The anonymity of the internet fosters opportunities for harmful cyberbullying. Cyberbulling is a form of bullying or harassment which uses electronic means. It can occur on any digital platform (e.g., email, texting, social media). Cyberbulling behaviors may include spreading rumors, sending hurtful comments or threats, excluding someone from online activities, or sharing negative videos or pictures. The intent is to embarrass, harass, or threaten someone. Because the bully does not have to face their victim, they may say and post things they would never say in person. With cyberbullying, there is no opportunity to escape the harassment. It can occur 24 hours a day.
Statistically, teenage girls are the most likely targets of cyberbullying; however, cyberbullying has been increasing in children and adults in recent years. Effects of cyberbullying may include fear, lowered self-esteem, social isolation, and decreased academic or work performance. Victims of cyberbullying may struggle with anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress.
Signs of cyberbullying:
- School refusal and/or increase in absences
- Nervousness or secretive behavior when using electronic devices
- Avoidance of electronic devices
- Refusing to talk about online activities
- Anger, sadness, worry after going online
- Changes in academic or work performance, sleep, and/or eating
Ways to support someone who is being cyberbullied:
- Offer support
- Maintain open and honest communication
- Talk to teachers, principals, office management
- Delete or block the bully on devices
- Do not respond to bullying content
- Keep copies of bullying content in case this information is needed as evidence
- Install parental control software if the cyberbullying involves a minor
- Consult with a mental health professional to assess emotional health and well being
If you or someone you know is experiencing cyberbullying, reach out for help. Specialized therapy from a qualified mental health provider can help individuals overcome the harmful effects of cyberbullying.