Young people have fully embraced the Internet as both an environment and a tool for socialising. Via the Internet and other technologies, they send e-mail, create their own websites, post intimate personal news in blogs, send text messages and images via mobile phones, contact each other through IMs (instant messages), chat in chat rooms, post to discussion boards, and seek out new friends in teen sites.

Unfortunately, there are increasing reports of teenagers and younger children using these technologies to post damaging text or images to bully their peers or engage in other aggressive behaviour. There are also increasing reports of teens posting material that raises concerns that they are considering an act of violence toward others or themselves.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material or engaging in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies and it can take different forms:

  • Flaming – Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.
  • Harassment – Repeatedly sending nasty, mean, and insulting messages.
  • Denigration – “Dissing” someone online. Sending or posting gossip or rumours about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships.
  • 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.
  • Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.
  • Trickery – Talking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information, then sharing it online.
  • Exclusion – Intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group.
  • Cyberstalking – Repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

Impact of Cyberbullying:

It is widely known that face-to-face bullying can result in long-term psychological harm to targets. This harm includes low self-esteem, depression, anger, academic failure and avoidance, and, in some cases, violence in the school or community or in some cases suicide. It is possible that the harm caused by cyberbullying may be greater than harm caused by traditional bullying because:
  • Online communications can be extremely vicious.
  • There is no escape for those who are being cyberbullied—victimisation is on-going, 24/7.
  • Cyberbullying material can be distributed worldwide and is often irretrievable.
  • Cyberbullies can be anonymous and can solicit the involvement of unknown “friends.”
  • Teens may be reluctant to tell adults what is happening because they are emotionally traumatised, think it is their fault, fear greater retribution and fear online activities or mobile phone use will be restricted

National Statistics

  • In 2013 the national anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that 69% of the young people under 18 who completed the survey had been a victim of cyberbullying. 37% experienced cyberbullying on a highly frequent basis, with 20% experiencing extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • New research suggests that young males and females are equally at risk of being cyberbullied.
  • Facebook, AskFM and Twitter were found to be the most likely sources of cyberbullying with 54% of young people who use Facebook being cyberbullied.
  • An estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyberbullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • A survey 11 & 12 year olds about social networking undertaken by the NSPCC found that almost 50% have a profile on a social networking site; 23% experienced upset while social networking; 23% were excluded from a social group or friendship; 22% were sent unwanted sexual messages; 17% had their personal information used without their permission or were asked for it and 45% experienced Trolling.

Cyberbullying and the Law

There is no legal definition of cyberbullying within UK law. However there are a number of existing laws that can be applied to cases of cyberbullying and online harassment, namely:
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003
 If someone is targeted online because of attitudes towards disability, race, ethnicity, religion/belief, sexual orientation or transgender identity then this could be classed as a hate crime.

Roles in Cyberbullying

If a child has been involved in cyberbullying, they usually take on one of these roles:
  • Bullies – “put-downers” who harass and demean others, especially those they think are different or inferior, or “get-backers” who have been bullied by others and are using the internet to retaliate or vent their anger
  • Targets – the targets of the cyberbully, who in some cases may be the bullies at school and in other cases, the targets.
  • Harmful bystanders – those who encourage and support the bully or watch the bullying from the side-lines, but do nothing to intervene or help the target.
  • Helpful bystanders – those who seek to stop the bullying, protest against it, provide support to the target, or tell an adult.

What can be done to prevent your child being a cyberbully?

Help them develop self-awareness, empathy and effective decision-making by asking these questions:

  • Am I being kind and showing respect for others and myself?
  • How would I feel if someone did the same thing to me, my family or to my best friend?
  • What would a trusted adult, someone who is important in my life, think?
  • Is this action in violation of any agreements, rules, school policies or laws?
  • How would I feel if others found out it was me?
  • How does this action reflect on me?

Warn against online retaliation.  Some young people who engage in cyberbullying are retaliating against those who are bullying them face-to-face. Help your child understand that retaliating is not smart because when targets lose their cool, it allows the bullies to justify their behaviour.


Everything posted online is public – it can be copied and redistributed – think before you post

The Department for Education has released a document that aims to help parents better understand the issues and offers advice about many aspects.  You can download it by clicking on the cover sheet image below:


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