavior.
If your child is willfully cyberbullying or trolling someone with the intention of doing harm, then it's likely that underlying issues may exist. It could be that they are struggling to regulate and controlling their own emotions, or it could be an indication of distress in other areas of their life.
For more information on cyberbullying and what to do if your child is engaging in bullying, check out these links:
If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact the
to speak to one of their counselors. Call or text 1-800-422-4453, or contact them via their online live chat.
The SafeToNet Mobile Appis there to help your child navigate the difficult interactions that might arise when exploring the online world. Its Intelligent Keyboard acts as a real-time safeguarding assistant that helps educate your child on how to become a safer and kinder digital citizen.