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Cyberbullying is the use of any technological means of communication to intentionally hurt, defame, or intimidate another person. This can occur online through applications such as email, text messaging, websites, or discussion forums. [1] Cyberbullying can occur in the following forms: a threat of violence, hate speech, harassment, peer pressure, bribery, psychological abuse or extortion.[2] Cyberbullying is viewed as harmful because it can follow a victim virtually through cell phones, computers, and other communication devices.[3] Compared to traditional bullying, cyberbullying occurs because the increased use of technology has made bullying easier since there is no face-to-face interaction. Cyberbullying faces the same ethical issues as traditional bullying as well as additional concerns. The rise in popularity of cyberbullying has made it as a social issue and led to the formation of initiatives such as Stop the Rage and Stop Cyberbullying, working to prevent cyberbullying.

An example of cyberbulling in which the bully enters the victim's home and types their insult on Wordpad


Cyberbullying has been made possible because of new technology and studies about cyberbullying have shown that these new methods of harassment make it difficult to determine what new solutions can be made to stop what has been described as harmful behavior. [4] Cyberbullies may feel that they can use the perceived anonymity of online environments to say harmful messages that they would not normally say in person. [4] Ethical quandaries concerning responsibility are brought to the forefront when the act of cyberbullying occurs between classmates in school, but the effects are observable and actionable under the supervision of teachers. Experts have mentioned that the ease in which a subject may be harassed online could lead to an increase in the intensity with which they are pursued. [4]The concept of cyberbullying can be extended to include harassment of celebrities online as well as in the media as many media outlets open forums to the public.[5]

What is Considered Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can include many different forms of online interaction. Here are few examples of Cyberbullying:

  • Leaving messages that are harmful or threatening
  • Sending rude or harsh text messages
  • Spreading photos of someone without their consent
  • Creating fake social media to harm others
  • Spreading information about someone via the internet without their consent [6]

Cyberbullying vs. Traditional Bullying


Bullying used to mean just verbal or physical altercations that occurred in person. The creation of online communities, social networking websites, chat rooms, email, etc are all environments conducive to bullying. A cyberbully can cloak their identity using anonymous email addresses or pseudonymous screen names. Cyberbullying is challenging to deal with because the victim often does not know who is attacking them or why they are being bullied. Anonymity gives users who would normally not be able to defend themselves an outlet to humiliate others, often times without repercussion.

Widespread Occurrence

Similar to bullying in person, cyberbullies can also gain support from those around them while conducting their harmful actions. In the case of cyberbullying, cyberbullies can threaten or humiliate their victims without their identity being known to an audience of thousands of people. Using social networking sites, a cyberbully can post stories to a large number of people with minimal effort. There is potentially an unlimited number of witnesses.


It is easier to be cruel using technology because a bully will not feel or see the repercussions of their actions inr eal t. They do not get the social cues from the victim, such as crying or pained facial expressions, that let them know they have gone too far. Those around them do not have a chance to ostracize or scold the bully due to the lack of an audience. The lack of normal social cues from others enhances the victimization.

Increased Level of Damage

With cyberbullying, victimization is more prevalent and the dangerous effects of bullying are amplified. Cyberbullying communications are difficult to completely delete; they persist online for longer than a vocal jeer made in public. The increased threat is also due to the anonymity associated with forms of cyberbullying. Because the victim does not necessarily know who their attacker is, there is a more realistic threat. In turn, a victim has the same opportunity to lash out at their bully. The equal opportunity to this type of harmful speech continuous the cycle of victimization. [7]


Cyberbullies share many of the same characteristics as those of traditional bullies. Both parties are known to have poor relationships with parents or guardians.

Cyberbullies are also more likely to:

  • be victims of traditional bullying
  • be frequent and daily Internet users
  • be involved with harmful substances
  • be responsible for other delinquent behavior [4]


Cyberbullies find many different reasons for their actions:

  • protection of another friend under attack
  • establishing power by instilling fear
  • invincibility through anonymity
  • technological manipulation skills
  • boredom
  • power hungry/abuse
  • attack of a weaker peer [4]


Many people are cyberbullied for long periods of time before asking for help and/or before others realize they are being cyberbullied. There are ten simple signs to look out for if you think someone is being cyberbullied.[8]

