6 Types of Cyberbullying

Learn how to identify cyberbullying

Upset teen on smartphone
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Teens are online now more than ever. Everyday they use their smartphones, tablets and computers not only to research material for school but to socialize with friends and family members. In fact, texting and using social media are one of the top ways kids communicate with others. But just like any other social activity, the opportunity for bullying exists.

What Is Cyberbullying?

When a young person uses the Internet or technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person, this person is called a cyberbully.

Typically, cyberbullying involves tweens and teens. But it is not uncommon for adults to experience cyberbullying and public shaming as well. 

What Methods Are Kids Using to Cyberbully?

While there are a number of different ways kids are bullying others online, the majority of online harassment falls into one of six categories. Here are six of the most common methods of cyberbullying.

Harassing Someone

  • Using text messaging, instant messaging and email to harass, threaten or embarrass the target.
  • Posting rumors, threats or embarrassing information on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Engaging in “warning wars.” (Many Internet Service Providers and social media sites offer a way to report a user who is saying something inappropriate. Kids use these report buttons as a way to get the victim in trouble or kicked offline.)
  • Participating in text wars or text attacks, which occur when bullies gang up on the victim and send thousands of texts. These attacks not only cause emotional distress but create a large cell phone bill.

    Impersonating Someone

    • Developing a screen name that is similar to the victim’s screen name and then posting rude or hurtful remarks while pretending to be the victim.
    • Stealing the victim’s password and chatting with other people while pretending to be the victim. The bully will say mean things that offend and anger the victim’s friends or acquaintances.
    • Changing the target’s online profile to include sexual, racist or other inappropriate things.
    • Setting up an account on a social networking site and posting as the victim while saying mean, hurtful or offensive things online. Actual photos of the victim may be used to make the account look authentic.
    • Posing as the victim and posting in chat rooms of known child molesters, hate groups or dating sites. The bully may even provide the victim’s personal information encouraging those in the groups to contact the victim.
    • Pretending to be someone else in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship. This type of activity is often called catfishing.

    Using Photographs

    • Taking nude or degrading pictures of the victim in a locker room, a bathroom or dressing room without his or her permission.
    • Threatening to share embarrassing photos as a way of controlling or blackmailing the victim.
    • Sending mass emails or text messages that include nude or degrading photos of the victim. This behavior is often called “sexting,” and once the photos are sent, there is no way to control it. The photos can be distributed to hundreds of people within just a few hours.
    • Posting nude pictures on photo sharing sites for anyone on the Internet to view and download.
    • Using photographs to shame someone online. One common tactic teens use, is to engage in slut shaming. This behavior involves shaming someone, usually a girl, for the way she dresses, acts or the number of people she has dated.

    Creating Websites, Blogs, Polls and More

    • Developing a website with information that is humiliating, embarrassing or insulting for the victim.
    • Spreading rumors, lies or gossip about the victim online through websites or blogs.
    • Posting the victim’s personal information and pictures on a website, which puts the victim in danger of being contacted by predators.
    • Creating a blog about the victim that is embarrassing, insulting or humiliating.
    • Using the information that was shared in confidence and making it public.
    • Conducting an Internet poll about the victim. Questions in the poll may vary including everything from who is ugly and who smells to who is dumb and who is fat.
    • Posting rude, mean or insulting comments about the victim via the chat option of online gaming sites.
    • Sending viruses, spyware or hacking programs to the victim in order to spy on the victim or control his or her computer remotely.

    Participating in Video Shaming 

    • Using a camera phone to video and later share a bullying incident, which may include one or more kids slapping, hitting, kicking or punching the victim.
    • Downloading a video of something humiliating and posting it to YouTube in order to allow a larger audience to view the incident.
    • Sharing a video via mass e-mail or text messaging to humiliate and embarrass the victim.
    • Creating an incident that causes another person to become upset or emotional and then record the incident. This type of activity is often referred to as cyberbaiting. Teachers are a common target for cyberbaiting incidents.

    Engaging in Subtweeting or Vaguebooking

    • Posting tweets or Facebook posts that never mention the victim's name. Yet the victim, the bully and often a larger audience know who the posts are referencing.
    • Using subtle posts and tweets to fuel the rumor mill while avoiding detection by teachers, administrators and parents.

    A Word From Verywell

    Remember cyberbullying involves using social media, smartphones, text messages and online apps as tools and weapons. But hey are not the problem. Cyberbullying occurs because of the choices kids make. Restricting your child's digital access will not prevent them from being cyberbullied. In fact, kids can still create a fake profile and impersonate your child online. Instead of controlling your child's online access, focus your efforts on educating your child about the risks of cyberbullying. Talk to her about how to make smart choices online and how to report cyberbullying if it occurs. Keeping an open dialogue with your kids about cyberbullying is the most effective way to deal with the issue. 

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