What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is commonly defined as the use of information and communication technologies to support repeated and deliberate hostile behavior intended to harm others. It is sometimes used as an extension to other forms of bullying, and can result in the target of bullying experiencing social, psychological and academic difficulties.

Children and young people can also be affected by hostile behavior that does not fit the definition of cyberbullying. For example, insensitive or negative remarks or jokes online or via text are not cyberbullying by definition. However, the impact can be widespread due to the rapid dissemination and the relative permanency of the message sent. For the purposes of brevity, both cyberbullying and other hostile “cyber” behaviors will be referred to as cyberbullying for the remainder of this section.

Key Characteristics and forms of cyberbullying:

Cyberbullying can be conducted in many ways, using different media types including:

  • Sending abusive texts or emails
  • Taking and sharing unflattering or private images
  • Posting unkind messages or inappropriate images on social networking sites
  • Assuming the identity of the victim online and representing them in a negative manner or manner that may damage their relationship with others
  • Repeatedly, and for no strategic reason, attacking players in online gaming.

 

While cyberbullying is similar to “real life” bullying, it also differs in the following ways:

  • It can be difficult to escape and invasive—it can occur 24/7 and a person can be targeted while at home
  • It can involve harmful material being widely and rapidly disseminated to a large audience
  • It can provide the bully with a sense of relative anonymity and distance from the victim

 

Identifying incidents of Cyberbullying

One or more of the following signs and changes in behavior could indicate that a student is being cyberbullied:

  • Decline in academic performance and social interaction
  • Dislike and avoidance of school, sometimes resulting in higher absenteeism
  • Complaints of feeling unwell though parents report no specific illness
  • Having less to do with friends
  • Increased social exclusion and peer rejection.
  • Falling behind in homework
  • Poorer physical health and sleepiness
  • Increased negative self-perception
  • Increased reluctance to participate in regular school activities, including classroom discussions
  • Becoming withdrawn, appearing depressed or anxious, having mood swings, crying for no apparent reason
  • Suicidal thoughts—this should be reported to the administration and the parents/guardians immediately for appropriate action

The above signs should be considered in light of the student’s usual behavior.