  1. Appears nervous when receiving a text, instant message, or email
  2. Seems uneasy about going to school or pretends to be ill
  3. Unwillingness to share information about online activity
  4. Unexplained anger or depression, especially after going online
  5. Abruptly shutting off or walking away from the computer mid-use
  6. Withdrawing from friends and family in real life
  7. Unexplained stomachaches or headaches
  8. Trouble sleeping at night
  9. Unexplained weight loss or gain
  10. Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts


Cyberbullying can occur anywhere technology allows it. Examples include social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as cell phones, chat rooms, forums, blogs etc. Social media sites stand as the most common instruments employed by cyberbullies to harm their victims. Social media sites, with their sense of anonymity granted as a result of the complex social organization found within them, allows for users to speak up against bullying that they see taking place.


Though cyberbullying is often unsolicited by the parties subjected to it, internet forum Reddit has an active subreddit, /r/RoastMe, dedicated to the self-requests of individual "Roastees" to be insulted in good humor, fulfilled by the community "Roasters". Explicitly defined as a "comedy subreddit, not a hate subreddit," the subreddit occupies an ethical space wherein the typical tropes of cyberbullying are utilized to generate content for entertainment. In order to prevent actual cyberbullying, the subreddit enforces rules for both Roastees and Roasters to ensure the authenticity of requests and to preserve the integrity of the forum. The first rule for Roastees, for example, requires requests to be made using a high-quality photo of the roastee holding a handwritten sign with the text "/r/RoastMe." Roasters are likewise instructed not to roast anyone that is not aware that they are being subjected to the roast. [9]

Simultaneously consensual and hostile, the nature of /r/RoastMe can be subject to a wide variety of ethical analysis. Roastees subjecting themselves to barrages of insults often provide additional material to be ridiculed, such as their lifestyle choices or their weight. Though the concept of roasting is not new to the digital age, this socio-masochistic behavior is now open to any individual with internet access. Conversely, this platform facilitates an environment in which demeaning behavior can be exhibited in a consensual virtual space with a limited degree of anonymity.


Victims of cyberbullying are most commonly vulnerable members of the population being examined. They are also commonly the victims of bullying in real space. Victims often experience isolation or exclusion from other peers because of their lack of popularity or other factors. Victims often suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-confidence.[4] Because of these factors, victims are more likely to experience cyberbullying because they seek attention and/or acceptance from peers and hence are easier to manipulate. They are also apathetic in observing Internet safety strategies, in relying on their parents for guidance or help, and in reporting abusive situations.[4]

LGBTQIA Identifying Victims

LBGTQIA citizens are most likely to be the target of violent hate crimes in the United States, according to the FBI. [10] In a study conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, Cyberbullying of LGBTQIA individuals is found to be twice as high as heterosexual youth. [11] In addition, four times as many more students who do not identify as heterosexual miss school due to concerns of their safety. While many schools have rules and guidelines preventing discrimination on these grounds, there is no Federal law or policy that explicitly addresses this issue.


The main effect of cyberbullying is significant emotional hurt. Victims are often driven to the point of emotional breakdowns. Repercussions of cyber-bullying on students in school include poor concentration, poor class performance, and tardies or absences because of low self-confidence, depression, and anxiety.[4] Because cyberbullies are commonly anonymous, victims can become hypersensitive and paranoid in their environment. [4] Some serious documented effects include violence, depression, and severe dysfunction[4]

In some extreme cases, like with Megan Meier, cyberbullying can lead to suicides [12]. As a result, several prominent organizations, like the National Crime Prevention Council and have published guides on how to deal with cyberbullying and what to do if you're a victim. [13][14]

Facebook Prevention and Solutions

Large social media sites such as Facebook have cyberbullying information for both teens and parents. Facebook wants to empower teens who have been cyberbullied or have witnessed these actions take place online. The tools Facebook offers for those who are cyberbullied are the "Report" button, unfriending, and blocking the bully.[15]. These tools are recommended to be used against a person you don't know or if it is a minor online altercation or act of bullying. Otherwise, users can reach out to the person who they feel said something negative about them online or simply ignore them [16]. In the case that the bullying gets life-threatening, one should call their local authorities. To help prevent bullying from occurring in communities, teens should be educated about what online bullying looks like and how to handle it and use that knowledge to be an advocate and teacher in their community [17]. Teens can ensure their individual safety by securing their private data and personal information as well as being responsible for their actions [18].

