What Is Cyberbullying and Why It’s a Bigger Problem Than Ever

by Teddy Mitova

Ugly. Stupid. Fat.

What happens when someone calls you those names online? What if they post embarrassing photos of you on social media? And to top it off, they decide to harass you? If all of that is happening, chances are you’re going to dread every notification, text or call you get.

If that happens, you’re most probably a target of cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the good old bullying with a twist – and now it can reach its targets anywhere, anytime. You think you’re safe at home? Think again.

If you have a digital device, you can easily be cyberbullied. Texts, apps, social media, forums, and online gaming - cyberbullies lurk everywhere. Click To Tweet

True, bullies won’t beat you up in the safety of your home, but their poisonous words can still reach you. The internet is a great place, but the easy access it provides can be a double-edged sword. And bullies need to feed regularly on other people’s pain.

Soo, an insult a day keeps the joy away…

But it gets worse. It doesn’t end with insults. Often it’s sending, posting, or sharing personal information about you without your consent. The goal is to invade your privacy and humiliate you.

Even if what they write and post is false, it still hurts and may ruin your reputation.

What do you say? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Yeah, right. More like “words will hurt me way more.”

These cyberbullying facts and cyberbullying statistics say as much.

cyberbullying consequences

But don’t despair yet! Even if cyberbullying seems like a big deal (and it kinda is), you only need to know how to counter it.

First, let’s see the specific definition of cyberbullying, the types of cyberbullying, and the methods cyberbullies use. Then, we’ll discuss the signs and effects of cyberbullying. Finally, we’ll reveal how you can fight it and win.

Let’s go!

The Basics

Cyberbullying is the use of digital devices (cell phones, computers, tablets, etc.) to intentionally and repetitively hurt a person, making them feel sad, scared, or angry. It can be done online or via SMS and calls. It can include sharing private, negative, harmful, mean, and false content about that person.

Cyberbullying usually occurs among children and teens, but it is not reserved for them. Click To Tweet

This is the cyberbullying definition in a nutshell. Quite nasty.

But let’s dig deeper.

Types of Cyberbullying

There are different cyberbullying methods, and a victim might not experience all of them, but some are often combined. Here are the 6 most common cyberbullying examples:

  • harassment
  • photo shaming
  • video shaming
  • subtweeting or vaguebooking
  • impersonation
  • creation of websites, blogs, and polls

Now let’s break them down. Here is what counts as cyberbullying:

Harassment

  • threatening or embarrassing someone via text messages, instant messages, and email
  • posting rumors or embarrassing info on social media
  • using report buttons on websites to get the victim in trouble or blocked (also known as “warning wars”)
  • engaging in text wars – several bullies gang up on one person and send numerous texts

Photo Shaming

  • taking nude or other embarrassing photos of the victim without permission (for ex. in a bathroom or changing room)
  • threatening to share these photos as a way of controlling or blackmailing the victim
  • sending mass emails or text messages containing nude or embarrassing photos of the victim (“sexting”)
  • posting their nude pictures on photo sharing sites where anyone can see and download them
  • using photos to shame someone online for the way they dress, act, etc.

Video Shaming

  • taking and sharing a video of a bullying incident (for ex. one or more children physically hurting the victim)
  • posting this humiliating video on YouTube or similar platforms to attract a bigger audience
  • sharing such degrading videos via mass email or text message
  • provoking another person to become emotional or upset, and recording them (often called “cyberbaiting,” and teachers are a common target)

Subtweeting or Vaguebooking

  • posting tweets or Facebook posts that don’t mention the victim’s name but they, the bully, and often more people know who the posts are about
  • using such subtle posts to fuel rumors while avoiding detection by authorities such as parents and teachers

Impersonating

  • creating a screen name similar to the victim’s name, and posting rude or hurtful content while pretending to be them
  • creating an account on social media pretending to be the victim (even using their photos) and doing the above
  • stealing the target’s password and chatting to people pretending to be the target (saying mean things to offend and anger their contacts)
  • changing the victim’s online profile to have sexual, racist, or other inappropriate content
  • pretending to be the victim and participating in chat rooms of hate groups, cyber predators, or dating sites, and even providing the victim’s personal info, and encouraging others to contact them
  • pretending to be someone else to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship (a.k.a. “catfishing”)

Creating Websites, Blogs, Polls

  • creating a website or a blog with humiliating, embarrassing, or insulting content about the victim
  • spreading rumors, lies, or gossip about them online through blogs or websites
  • posting personal info and photos of the victim on a website, putting them in danger of being contacted by predators
  • using info that was shared in private and making it public
  • creating an online poll about the victim with questions like “Who is the ugliest?”, “Who is dumb?”, etc.

And More:

  • posting rude, mean, and insulting comments about the target in the chat rooms of online gaming sites
  • sending viruses, spyware, and other malware to the victim in order to spy on them or control their device remotely

Now let’s see how the above-mentioned examples of cyberbullying actually affect people.

Harmful Effects and Consequences of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is real. It can make the victim’s life miserable and even lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

cyberbullying effects

Alright, so let’s address the issue then. Since we are always on our smartphones or laptops these days, there’s no escape from cyberbullies. You scroll through Facebook and see hateful comments, switch to Instagram, and it’s the same… 

It can seem like the only solution is to disconnect from the internet altogether.

And if the bullies have your phone number, it’s even worse because they can torment you with constant texts and prank calls in the middle of the night. Even blocking them wouldn’t necessarily work.

Naturally, if this doesn’t stop soon, the target’s mental health and quality of life will suffer.

Thankfully, there’s a solution to all this! Read on and you’ll quickly learn how you can deal with these pests once and for all.

