What is cyberbullying? 

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs through electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. It can occur through social media sites, online games, text messages, forums, and other online means of communication.

We can define cyberbullying as behavior that includes making fun of, mistreating, sending hurtful comments to, harassing, and/or spreading false rumors about a victim. Cyberbullying can be carried out by a single person or a group of people who gang up on the victim or victims.

Although online bullying can affect pretty much anyone, this form of abuse is more common among young people, such as high school students or middle school students.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying behavior includes the following elements:

Willful: The behavior has to be deliberate, not accidental.

Repeated: Bullying reflects a pattern of behavior, not just one isolated incident.

Harm: The target must perceive that harm was inflicted.

Computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices: This, of course, is what differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying.

Forms of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying includes a wide range of behaviors. The most common forms include:


Catfishing includes the use of a false identity and deceptive online practices meant to hide the true identity of the perpetrator. A so-called catfish creates fake accounts, pretending they are someone else, typically someone attractive to their intended victim or victims.

The catfish will befriend their victim and, over time, form a relationship with them, often a romantic relationship. This may lead the victim to disclose sensitive information, which can then be used by the perpetrator. The intention is typically either to damage the victims’ reputation or exploit them financially.


Cyberstalking refers to the act of  stalking someone online and can involve hacking, online harassment, online abuse, intimidation, and more. The perpetrator uses various sources, such as social media platforms, to learn as much personal or private information about the victim as possible.

Cyberstalking is regulated by state and federal laws and is considered criminal behavior.


Doxxing occurs when a person publishes or disseminates sensitive or private information about their victim with malicious intent. This information may include videos and pictures, but also contact details, a home address, and even a Social Security number. The idea is ultimately to connect a real identity to an online one, against the victim’s will.


Exclusion can happen in real life, but also in the virtual world. Cyberbullies will purposefully exclude a person from online conversations, groups on gaming sites, forums, and more, solely to make the victim feel bad.


Fraping involves logging into the victims’ social media accounts, without their knowledge or consent, and posting embarrassing or inappropriate content. This way, the content is tied to the victims’ name and can damage their online reputation.

Fake profiles

A cyberbully can create a fake online account, often on social networking sites, with the victim’s name. They will then share content, potentially inappropriate or embarrassing, without the knowledge or consent of the victim.


Harassment is a form of online bullying in which the perpetrator sends hurtful, irritating, or threatening messages to the victim. In some cases, online harassment can evolve into in-person harassment.


In the case of outing, a cyberbully intentionally reveals someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation online, without their consent. This bullying behavior is intended to embarrass and humiliate the victim.


As the name suggests, trickery involves deceiving the victim. The cyberbully will become friends with a person, creating a bond that will make the victim trust the bully.

The cyberbully will use this relationship to learn the victims’ secrets and other sensitive information. Once this happens, the bully will share this information publicly in hopes of humiliating the victim.

How to stop cyberbullying?

The Pew Research Center found that almost half of all US teens have been harassed or bullied online. That’s why it’s crucial to learn ways to help stop cyberbullying. They include the following:

  • Blocking the cyberbully—research suggests that this is the most effective way to put an end to cyberbullying.
  • Ignoring the cyberbully—if you don’t respond to the cyberbullying, there is a high chance that the bully will become bored and stop the harassment.
  • Telling a parent or trusted adult—parents can show younger children how to block or report bullying behavior or talk to the bully’s parents.
  • Going off the grid—for some, taking a break from mobile phones, digital devices, and technology altogether is the most helpful way to combat cyberbullying.
  • Reporting—with many teens living online for a strong part, reporting the cyberbully is the middle ground that won’t require them to forgo instant messaging and other online activities.

How to report cyberbullying?

Before you go about reporting cyberbullying incidents, ensure you’ve gathered evidence to back up your accusations. Once you do this, you can report the cyberbully to the following:

  • Social media companies/websites where you experience cyberbullying—many social media websites have strict anti-bullying policies, as well as tools for reporting cyberbullying.
  • School administrators—if the cyberbully attends the same school, you can involve school personnel; schools can address cyberbullying and aid with coping strategies.
  • Local law enforcement—if the person that’s bullying you online seems to escalate their actions, if they threaten violence, send or post explicit content, stalk you online or off, or make you feel you are in immediate danger, you should involve the police.

How to prevent cyberbullying?

To prevent bullying, both online and off, you need to raise awareness about the issue. Educate yourself, your family, and others about the dangers that cyberbullying poses, especially to the mental health of children and teenagers.

Next, teach your children about online safety. Show them how to adjust privacy settings on their online accounts and talk to them about not posting private or sensitive information.

If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, talk to them about the problem and help them through the process.

Finally, if you come across cyberbullying behavior, report it on the platform on which you saw it. And, if possible, talk to the bully and explain that their actions are hurtful and can have more serious consequences in the future.

Related online privacy terms

Updated on: March 29, 2023

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