Learning about how to respond to being accused of cyberbullying is as important as knowing how to prevent cyberbullying. Those who have been accused of being a cyberbully should confront their mistakes and take ownership regardless of the degree of the content they've posted [19]. Clear and open conversation is vital in rectifying the situation and understanding the perspectives of the parties involved. To prevent it, parents should educate children about what cyberbullying looks like and how to safely stand up to it is. They should encourage kids to partake in activities they enjoy, like sports and extracurriculars. They should model how to treat others with respect and kindness. [20]

Girls and Cyberbullying

Research conducted by found that girls are more likely to be the victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying than boys. Boys tend to engage in more physical bullying while girls engage in bullying that is more emotionally damaging. They bully in more covert and sneaky ways. Therefore, it is easier to bully others behind the screen of a cellphone or computer. In a study conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center (CRC), young girls in the ages between 10 and 12 experience the most amount of cyberbullying than any other demographic using online social media platforms and connected devices. In the study, the disproportional amount of online harassment is due to the fact that young girls tend to partake in passive-aggressive forms of bullying that subtle and regularly go unnoticed.[21] From an anthropological standpoint, the study explains that females tend to use relationships and language to engage in forms of aggression. Technology such as social media and texting afford this type of inflammatory harassment. The effects on tween female may include emotional distress such as sadness, anger, feeling unsafe, insecurity, helplessness, fear, or possible consideration of suicide. [22]

Ethical Implications

Bullying in any form is considered an unethical action. Because of the pervasive nature of technology in people's lives, an effective outlet for harassment is created in a technological environment with the birth of social networking sites and other communication portals. Technology progresses faster and easier, but our moral principles are no different from what existed before; rather there are the same ethical issues just on a larger scale. For many victims of bullying, the virtual environment is only another place for them to be bullied.


Anonymity online has made it easier for bullies to target their victims because at times they are able to generate fake profiles on multiple social networking sites to target their victims. Anonymity online offers people the ability to freely express their thoughts and opinions with reduced fear of repercussion. This has resulted in many supportive communities for those who can't publicly speak about stigmatized issues including LGBTQ+ experiences and mental health. However, it has also given bullies an easy way to attack others with the same reduced fear of repercussion. The balance between the benefits and drawbacks of anonymity online are widely debated and pose numerous ethical questions about how and where it should be offered.

Offline Consequences

Technology has also made it easier for bullies to obtain their victims' personal and contact information, making it even easier for them to come into unwanted and threatening interaction with others. This can lead to violent confrontations in real life. Those who are cyberbullied are also likely to be bullied offline.[23] Cyberbullies can also publish their victim's personal information online - allowing others to bully the victim in real life. This can include incessantly calling them, stalking them, or showing up at the victims home or workplace. Cyberbullying has negative effects on victims, such as lowering self-esteem, increasing depression and producing feelings of powerlessness.[24] This verbal, psychological, and physical abuse can lead victims to commit suicide.

Legislative Action

Some people have questioned whether or not cyberbullying constitutes legislative action, and how cyberbullying can be defined as to be precise enough in an ever diverse technological world. With different technologies for virtual communication, cyberbullying can extend to various media. Recently the state of Michigan has signed legislation that would require schools to have a policy of bullying, including cyberbullying. Some critics of the legislation believe that the accounts of bullying in an online environment do not transcend into the offline world.

Free Speech

Some others believe that virtual reality is not actually reality, and therefore, people should be free to act as they please in such environments. For many, it boils down to the fundamental question: should real-world rules apply to virtual realities?

Media Portrayals

Due to the increased media coverage of cyberbullying cases, television networks have taken notice of the rise in this harmful communication. ABC Family produced Cyberbully, a movie about a girl who is victimized on social media sites and almost commits suicide. Through the film, ABC Family and Seventeen Magazine launched the "Delete Digital Drama" campaign. Through this campaign, they hope to shed light on the harm caused by cyberbullying in order to make the bullies reflect on what they have done, and stop.

