The Parent's Guide to Cyberbullies
What is a Cyberbully?
A cyberbully is someone who uses technology to
harass, embarrass, intimidate, or stalk someone
The methods used can include emails, instant
messaging, text messages sent via cell phones,
digital photos and all other means of electronic
The cyberbully can send:
- angry and vulgar argumentative messages
- cruel, offensive, and insulting messages
- threats and false promises
The cyberbully can:
- post secrets or embarrassing information,
including pictures, for everyone to see
- post gossip or rumors for the explicit purpose
of damaging the person's reputation
- send out messages pretending to be the victim
in an attempt to damage that person's
- alienate the victim from online groups
Who Are Cyberbullies?
Many times, a cyberbully is also a bully in face to-face
encounters. Bullying over the computer
is a natural extension of their destructive
Some people who become cyberbullies are
often the victims of bullying. They may take out
their anger and frustration in cyberspace. They
may be targeting the people who bully them or
they may have picked a different target.
Still others regard cyberbullying as a game --
nothing more than a fun thing to do.
Who Are the Victims of Cyberbullies?
Most victims of cyberbullies are children, but
there are also many adults who are
Generally, cyberbullies will know their victim, but
occasionally they will pick victims they don't
know. In these situations, the cyberbully is
picking on someone based on a type of bias or
prejudice. They may pick on people based on
religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or
people who are deemed "not cool."
Other times, they will pick on someone based on
a message that he/she has posted that the bully
Why Can Cyberbullying be Worse
Than Physical Bullying?
Many people erroneously assume that "words
can never hurt." In cyberspace, however,
cyberbullies can strike anytime, anywhere,
thanks to modern technology. As long as the
victims are online, they can be vulnerable to
Many bullies pick on people for the feeling of
power that it gives them. Because the Internet
seems to give anonymity, cyberbullying is often
seen to have fewer consequences to the bullies,
which can encourage them to be more
Another aspect of cyberspace that can lead
cyberbullies to be more vicious than physical
bullies is that cyberbullies aren't physically there
when they are harassing their victims. This can
lead to a lessened empathy. Since the bullies
cannot see how much they are hurting the
victims, they may think they have not actually
hurt them much or at all and may, therefore,
continue the harassing behavior.
Many people believe that there are no rules in
cyberspace. They feel free to do whatever they
wish. More than that, they believe they have the
RIGHT to do whatever they want in cyberspace
without suffering any consequences.
Warning Signs that your Child may be a
Victim of a Cyberbully
- displays signs of depression, sadness, anxiety
or fear - particularly if these signs intensify
after your child uses the cell phone or after
- avoiding friends, activities, or school
- experiences difficulty with school or a drop in
grades for no apparent reason
- expressing subtle comments that indicate your
child is disturbed or upset
What to do if a Cyberbully
Targets your Child
Retaliation may only escalate the problem. If you
feel the need to respond to the cyberbully, help your child develop an appropriate response,
asking the cyberbully to stop the behavior. This
may resolve some of the problems that are
By filtering email, instant messages and text
messages, you can cut off many of the ways the
cyberbullies contact your child. By having your
child avoid the sites and groups where the
attacks occur, he/she can ignore the bully.
If the harassment continues, then you can
change your child's email address, Internet
account, and usernames.
If a believable physical threat is made, the police
should be contacted.
If none of these steps are successful, then you
may need to take additional action, as follows:
- Compile a copy of all harassing
messages and postings. Save the
addresses of web sites where other
hostile information, embarrassing
pictures or negative messages are
posted. The more documentation you
can save the better.
- Contact your child's school. Even if the
cyberbullying is not occurring in school,
officials might be able to assist.
- If possible, contact the bully's parents.
In many cases, they will be unaware of
their child's behavior. Send them a
registered letter detailing the messages
and asking them to make the bullying
stop. They could be held liable for
financial and emotional damages.
- Finally, if the situation is not resolved,
contact the police.
Additional Sites for more Information
National Crime Prevention Council:
This information was previously published by the NJ Office of Information Technology.