Five Types of Internet Abuse Used to Cyberbully

Avoid Being Embarrassed, Exploited or Harrassed Online

You might look at the internet in private, but anything you share can quickly become very public. Knowing these five types of internet abuse—which have been used by cyberbullies to embarrass, exploit and harass others—as well as strategies for protecting yourself against them, can help you avoid running into problems.

Social Exclusion

Models pose as girl being excluded by peers
Social exclusion online is a type of cyberbullying. Vicky Kasala / Getty Images

Social exclusion might be one of the mildest forms of cyberbullying, but it can cause serious distress: it's the online equivalent of leaving someone out of a group to which they should expect automatic membership. This could include an entire class not accepting a friend request from a particular classmate.

Tip: Focus on developing real-life relationships rather than depending on virtual relationships for social connection. If you or your child is being excluded online, this is probably an indication of a more serious social problem in real life. Talk to your parents, teachers, or a counselor if you're being socially excluded at school. Joining online or real-life groups based on your interests, hobbies, or activities is also helpful.

Tagging Without Permission

Tagging is a way of attaching a person's name to an online image so that their name appears on the image, or so that images of a particular person can be identified by searching for tagged images using their name. Tagging someone's name against an embarrassing, defaming, or manipulated image—particularly without her permission—is a form of internet abuse, especially when the intention is to cause that person distress or ridicule.

Tip: Limit and censor images that you post of yourself, and that others post of you. Adjust the privacy settings of Facebook or the website you are using and so that tagged images of you cannot be seen by others. Block people from accessing any information about you. If your image has been posted on a website, contact the website administrator and request that it be taken down. If the image is pornographic, you may be able to report the abuse to the police, although some teens have found themselves in trouble for others' posting sext images of them online.


Flaming is the practice of posting derogatory comments about another person. It can include outing another person by revealing that he is gay when he hasn't come out himself; character assassination by berating someone's character throught exaggerating her perceived faults in an unbalanced way; or posting up untrue information about someone in order to damage her image or reputation.

Tip: Although abuse is never the fault of the victim, you can reduce the likelihood that it will happen to you by conducting yourself appropriately online, avoiding provoking negative reactions in others by comments you make, and treating yourself and others with respect. At the very least, any flaming that does happen will be unsubstantiated and unconvincing. And if it does happen, report abuse to the owner of the website; webmasters are increasingly aware of internet abuse and have moderators who can remove offensive material.

Sext Re-Posting

Sexting is a risky activity, but when you are in a relationship, you can be drawn into sexting a picture of yourself to your loved one without thinking about the potential future risk of its being used against you.

Read more in To Sext or Not to Sext?

Younger internet users, especially teenage girls, can also be flattered into sexting images of themselves, or flashing on a webcam, by predators, pedophiles, and pornographers who can use these images for cybersex. This is known as coercion, and is a form of internet abuse. While you may feel embarrassed by such images of you being made public, it is not your fault. Ask them to take the image down, and if they do not, report it to the website as being posted without your consent. If they continue to leave it online, and especially if they are harassing you in any other way, report it to the police.

Impersonation and Identity Theft

Impersonation is pretending to be someone else, and can range from obvious mockery to actually borrowing or stealing someone's identity—such as their name, image, or identifying information—to carry out actions which are attributed to the victim.

Tip: For superficial impersonations, such as someone posting up a silly comment online using your name, add a comment below stating that it was not made by you. For more serious impersonations, like comments expressing controversial views you do not agree with, contact the webmaster and ask to have it removed. If your personal information is used to commit theft or another crime, you either confront the culprit to correct the matter, or report it to the police.

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