Cyberbullying is the act of intimidating another person via the Internet.
This can take such forms as of sending threatening e-mail, harassing individuals in an online forum, or posting embarrassing photos or comments on a social networking site.
Cyberbullying is most commonly associated with children and teens; however, anyone can be the target of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can involve threats, spreading hate speech, disseminating rumors, stalking, or anything else meant to belittle or intimidate someone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there protections against cyberbullying?
Depending on the extent of the cyberbullying, it may or may not be a violation of your local or regional laws. Some forms of mild cyberbullying may be protected by freedom of speech laws; however, more severe forms, specifically those that involve threats or harassing messages, typically fall under more traditional stalking or harassment laws. Cyberbullying that targets specific groups of individuals may also fall under hate crime laws.
Many schools and youth organizations have developed their own guidelines for prohibiting and dealing with cyberbullying. Unfortunately, schools aren’t always the best at identifying cyberbullying, and many victims prefer not to discuss it with others, particularly adults.
For adults, some forms of cyberbullying may fall under an employers’ workplace Internet policy, and such behaviors targeted at another employee could be grounds for discipline or even termination. Much like children, many adults are hesitant to report online bullying; however, when reported online threats or online stalking can be grounds for prosecution.
How can I protect my kids from cyberbullying?
The most important thing you can do is talk to your kids about cyberbullying. Make sure they understand what sort of behaviors and messages are acceptable, and which ones cross the line into offensive, upsetting, and even dangerous. Many parents request the passwords for their children’s online accounts, so they can periodically monitor the type of activities their children are involved in online. Others prefer to simply “friend” their children on social media, and monitor interactions in that way. For more information about protecting your children online, see our Safety Tips for Parents.
Is cyberbullying any worse than traditional bullying?
Many argue that cyberbullying can be worse, because it targets individuals in a personal and very public way. While a traditionally bully may pick on you in the hall, in sight of a few dozen other students, or spread a vicious rumor one person at a time, the Internet allows messages to spread to entire communities within seconds. What’s worse, cyberbullying takes away the safety most children feel at home. Now a bully can reach you anywhere at any time.
Cyberbullying is also much harder to detect and police, since no physical contact is required. Additionally, online bullying may come in the form of anonymous messages, making it much harder to identify the bully and, some argue, making more difficult for the victim, since the harmful message may have come from anyone they know.