An Understanding of Cyberbullying

Updated on November 1, 2019
Lorna Lamon profile image

Lorna is a qualified psychologist and writer with an interest in drawing awareness to and informing others of mental health issues.

Our world of high technology, where all our needs are met, has many positive attributes. However, when it comes to cyberbullying, technology has made it possible to give this form of abuse an arena all of its own.

Unlike more traditional forms of bullying, cyberbullying doesn’t require strength in numbers, physical power or face-to-face contact. This form of bullying takes place online and has many forums, such as: blogs, e-mails, chat-lines and social networking sites.

Victims of cyberbullying soon discover that there is no respite, as messages can be sent and received via mobiles, in secret or through anonymous apps. Hiding behind various guises, the perpetrators feed on a cocktail of hurt, stress, isolation, humiliation and fear. As a result, the victim may suffer extreme levels of anxiety which can lead to depression, self-harm and suicidal behaviours.

The fact that the abuse is anonymous lowers inhibitions, giving the perpetrators the power to behave in such a cruel way. Victims of cyberbullying who are children will suffer its detrimental effects into adulthood, and as a result may never reach their full potential.

Reasons for Cyberbullying

Cyberbullies do not fit the mould of the traditional bully, who is usually domineering, aggressive and disliked. Very often the cyberbully can be a work colleague, classmate or friend who may bully for the following reasons:

  • Power – Is a form of control and the bully will show their victim how much power they have by making hurtful comments in the knowledge that there is nothing the victim can do. This is a way to boost their ego and feel superior at the expense and suffering of someone else.
  • Revenge – There are a number of reasons why people take revenge on others. In some cases the bully may have been criticised and instead of dealing with the criticism in a healthy manner, it causes the bully to become vengeful and very often will encourage others online to do the same.
  • Frustration – Cyberbullying is the perfect platform to take out frustrations and anger on those people the bully sees as an easy target.
  • Anonymity – Hiding behind a fake persona gives the bully a sense of importance as they feel they cannot get caught. The bullying will intensify as this feeling of anonymity increases the bully’s confidence, taking their barrage of insults to new heights.

It is important to understand that when someone bullies, they want to elicit a response which will give them the attention they crave. Even if the attention is negative, it does not matter as any type of attention will make them feel powerful.

Victims of bullying spare themselves distress by detachment; denying their ability to experience happiness.

— James Horace

Types of Cyberbullying

The various types of cyberbullying can be defined as:

Trolling

Taking the form of a barrage of insults, this type of cyberbullying is aimed at an individual in order to provoke anger. The attacks are often of a personal nature and even though trolling may not always be a form of cyberbullying, it is often used as a tool to cyberbully.

Flaming

Similar to trolling, however, the attack on the victim is usually more direct and extremely insulting with the use of profanity. Taking the form of online posts, the bully’s agenda is to incite the victim into online vicious arguments.

Trickery

Insidious and deceptive, trickery is where the bully befriends their victim, usually someone who is shy and introverted. After lulling them into a false sense of security and gaining the victim’s trust, the bully will then abuse that trust by sharing the victim’s private information or secrets to multiple people online.

Dissing

Dissing refers to the bully spreading untrue and cruel information about the victim to ruin their relationships or their reputation. Particularly devastating to the victim as the bully tends to be someone they thought of as a friend.

Masquerading

Often premeditated, masquerading occurs when the bully creates an online identity with the sole intention of cyberbullying. Taking the form of fake email accounts or social media profiles, the bully randomly selects new identities and photos to fool the victim. Psychologically damaging, masquerading is particularly heinous.

Exclusion

That feeling of being ‘left out’ is all too apparent in this form of cyberbullying. Usually existing within the workplace or school, the victim is often excluded from events or school activities in the playground. This form of cyberbullying can also be used online to bully a victim by leaving them out of message threads or conversations that involve friends.

Negative Feelings Associated with Cyberbullying

Bullying, regardless of its type, causes psychological and emotional distress. However, victims of cyberbullying, particularly children, will experience various unique consequences and negative feelings such as:

Feeling Hopeless/Disinterested in Life

There is a relentless intensity associated with cyberbullying which causes the victim to relate to the world around them in a different way. These victims often feel powerless and hopeless, losing interest in those activities they once enjoyed. They become withdrawn and very often isolate themselves from family and friends. In many cases anxiety turns into depression and suicidal thoughts set in. Sadly some victims feel that the only way to stop the torture is to end their lives.

Dissatisfied with Themselves

Victims of cyberbullying start to doubt their self-worth as in most cases the bully will attack their victim where they are most vulnerable. If a victim is targeted because of their weight, they may crash diet in the hope the bullying will stop. Many victims deal with these feelings of inadequacy by self-harming.

