Cyberbullying is a widespread online phenomenon where a child, preteen or teen is intentionally targeted by another minor (children under age of 18) and is humiliated, tormented, or threatened via use of the Internet. Once adults are involved, the actions are elevated to cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Cyberbullying can either be a direct one-on-one attack and/or by proxy where perpetrators use the help of others to cyberbully the victim. A 2016 US-based study revealed that 34 percent of teens have been cyberbullied at least once in their lifetime.
Digital technology offers users the ability to continuously connect with others (via direct messaging, online chatrooms, social networking sites) at any given time of the day or night. Furthermore, most of the information shared electronically can be permanently stored and public to a wider audience, if not removed or reported promptly. This immediate and lasting line of communication allows perpetrators to persistently harass their target, leaving them feeling vulnerable and powerless. 51 percent of children globally reported that cyberbullying was done by a classmate and with such behavior often translating into the offline world, children find little to no relief from cyberbullying.
Importantly, the hidden nature of cyberbullying often makes it difficult for teachers and parents to notice the situation, often extending how long their children are cyberbullied. A 2018 study revealed that while global awareness of cyberbullying among adults is increasing, one quarter of adults have still never heard of it. Reports of children being cyberbullied are even lower: only one in three parents worldwide (33 percent) report knowing a child in their community who had been cyberbullied. Proactive measures from parents, teachers, and caregivers in resolving the situation, working with the child, is crucial.
As with traditional bullying, cyberbullying can lead to a prolonged traumatic experience for children, additionally forming a negative online reputation and increased emotional and psychological distress. Children targeted by cyberbullies may experience anxiety, dear, depression, and low self-esteem. Some helpful strategies to stop cyberbullying are: to confide in parents, teachers, trusted adult; to block the bully from social media account; to disengage and ignore the bully by not responding to them; to change privacy settings and block the accounts; and to report offensive, abusive behavior on the website, application, or game.
“Global Awareness of Cyberbullying Is Increasing, Though 1 in 4 Adults Haven't Heard of It.” Ipsos MORI, June 2018, www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/global-awareness-of-cyberbullying.
“What Is Cyberbullying.” StopBullying.gov, Department of Health and Human Services, July 2018, www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html.