ABC Family's "Cyberbully"

Another popular TV show on the network, Pretty Little Liars, surrounds the lives of four teenage girls as they are tormented by an anonymous stalker, named A, during their high school and early adult years. The stalker uses tactics that are often classified as cyberbullying actions such as texting taunts, spreading negative pictures, hacking websites to threaten the characters. The characters' lives become consumed by A as they become paranoid and cognizant of everyone around them and their own actions. While the show is a fictional show, the repercussions of cyberbullying are visible. When A is revealed, the motives of the antagonist are fueled by revenge and jealousy, which is a common motive for cyberbullies.

MTV also their own campaign to end cyberbullying and other harmful types of speech on the web. Their A Thin Line campaign aims to help draw the line for harmful, sexual explicit, and damaging types of speech. The goal of the initiative is to empower America's youth to identify, respond to and stop the spread of the various forms of digital harassment. [25].

MTV's A Thin Line campaign

Media journalists such as Anderson Cooper and Perez Hilton are specifically strong advocates for anti-gay bullying. Both post many articles and segments about gay cyberbullying as well as many resources and links for kids experiencing the bullying.


Phoebe Prince

After death, Phoebe Prince was still bullied. Her memorial page on Facebook that was dedicated to the Massachusetts teen that had committed suicide, was ravaged by trolls who left spiteful comments that were eventually removed. The 15-year-old teenager was a recent immigrant from Ireland. She was found dead in her home in little South Hadley on Jan. 14, according to police. Afterward, some of her fellow students and classmates spoke out to let school officials know that Prince had been insulted incessantly via text messaging and harassed on social networking sites like Facebook. David LaBrie, South Hadley Police Chief, denied discussing the details of Prince's suicide out of “respect for the family's privacy.” Many in the community of about 17,000 in western Massachusetts was in shock after learning that Prince had reportedly hung herself. [26]

Megan Meier

Megan Meier was a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide by hanging herself a few weeks before her 14th birthday. She was humiliated when she was sent hurtful messages through Myspace from a fake profile created by a former friend's 49-year-old mother. [27] In the aftermath of her death, her friends and family set up the Megan Meier Foundation to "bring awareness, education and promote positive change to children, parents, and educators in response to the ongoing bullying and cyberbullying in our children's daily environment" [28]. The foundation organizes speakers to talk to kids about how they can prevent and stop bullying.

Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old student at Rutgers University who committed suicide in 2010 by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge after a webcam video displaying him kissing another male classmate was posted on the Internet. After his death, Tyler Clementi's parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi, established the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which focuses on promoting acceptance of LGBT teens and others marginalized by society, providing education against all forms of bullying and promoting research and development into the causes and prevention of teenage suicide. [29] Dharun Ravi served twenty days of a thirty-day jail sentence for posting the Clementi video on the Internet. Ravi was also " three years of probation and [is] pay $10,000 to a fund that helps victims of bias crimes and to perform 300 hours of community service." [30] The fact that Ravi served any jail time, even just a few weeks, shows that Cyberbullying is becoming a more important topic in the media and can have real world consequences and lasting punishments, including jail.

Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong(left) and Andrew Shirvell(right).

In 2010, the University of Michigan's first openly gay president of their student government was the subject of an anonymous blog called ChrisArmstrongWatch, dedicated to exposing the allegedly homosexual agenda he was purported to be enacting at the University of Michigan [31]. The author of the blog was revealed to be Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, who had been appearing at University of Michigan student government meetings to protest Armstrong's presidency[32] as well as videotaping Armstrong's off-campus residence during parties that he would go on to characterize as "gay dorm orgies," taking innocuous comments from other Michigan students off of Armstrong's Facebook page to corroborate his story[33]. Armstrong pursued legal action[31], and Shrivell was dismissed from his job with the state of Michigan[34]. The case was resolved on August 12, 2012, with a jury ruling in favor of Armstrong and ordering Shirvell to pay $4.5 million in damages. Shirvell continues to remain unemployed since the incident [35]. Additionally, in September 2012, Shirvell's lawyer sought a court order for a mental examination of Shirvell [36]. Considerable attention was given to the fact that the office of the Michigan Attorney General had been focused on addressing issues of cyberbullying, which, according to the state definition, is exactly what Shirvell had been engaged in[33].