Angry and Vengeful

After a period of time the victim may have intense feelings of anger which can result in retaliation. Unfortunately, this approach will not work as it keeps the victim locked up in the cycle of bully-victim. This is a particularly complicated type of bullying as the victim may start to bully others because they too have been bullied. In order to break this cycle it is critical that interventions to match the needs of the victim are put in place, such as:

  • Improve Social Skills – Usually bully/victims have difficulty with social interaction and problem solving skills. It is important to identify the areas where the child is struggling and help them to explore different options for dealing with difficult situations.
  • Control Emotions – Bully/victims struggle to manage and control their emotions, resulting in responses which are aggressive to normal conflicts. Their reactions to teasing and name-calling are also heightened. A behavioural therapist will teach the child coping skills in how to manage their emotions and will involve the child’s family to support and maintain the skills put in place. Very often, early intervention is the key to a successful outcome.
  • Empathy – In order to overcome bullying and to heal, it is important to understand that being bullied does not excuse or is a reason to bully others. With the help of therapy and ongoing support from family, the child will learn how to be empathetic. The ability to understand how the other person feels will show the child that bullying is a choice and is never acceptable.

Identify and Prevention

Identify

Children are sometimes reluctant to report cyberbullying and adult victims tend to think they can handle it alone. However, it is important for parents to be aware of the following signs that their child may be the victim of cyberbullying:

  • Sudden dislike of social media
  • Showing signs of nervousness when receiving an online message
  • Changes in mood, behaviour or sleep patterns
  • Using illness as an excuse to avoid the source of the bullying
  • Becoming emotionally withdrawn
  • School grades dropping or lack of focus on school work

Once the signs are identified, it is important to remember that a victim of cyberbullying will be in a vulnerable state. Address the situation in an empathetic manner and let your child know that you appreciate them opening up to you and that the bully’s actions is not their fault and not a reflection on them. Patience in your approach will allow your child to feel safe and will encourage them to share aspects of the bullying such as messages with you. Always assure your child that you are there to help them and that the bullying will stop.

Prevention

Once aware of the scope of the cyberbullying, it is important to report the bully. Their behaviour should be reported to the websites where the bullying occurred. Most schools will have a bullying policy and it is important to contact the school principal particularly if the bully is a student at the same school.

If the cyberbullying is happening outside school grounds then it is advisable to report it to the police. Cyberbullying is a crime and will have consequences. In cases of severe cyberbullying, consulting a counsellor or child psychologist who is trained in this field may be necessary. There may be a few processes to go through in order to end the abuse. However, throughout these processes, always be aware of your child’s emotional wellbeing and continue to create those moments to boost their confidence.

Final Thoughts

Cyberbullying has become the new ‘face’ of the modern bully who is viral. Engaging in their particular mode of torture from the comfort of their own homes, they manage to create psychological distance which protects them from the consequences of their actions.

This online form of bullying has become the invisible epidemic, leaving a trail of emotional evidence that many of their victims do not recover from. Awareness is the key to prevention and will assist family, friends and communities to understand the complexities of this form of abuse.

I believe that what we do and say in life makes a difference and it is up to us what type of difference we want to make.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Lorna Lamon

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      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        9 days ago

        I'm glad you found the article useful Luis. Have a good day.

      • Luis G Asuncion profile image

        Luis G Asuncion 

        9 days ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

        this is very informative.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        9 days ago

        Thank you for visiting and your kind comments Umesh.

      • bhattuc profile image

        Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

        9 days ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

        Very informative. Thanks.

      • Isivwe Muobo profile image

        Farrah Young 

        12 days ago from Nigeria

        Yes, they definitely are and I'm so glad about it.

      • Isivwe Muobo profile image

        Farrah Young 

        12 days ago from Nigeria

        Yea, they definitely are and I'm so glad about it.

      • Luis G Asuncion profile image

        Luis G Asuncion 

        12 days ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

        Thanks Farrah. Although, I am now easily going to be okay from being cyberbullied. Sometimes, there's an instance that I want to bully them also, however, I didn't because, I felt already how to bullied.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        12 days ago

        Hi Farrah, Sadly this type of abuse is on the increase, however, I am certain that awareness is the key to stopping it. These trolls should be ashamed of themselves as they are so cowardly and so damaging. The celebs in your country seem to be on top of it. Thanks for visiting Farrah it's always good to see you.

      • Isivwe Muobo profile image

        Farrah Young 

        12 days ago from Nigeria

        @Lorna

        Bullying really is a bad thing and I have seen firsthand how damaging its effects can be.

        Most celebrities in my country are victims; trolls go on their pages and begin a barrage of insults or disparaging remarks intent on provoking or belittling these guys.

        Thankfully, I'm in a country where the celebs throw niceties away and give these trolls back in double folds.

      • Isivwe Muobo profile image

        Farrah Young 

        12 days ago from Nigeria

        Hi Luis, I hope the bullies were made to pay for their actions in one way or the other.

        These bullies need to be made to know there are repercussions for bad behavior. Maybe then, this cruel act would reduce.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        2 weeks ago

        I'm sorry to hear that Luis - it is so damaging and I hope you are recovering from your experience. Hopefully the article will help you to understand a little more about Cyberbullying and it's lasting effects. Thank you for visiting.

