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What Is Cyberbullying?

Alissa Sauer
January 11, 2021

Last Updated: January 2021

As a society, we are all too familiar with bullying. It’s happened throughout generations on playgrounds, school buses and in school hallways. Bullies have been around forever, attempting to intimidate or harm someone they perceive as weaker or lesser than themselves. The effects of bullying are detrimental to bullies, their victims and all who witness these acts.

As the world grows more connected through the internet and various social media platforms, bullying has gone virtual.

In support of “No Name-Calling Week,” which takes place January 18-22, 2021, take a closer look at cyberbullying, how cyberbullying affects its victims and how to get help if your child is being bullied online.

The Definition of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the posting, sending or sharing of a harmful or fake image, text or video about someone else. This can be done from any kind of internet-connected device and typically happens via text, social media platforms or online forums.

It is particularly damaging because it is usually shared in places where others can participate, transmit and view content that can include harmful pictures, videos or words.

Many cyberbullies may not bully in real life because technology creates a disconnect and they are not able to see their victims. This allows them to cross lines they otherwise would not.

Who Is Affected by Cyberbullying? 

The truth is that we are all affected by cyberbullying. The internet is not a safe place for many. Those who are targeted in cyberbullying are often the same people who are bullied in real life.

A study from the United Kingdom involving children between the ages of 11-16 who reported having been bullied, found that only 1% were bullied online. The rest stated they were bullied both in-person and online. This would suggest that, at least during school years, the targets of cyberbullying are the same targets as in real life. 

The typical targets for bullying are people who are perceived as “different” than those who are doing the bullying.

This includes:

  • People of different ethnicities
  • People of different genders
  • People of different religions
  • People of different sexual orientations
  • People with disabilities

Sometimes people are bullied because of jealously, for reporting inappropriate actions of others or taking a stand about something. It is not always clear why particular people are targeted.

Unfortunately, cyberbullying simply expands the reach of bullies.

How Cyberbullying Is Harmful to Teens 

Cyberbullying is incredibly harmful to the mental health and self-esteem of pre-teens and teenagers. Not only does bullying create a significant risk of depression in teens who are victims, but often, the bullies themselves are at significant risk as well.

For the victims, it can be downright devastating. The pain and shame caused by the bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression and more. Many victims will close social media and other accounts or even change their phone numbers. Many create fake accounts in fear of using their own accounts due to being bullied further.

Because peer groups online can often reflect peer groups in real life, those who are bullied may not be able to face classmates at school or elsewhere, and grades will often suffer, as well. In addition to the ability to impact online and real-life behaviors and mental health, the victims have also become suicidal in some cases.

4 Steps to Take If Your Child Is a Victim of Cyberbullying

You have power against cyberbullying, whether your child is a victim or you witness other teens being bullied.

Here are four steps that you can take if you witness a loved one being bullied online:

  1. Report bullying online to the appropriate platform and encourage your child to block any bullies.
  2. Report cyberbullying to your teen’s school administration and a school counselor.
  3. Screenshot abusive content as evidence for any authorities.
  4. Then, if you witness any explicit photos, hate crimes, stalking or threats, call the police.

Cyberbullying is a harmful and more pervasive form of bullying that can cause serious harm in real life.

The victims of cyberbullying often feel defenseless and helpless, and serious anxiety, depression or worse can occur. 

You have the power to stand up to cyberbullying. Exercise your power wherever you go online, and become your child (or someone else’s) superhero.

Learn how to heal your child and undo the effects bullying or cyberbullying may have had, by contacting Embark Behavioral Health today.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer is the owner of Sauer Social Media, partnering with companies throughout the health industry to create and manage digital content across a variety of platforms. Alissa has nearly 20 years of experience in health marketing, bringing invaluable experience to a constantly evolving space. She is a proud military spouse and has lived all over the globe with her husband, two human children and two fur children.