"A Rape in Cyberspace" - LambdaMOO

A different form of cyberbullying is when a user attacks another user's avatar rather than the individual. LambdaMOO is an online community where users create avatars and in turn, interact with other players' avatars. In this particular case, a player named Mr. Bungle committed what is now called a "cyberrape." The player who controlled Mr. Bungle found a glitch in the system where it seemed as if other players in the game were the cause of the rape. Many users of LambdaMOO were very upset after the "cyberrape," including some who felt personally offended and some who felt that the player behind Mr. Bungle should be removed from the virtual community. The "rape in cyberspace" case questions who should be held accountable, if anyone, for the emotional harm created among members of this particular community. It also raises questions for where the line should be drawn between real world problems and issues faced in a virtual environment.[37][38]

Cyberbully Quiz

Cyber bullying is often difficult to predict, and the unclear definition of cyberbullying makes it hard to convict as well as hard to determine what content can be considered as bullying. As a result a test has been created to test whether the user is a cyberbully and to what extent.

See Also


  1. Cyberbullying – teen violence statistics. (2009). Retrieved from
  2. Types. Retrieved from
  3. Holladay - missing reference?
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Feinberg, T., & Robey, N.. (2009, March). CYBERBULLYING. The Education Digest, 74(7), 26-31. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1653003151).
  5. Elizabeth Whittaker & Robin M. Kowalski (2014) Cyberbullying Via Social Media, Journal of School Violence, 14:1, 11-29, DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2014.949377 retrieved from=
  7. Kate Schwartz, Note, Criminal Liability for Internet Culprits: The Need for Updated State Laws Covering the Full Spectrum of Cyber Victimization, 87 Wash. U. L. Rev. 407, 412 (2009).
  8. Woda, Tim. “10 Signs Your Child Is a Cyberbullying Victim.” UKnowKids Digital Parenting and Safety Blog
  10. Cyberbullying Research Summary Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Sexual Orientation
  11. Cyberbullying Research Summary Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Sexual Orientation
  12. Megan Meier's Story|
  13. Cyberbullying -|
  14. Cyberbullying - National Crime Prevention Council|
  15. “Teens.” Bullying Prevention Hub | Facebook,
  16. “Teens.” Bullying Prevention Hub | Facebook,
  17. “Teens.” Bullying Prevention Hub | Facebook,
  18. “Teens.” Bullying Prevention Hub | Facebook,
  19. “Teens.” Bullying Prevention Hub | Facebook,
  23. Hamm, Michele P., et al. “Prevalence and Effect of Cyberbullying on Children and Young People.” JAMA Pediatrics, vol. 169, no. 8, 2015, p. 770., doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0944.
  24. Anderson, J, et al. “Combating Weight-Based Cyberbullying on Facebook with the Dissenter Effect.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2014,
  25. MTV News Staff. “MTV Launches 'A Thin Line' To Stop Digital Abuse.” MTV News, 3 Dec. 2009,
  26. James, Susan. "Immigrant Teen Taunted by Cyberbullies Hangs Herself ." N.p., Jan 26, 2010. Web. 13 Dec 2011. <
  27. Anonymous. Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion V. Cyberlaw - Additional Developments
  28. “Our Mission.” Megan Meier Foundation | Bullying and Cyberbully Prevention,
  29. Marklein, Mary Beth. “Rutgers Student's Parents Start Foundation to Honor Son.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 12 Dec. 2011,
  30. Zernike, Kate. “Jail Term Ends After 20 Days for Ex-Rutgers Student.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 June 2012,
  31. 31.0 31.1 Rubino, Kathryn. “Chris Armstrong.” Above the Law, Above the Law, 4 Apr. 2017,
  32. Veeck, Robin. “MSA President Chris Armstrong Responds Publicly to Criticism.” The Michigan Daily, 28 Sept. 2010,
  33. 33.0 33.1 “Hasan Minhaj Takes Aim at ‘Punish a Muslim Day.’” The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Comedy Central, 29 Mar. 2018,
  34. Jesse, David. “Andrew Shirvell Fired from Job at Michigan Attorney General's Office.”, 8 Nov. 2010,
  35. Dolak, Kevin. “Attorney Andrew Shirvell Ordered to Pay 4.5 Million for Attacks on Gay Student.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 17 Aug. 2012,
  36. Heflin, Cindy. “Lawyer Seeks Mental Examination for Andrew Shirvell.”, 19 Sept. 2012,
  37. “A Rape in Cyberspace.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Mar. 2018,
  38. “” For the Gamer Who's Sick of the Typical.,

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