What is cyberbullying?
While the internet and social media can be a great way to learn new information, stay in touch with your friends and watch your favorite shows, they can also open the doors to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that occurs through technology, like social media, texts and emails. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is common: 59% of teens in the United States report being harassed or bullied online, according to the Pew Research Center.
A bully may target their victim through online messaging and social platforms, including:
- Instant messaging or direct messaging
- Texts or group texts
- Online gaming
- Online chatrooms, message boards and forums
- Tik Tok
Cyberbullying can be hard to escape for both the victim and the bully because:
- Cyberbullies can attack at any time of day or night.
- Once information is posted online, it can be hard to remove.
The different types of cyberbullying
How do you know if you’re being cyberbullied? Here are some common types of bullying a person may experience:
- Cyberstalking: Continuously harassing someone online, including threatening to harm them physically.
- Disparaging: Publishing posts or sending messages that target someone mainly based on their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.
- Exclusion: Leaving someone out of a social media activity, game or group chat.
- Flaming: Name-calling and online fights.
- Harassment: Repeatedly sending mean or threatening messages.
- Impersonation: Pretending to be someone they’re not. Also called “catfishing.”
- Outing: Publicly sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
- Trickery: Convincing someone to tell them something personal and then sharing it publicly.
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Consequences of cyberbullying
Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying can have negative consequences for both the victim and the bully. These include:
- Legal consequences: Someone who bullies others online can face legal ramifications, depending on where you live. Some states have anti-cyberbullying laws, while others do not.
- School consequences: Cyberbullying can affect the victim’s academic performance. Some schools have policies to punish bullies.
- Mental health: Being bullied can increase a person’s risk of depression, drug or alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior, and suicidal thoughts. The risk is even higher in LGBTQIA+ young people.
If you’re the bully, cyberbullying can affect your future. Anything you post online can be used against you. It can affect your future relationships and college and career opportunities.
What to do if you’re being cyberbullied
You have the right to be safe and respected. You don’t deserve to be bullied or harassed, whether in-person or online. If you’re being cyberbullied:
- Don’t respond to the messages.
- Talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, principal or guidance counselor.
- Block the number on your phone. Block or unfriend the user on the website or social media platform.
- Document the bullying with a screenshot and share it with the site’s administrators, a trusted adult and, if necessary, the authorities.
- Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
- If you’re thinking of hurting yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8355 or Centerstone’s crisis line:
You never deserve to be bullied and it’s not your fault. Don’t stay silent. Get help right away if it’s happening to you.
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