The many faces of cyberbullying

The purpose of this post is to clarify what is involved in cyberbullying and give an overview of typical profiles of cyberbullies.

What is cyberbullying?

I like definitions. They keep my head clear. Cyberbullying involves the use of the internet, cell phone, or other interactive technology that results in hurt feelings, ridicule, and sometimes even the death of the cyberbully’s victim.  In cyberspace, where information travels fast and reaches hundreds in seconds, even one occurrence of ridicule can do serious damage.

A cyberbully may:

  • send provocative text messages to the victim via cell phone
  • use a cell phone, instant messaging, chat, blog, site social media to spread rumors, distribute embarrassing text exchanges, photos, or videos of the victim without his or her  permissio
  • do everything mentioned in (2) anonymously
  • use chat rooms in interactive gaming consoles such as playstation or xbox to belittle or even exclude victims by accusing them for hacking or cheating
  • set up online polls (vote for the fattest and ugliest kid in school)
  • steal victim’s password and send provocative/hate messages to common groups pretending to be the victim and then trick grown-ups or online service providers to block the victim or deny him/her services.
  • What to cyberbullies look like?

    One type of cyberbully  bears a whole lot in common with the schoolyard bully. It’s the exact same person that uses technology to attack another child with the intention to belittle, demonstrate power, or even threaten.

    Cyberbullying behavior has, also, been demonstrated by students who may have been victimized by schoolyard bullies and they now use their often superior technical knowledge to make things right. This is the “revenge of the nerd” type of cyberbully.  Interestingly, this type of bully does not perceive himself/herself as one.

    Another common type is girls, typically middle-school, that form “cliques” and find it entertaining to be mean to other girls (more rarely to boys, too). We saw the schoolyard version of this type in the video of the previous post.

    Finally, there’s the unaware cyberbully who has no intention to hurt other people’s feelings or deliberately put them down but they are quick to send or publicize a heated reaction without thinking of the consequences, which in cyberspace, can be grave. Sometimes they just say cruel things for entertainment without thinking of the resulting damage. Key to this type is that they don’t think of the consequences.

    In the next post, we will take a look at how to advise our children to be safe on the Internet and cope with cyberbullying.