Let’s examine the symptoms of cyberbullying.

Signs of Cyberbullying

Maybe you’re being cyberbullied, but don’t acknowledge it. Maybe you aren’t sure that’s what it is. Maybe you don’t want to make a big deal of it.

Well, you should. It’s your happiness and well-being at stake.

Or, alternatively, perhaps it’s your friend or child that needs help?

Coming up next are the cyberbullying telltale signs that can help you assess any situation.

Cyberbullying targets will often feel anxious and get depressed, withdrawn, and shy. Click To Tweet If they are usually positive, open, and energetic, the sudden change might be suspicious.

Even if you try to talk to them, they might say everything’s fine but don’t be fooled. Let them know you’re there if they need to talk and be sure to remind them regularly.

If you think you might be a target, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I feel happy when I go online, or does it ruin my mood?
  2. Do I dread getting online notifications, texts, and calls?
  3. Is anyone constantly bothering me with mean comments online, or spoiling my online experience in any way?
  4. Does anyone post personal info, photos, or videos of me without my consent?
  5. Is there anything else I’m worried about?

It’s pretty easy to spot cyberbullying once you think about it actually. You can also monitor the social media profiles of your friends or children for hurtful comments and embarrassing photos.

Finally, any unusual and long-lasting change of behavior might point to a problem such as cyberbullying, so keep that in mind and encourage the person to communicate.

Prevention of Cyberbullying

As it is the case with many other problems, communication is the key here as well. Confiding in a parent, a friend, or a teacher you trust is not shameful. On the contrary, the sooner you ask for help, the better.

Of course, sometimes you can deal with cyberbullies on your own. It is crucial not to respond to them but simply report and block them on all websites. And don’t forget to change your privacy settings. If you ignore them, most bullies lose interest and walk away.

In any case, whatever you do, refuse to play their game. If they smell blood, they’ll attack again, so don’t show any weakness. Even if they manage to hurt you, pretend to be unfazed, and you’ll be rid of them sooner than later.

Another option is to confront them at school. They feel powerful hiding behind the screen, but face to face it’s a different story. A barking dog never bites. And that’s what they do – just bark online for fun, spilling out negative words, and trying to feel good about themselves.

However, if they are persistent and these strategies don’t work, the next step is to seek assistance from the authorities. Remember to collect evidence – screenshots, text messages, etc.

This is how you can stop cyberbullying.

You can read more about cyberbullying and other online threats, and how to prevent them in our previous article.

Wrap-Up

There are still people who would say cyberbullying is not a big deal. It is scientifically proven it is a pretty big deal, though.

The pen is mightier than the sword, and not everyone uses it for good. In this case, it’s more like the keyboard being mightier than the punch, but you get the idea.

Here’s the deal:

Thousands of people, mostly kids, are suffering from cyberbullying daily. Click To Tweet It is one more issue we need to be prepared to discuss with children. It is the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to teach them proper online behavior.

Last but not least, if you’re a cyberbullying victim, you need to know you don’t deserve it. And you can overcome it. Do something you enjoy and forget the haters. Meet up with friends, read a book, watch a movie, listen to some upbeat music… Taylor Swift has said it best:

“And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

I shake it off, I shake it off…”

Now let’s continue with the FAQ.

FAQ

What is cyberbullying? / What is online bullying?

Cyberbullying, also called online bullying or internet bullying, is the intentional use of digital devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to hurt someone emotionally, usually repetitively.

What is considered cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying includes, but is not limited to:

  • abusive texts and emails
  • insulting messages, pictures, and videos
  • impersonating others online
  • humiliating and embarrassing others online
  • mean online gossiping and chat

Social media bullying is the most common example.

How does cyberbullying start?

It might start accidentally and quite innocently, just as a joke or a bully might intentionally pick on a victim and decide to harass them. Cyberbullying builds up quickly, so it’s best to put a stop to it from the beginning.

How to prevent cyberbullying?

Blocking bullies on all websites and reporting them, changing your privacy settings, and ignoring them might help. But if this doesn’t work, it’s time to confront them and tell a parent or a teacher. It’s a good idea to save the evidence – any cyberbullying messages and screenshots are immensely useful in getting the point across.

Sometimes the victims or the bullies are children with learning and attention issues. To prevent them from being cyberbullies or being cyberbullied, talking with them and their peers is crucial.

Why do people cyberbully? / Why do teens cyberbully?

Teenage cyberbullying is quite common, but adults are not safe either. Usually, teens and adults who become cyberbullies have personal problems and insecurities which they try to make up for by bullying others. It makes them feel in control.

On the other hand, children might not always realize they are deeply hurting someone with their words and actions, and simply join in the “fun” because of peer pressure. That’s why it’s important to explain to them from an early age how to behave online (and in real life).

What are the consequences of cyberbullying?

The victim might become depressed, anxious, and withdrawn. Sometimes the victim becomes a bully as well, trying to feel in control again.

Cyberbullies post harmful content online. It is usually almost impossible to remove, and it might affect the target’s personal life and future negatively.

When did cyberbullying start?

We can’t pinpoint the exact moment of the first cyberbullying attempts. However, one of the first recorded grave incidents in the history of cyberbullying is the suicide of a 13-year-old girl in 2007 after having suffered harassment on MySpace. She is, unfortunately, one of the many victims of cyberbullying.

Fortunately, Instagram, one of the most popular social platforms, is taking measures against bullies now.

Alright!

Now you know what cyberbullying is and how to prevent it. Be aware of it, and don’t let bullies win. Use the information here, fight back and prevail!

Till next time!

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