Cyberbullying has become a big problem. Read this article to learn more about what cyber bullying is and how you can protect yourself or your teenager from becoming a victim of cyberbullying. Just like any bullying, cyberbullying is a very serious issue.

Most adolescents and teens are very comfortable using technology, and technology has become an important part of their social lives. While using technology can be fun and teach teens useful skills, it can also be used for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying occurs when teens use communication technology to say hurtful, embarrassing, or threatening things about another teen. Cyberbullying can be very emotionally damaging to teens, and can have legal consequences for teens and parents. There are many types of cyberbullying, including:

  • Sending mean messages to a person
  • Spreading rumors or lies about someone online
  • Excluding someone from online social groups
  • Creating a web site to make fun of someone
  • Threatening or harassing someone online
  • Tricking someone into sharing secrets and then spreading that information around
  • Breaking into someone else's account and using it to send mean or hurtful messages
  • Taking pictures of a person and sharing them online without the person's consent.

Cyberbullying can come through many types of technology:

  • Emails
  • Instant messages sent over the Internet
  • Chat rooms, where teens talk to each other online
  • Text messages sent to a teen's cell phone
  • Web sites
  • Blogs, or web logs, which are public online journals
  • Interactions through online games
  • Social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, where individuals have a page about themselves where others can post messages
  • Twitter, which sends short messages to a teen’s online account and cell phone

Like bullying in person, cyberbullying can have negative emotional consequences for both the victim and the bully. There are some things that can make cyberbullying more serious:

  • Because the bully can’t see the victim, and may be hiding behind an online persona, the cyberbully may be much meaner than he or she would be in person.
  • Cyberbullies may use fake names or pretend to be someone else, so the victim doesn’t know who is attacking him or her, which can be more frightening.
  • Cyberbullying can reach a teen through a cell phone or the computer at any time of the day or night, even at home.
  • The messages or pictures that the cyberbully posts may stay around for many years, because once something is posted online it may not go away, or may resurface.
  • Victims often retaliate to cyberbullies online, which can lead to a battle of hurtful or threatening messages, which is called flaming.

Cyberbullies may be bullies in the real world as well, though sometimes cyberbullies are teens who are the victims of bullying at school and want to get even with their tormentors. Girls are more likely to be cyberbullies than boys, but both can be cyberbullies or victims. About 1 in 3 teens has been the victim of cyberbvullying.

Some ways to discourage cyberbullying include:

  • Tell kids that cyberbullying is wrong, no matter who started it, and find out if they have ever been the victim or perpetrator
  • Have a use contract for the Internet and cell phones that specifically tells kids not to cyberbully or they will lose their technology privileges
  • Teach kids to never share their passwords except with parents, and to use passwords that would be hard for another person to figure out
  • Encourage teens to never share personal information online - they don't know who they are really talking to, and the information may stay online for a long time. 
  • Tell teens not to open or accept messages from people they don’t know.
  • Parents should pay attention to what teens are doing online, which may include keeping the computer in a high-traffic area of the house, setting up your own online accounts and requiring teens to “friend” you so you can see the messages they send and receive, or installing monitoring software on the computer and telling teens that you can see what they do online (you should not secretly spy on teens).
  • Encourage kids to speak up if someone they know is being a cyberbully, or is a victim

Cyberbullying often results in teens being depressed, afraid, or upset, especially when using the computer or cell phone. Teens may not want to tell parents if they are the victim of cyberbullying because their internet or cell phone access is very important to them and they don’t want to lose it. Let teens know that they will not be punished for being the victim of cyberbullying so they feel comfortable telling you what is happening.

If a teen is the victim of cyberbullying, parents don’t have to take away their cell phone or computer access. Instead:

  • Don’t retaliate
  • Keep a copy of the messages as evidence
  • Teach teens to ignore cyberbullies or to respond with short, unemotional messages like "Knock it off." 
  • Try blocking the email address or phone number of the person sending the messages.
  • Tell the parents of cyberbullies what their teens are doing. If they don’t do anything, remind them that they are legally responsible for their teen’s actions and you may be able to take them to court if the behavior doesn’t stop. 
  • If the cyberbully is sending messages anonymously or with a fake name, ask your Internet Service Provider to help track the sender so you can tell the person to stop. If the messages are threatening or damaging, ask the police to help. 
  • Many email providers and social networking sites will shut down an account if you show them evidence that it is being used for cyberbullying. Go to the “contact us” page and send them copies of the messages.
  • Teens who are being cyberbullied repeatedly may need to change their phone number and get a new email address

Teens who have been the victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying may be at increased risk for depression or teen suicide, and may need counseling to overcome the harmful effects of cyberbullying.


Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, "Parent's Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats" [available online]

Stop Bullying Now, "Cyberbullying" [available online]

Cyberbullying Research Center, "Preventing Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Parents" [available online]

National Crime Prevention Council, "What is cyberbulling?" [available online]

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