What is cyber bullying?
Cyberbullying is used as an umbrella term to describe many different kinds of online abuse including but not limited to harassment, doxing, reputation attacks and revenge porn.
To constitute cyberbullying – the perpetrator uses technology such as computers, consoles, cell phones and/or any other device with access to the internet or social media to harass, stalk or abuse another person by instigating or participating in online hate campaigns. Although most media coverage indicates that cyberbullying is a problem exclusive to social media – it is also very problematic within the online gaming community.
Victims of cyberbullying often don’t know who are behind the accounts that are abusing them. Sometimes the victim can suspect who the bullies are, but are unable to prove it because trolling and bullying accounts often make use of everybody’s important right to anonymity – other times, complete strangers become aware of cyberbullying taking place and fall into a ‘mob mentality’ by contributing and amplifying the bullying rather than helping the victim.
Cyberbullying is not exclusive to any specific demographic – everybody is now at risk of being a cyberbullying victim in some way.
Different kinds of cyberbullying
There are many ways that someone can fall victim to or experience cyberbullying when using technology and the internet. Some common methods of cyberbullying are:
- Harassment – When someone is being harassed online, they are being subjected to a string of abusive messages or efforts to contact them by one person or a group of people. People can be harassed through social media as well as through their mobile phone (texting and calling) and email. Most of the contact the victim will receive will be of a malicious or threatening nature.
- Doxing – Doxing is when an individual or group of people distribute another person’s personal information such as their home address, cell phone number or place of work onto social media or public forums without that person’s permission to do so. Doxing can cause the victim to feel extremely anxious and it can affect their mental health.
- Cyberstalking – Similar to harassment, cyberstalking involves the perpetrator making persistent efforts to gain contact with the victim, however this differs from harassment – more commonly than not, people will cyberstalk another person due to deep feelings towards that person, whether they are positive or negative. Someone who is cyberstalking is more likely to escalate their stalking into the offline world.
- Revenge porn – Revenge porn, is when sexually explicit or compromising images of a person have been distributed onto social media or shared on revenge porn specific websites without their permission to do so. Normally, images of this nature are posted by an ex-partner, who does it with the purpose of causing humiliation and damage to their reputation.
- Swatting – Swatting is when someone calls emergency responders with claims of dangerous events taking place at an address. People swat others with the intention of causing panic and fear when armed response units arrive at their home or place of work. Swatting is more prevalent within the online gaming community.
- Corporate attacks – In the corporate world, attacks can be used to send masses of information to a website in order to take the website down and make it non-functional. Corporate attacks can affect public confidence, damaging businesses reputations and in some instances, force them to collapse.
- Account hacking – Cyberbullies can hack into a victim’s social media accounts and post abusive or damaging messages. This can be particularly damaging for brands and public figures.
- False profiles – Fake social media accounts can be setup with the intention of damaging a person or brand’s reputation. This can easily be done by obtaining publicly available images of the victim and making the account appear as authentic as possible.
- Slut shaming – Slut shaming is when someone is called out and labelled as a “slut” for something that they have done previously or even just how they dress. This kind of cyberbullying often occurs when someone has been sexting another person and their images or conversations become public. It is seen more commonly within young people and teenagers but anyone can fall victim to being slut shamed.
Why do people cyberbully?
There are many reasons that someone might choose to cyberbully another person. Some of the most common reasons are:
- They’ve been cyberbullied themselves – Someone may choose to cyberbully another person because they have been through cyberbullying themselves. They might feel like it’s okay to treat people in that way or find that it is the only way to express their own pain.
- To fit in – If someone sees another person being cyberbullied by a group of people, they may feel that by participating, they will ‘fit in’ or develop a new group of friends themselves.
- Home life – The perpetrator may be having a difficult home life and misplace their anger and frustration onto someone else. Most of the time, this will happen when the cyberbully doesn’t have anyone to talk to about what they are going through.
- Power – Someone may choose to cyberbully in order to feel powerful and have the ability to control a situation.
- Jealously – Jealously is one of the most common reasons for cyberbullying, especially for teenagers and young people. Growing up as teenager can be a difficult time as young people are discovering themselves, and they may feel insecure about their appearance. Because they feel insecure, they might compare themselves to their peers which can result in envy based cyberbullying and abuse.
- Cyberbullying and video games – Online gaming has grown rapidly over the last few years. This boom has also seen a rise in online players reporting toxicity and abuse when gaming online. Online gamers have the ability to talk to other users through the use of a microphone to chat – this can be used to encourage teamwork, build friendships and improve the overall gaming experience in general. Some players take advantage of this technology and use it to abuse players through verbal abuse or text/messaging abuse.
What to do if you are being cyberbullied
If you are being cyberbullied, it can be easy to think that no one will understand or be able to help you – but that isn’t the case. See below for some advice for how to deal with cyberbullying.
- Talk to someone – When going through cyberbullying, it is important that you build up a network of support from friends, family and people you can trust. These people will be able to help and support you. Talking to people in times of crisis can not only add a voice of reason or rational thought, it can also help you feel better for being able to share your thoughts and feelings without judgement. If you are a young person or teenager who has fallen victim to cyberbullying, you might want to consider talking to a parent or teacher that you feel you can trust. If the cyberbullying is occurring in school or it is involving people who attend your school, a teacher should be able to help you resolve the issue effectively.
- Don’t retaliate – When people are cyberbullying others, they are normally doing it for a reaction. If you choose to not retaliate, they will eventually become bored and move on.
- Assess the threat – If the cyberbully is sending you messages of a threatening nature or you have reason to be worried about your safety, you should contact law enforcement. They will be able to help you with your immediate safety and give you advice on what to do going forward.
It’s important to remember that law enforcement are only there for emergencies and you should only be contacting them if you are in immediate danger or believe your personal safety is at risk.
How do people get cyberbullied?
There are many ways in which someone can be cyberbullied. The majority of hate campaigns take place on social media platforms and through phone calls.
On some social media platforms, you can create pages and secret groups of people. Tools such as these are used to organize hate campaigns.
Statistics for cyberbullying and online abuse vary around the world. See below for some recent statistics for cyberbullying and online harassment. Explore our cyberbullying and harassment research section for more in-depth cyberbullying statistics.
PEW Research (U.S.)
- 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online.
- 35% of all adults had experienced some form of online harassment (2014).
- 62% of U.S. adults say people being harassed or bullied online is a major problem.
- 70% of women state that online harassment is a major problem.
Cybersmile Research (U.S.)
- 54.5% of all respondents had seen the most abuse on Facebook.
- 61.1% of all female respondents had seen the most abuse on Facebook.
- 35.7% of respondents had seen religion based bullying online.
- Nearly 40% of all respondents had seen bullying, harassment or abuse online.
Cybersmile Research (U.K.)
- 29.6% of respondents aged 25-34 had seen homophobic abuse online.
- 31.5% of respondents aged 18-24 had seen religion based bullying online.
- 40.6% of respondents aged 18-24 had seen racist abuse online.
- 55.1% of all respondents had seen the most online abuse on Facebook.