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A girl lying on her bed texting.

Cyberbullying is hurting someone else over and over again through the Internet or a cell phone. So, instead of whispering a rumor to a friend, a bully might email the rumor or post it on Facebook for everyone to see! Or, a bully might use technology to ignore you. (An example of this would be a friend ignoring your emails or IMs all of a sudden.)

Cyberbullying happens most often through:

  • Web sites (including social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter)
  • Blogs
  • Instant messages (IMs)
  • E-mail
  • Chat rooms
  • Text messaging/texting
  • Cell phone photo messages
  • Virtual worlds

Many teens today, especially girls, use technology to bully others. Teens may be more likely to cyberbully because they feel protected by the Internet. It’s much easier to type mean words to someone than to say them in person, but that doesn’t make them any less hurtful.

How can you protect yourself from cyberbullying?

Here are some tips that may help protect you from cyberbullying:

  • Don’t give out personal information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs, or on Web sites.
  • Don’t tell anyone your email or instant messaging passwords, even your friends.
  • If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don't respond. Save it and show it to a trusted adult.
  • If someone is sending mean messages to you through IM or texts, just log off or shut off your phone. You can also ‘block’ certain people from sending you messages on some Web sites. You can’t be bullied if the bully can’t access you!

Sexting and cyberbullying

“Sexting” is when teens send naked or partly naked photos to one another over the Internet or by cell phone. This often starts as a joke, but then gets out of control as the photos are forwarded to others. Often, the naked pictures end up in the wrong person’s hands. In four states, charges of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor have been brought against kids who forwarded these pictures. Before you send any photos of yourself over the Internet or through your cell phone, stop and think: would you want your parents to see the photos?

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Different types of cyberbullying

  • Flaming. Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.

    Example: Joe and Alec’s online exchange got angrier and angrier. Insults were flying. Joe warned Alec to watch his back in school the next day.
  • Harassment. Repeatedly sending nasty, mean, and insulting messages.

    Example: Sara reported to the principal that Kayla was bullying another student. When Sara got home, she had 35 angry messages in her email box. The anonymous cruel messages kept coming — some from complete strangers.
  • Denigration. “Dissing” someone online. Sending or posting gossip or rumors about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships.

    Example: Some boys created a “We Hate Joe” Web site where they posted jokes,
    cartoons, gossip, and rumors, all dissing Joe.
  • Impersonation. Pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material to get that person in trouble or danger or to damage that person’s reputation or friendships.

    Example: Laura watched closely as Emma logged on to her account and discovered her password. Later, Laura logged on to Emma’s account and sent a hurtful message to Emma’s boyfriend, Adam.
  • Outing. Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.

    Example: Greg, an obese high school student, was changing in the locker room after gym class. Matt took a picture of him with his cell phone camera. Within seconds, the picture was flying around the phones at school.
  • Trickery. Talking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information, then sharing it online.

    Example: Katie sent a message to Jessica pretending to be her friend and asking lots of questions. Jessica responded, sharing really personal information. Katie forwarded the message to lots of other people with her own comment, “Jessica is
    a loser.”
  • Exclusion. Intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group.

    Example: Millie tries hard to fit in with a group of girls at school. She recently got on the “outs” with a leader in this group. Now Millie has been blocked from the
    friendship links of all of the girls.
  • Cyberstalking. Repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

    Example: When Annie broke up with Sam, he sent her many angry, threatening, pleading messages. He spread nasty rumors about her to her friends and posted a sexually suggestive picture she had given him in a sex-oriented discussion group, along with her email address and cell phone number.

Source: Adapted from Educator’s Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats, Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.

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Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated October 31, 2013