      • Luis G Asuncion profile image

        Luis G Asuncion 

        2 weeks ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

        I once a cyberbullying victim, way back few months ago.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        4 weeks ago

        I agree Urbane Sleek. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

      • UrbaneSleek profile image

        Urbane Sleek 

        4 weeks ago from United States

        Being kind and being nice can be attractive.. urbane

      • UrbaneSleek profile image

        Urbane Sleek 

        4 weeks ago from United States

        Be Kind, be nice, be attractive.. urbane.... I try

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thanks you for visiting Lynne and for commenting. I agree, however, the laws against this type of abuse need to change to make them accountable. Ignoring them takes away their power, however, not everyone and in particular children can do this. We need more awareness classes to tackle this issue.

      • lynnes75 profile image

        Lynne Samuel 

        5 weeks ago from Malaysia

        Anonymity gives power, and bullies excels in hiding. Even if you call them out on their bullying, they'd still continue to do so because it's what they do. Seldom do I find cyberbullies who apologize after they got called out. If anything, their behavior escallates. Reporting them at least works to a certain point. Mostly, I just ignore them if I ever got bullied online. Great article, Lorna.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Hi Lora, I feel the only way to tackle this epidemic is to start early learning programs in schools. Involving communities will further reinforce awareness of the detrimental effects of bullying in all its forms. I have weekly meetings with local schools, churches and youth clubs who are really keen to stop this form of abuse. I think "The Lord of the Flies" is a good example of the effects of bullying, and perhaps age-related reading material is also a good idea. Social media sites have to play their part by controlling these sites. However, the bully gets around this by using a different persona. We will get there, we have to for the sake of our young people.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        This is sadly true Denise, however, it is only by coming together in communities where we can involve schools, youth clubs, and churches will we be able to get to the root of the problem. Social media platforms need to play a role at trying to control this form of abuse. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thanks for visiting Dora and your kind comments. I wanted to draw awareness to this form of abuse as it is on the increase. Communities need to come together in order to find a way to tackle what has now become an epidemic.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for commenting Mary and I agree this is a particularly deviant type of abuse. It is so damaging because is has a non-stop agenda. I am working on programs with schools and communities to try and make this part of the school curriculum. I am hoping there is a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

      • Lora Hollings profile image

        Lora Hollings 

        5 weeks ago

        This is a great article on cyberbullying, Lorna, and all of its devastating consequences on children and teens! Cyberbullying needs to be taken very seriously and parents need to act quickly to protect their children from serious emotional consequences which can last a lifetime as you say or lead to a tragedy. Schools, homes, churches and youth groups all need to address this at an early age and discuss with children repeatedly throughout their school years and youth just how monstrous it is to do this to anyone and encourage social activities that cultivate empathy and a feeling of unity. I also think that schools should incorporate literature into their curriculum in which bullying is a theme and talk about how it effects the characters in a story so children can see just how harmful it is and how it can leave permanent scars. When I think about this, I can't help but think about "The Lord of the Flies" by Golding and how the bullies Jack and Robert away from the constraints of an adult authority figure acted on that island and what fatal consequences it had for Piggy and Simon. Thank you for your in-depth and very helpful article to both parents and children who may be struggling with this new type of menace.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        5 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Cyberbullying is a terrible thing and it is such a sad society that we have to protect our children from unseen harm.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thank you for covering this topic in such depth. You show it for the evil that it is. Hope it will help to discourage the would-be bullies and stop those who already are.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        5 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        It is sad that a platform meant to help people connect is used to do this negative act of putting others down. I am glad you raised this issue here.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        I appreciate your comments Prantika and I also believe that bullying of any kind can never be justified or seen as acceptable behaviour. This particular form of abuse is increasing and is difficult to control or stop. However, awareness programs will definitely help to understand and wipe out this epidemic.

      • Prantika Samanta profile image

        Prantika Samanta 

        5 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

        A very insightful article on a relevant topic. Bullying of any type is awful and it leaves the victim in utter distress and agony. Trolling or disclosing anyone's secret is not at all welcome. Breaking trust not only disturbs the victim's self confidence but also hurts him or her to that extent that the victim may slipped into depression or develop serious psychological disorders. Perhaps the victim feels excruciating pain and dealing with the trauma becomes difficult. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article and sharing with us.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thanks for visiting Tory and commenting. I have seen an increase in this form of bullying over the past few years. At present I work alongside other health professionals and teachers who engage with both those who bully and their victims. Awareness programs in schools from an early age will be so beneficial for children and their parents.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thanks for visiting and commenting Jason. At present I am working in programs within schools both with those who bully and their victims. The reasons can be trivial or extremely complex, however, any form of bullying is a choice and can never been justified.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for commenting Shannon and sharing your own experience of this type of bullying. I think schools should make this required learning. Start in the early years with awareness programs which can be built on as they progress into the next level. Children bully for many reasons and we need to get to the root of the issue before we can fix it.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for visiting John and commenting. I have been dealing with the fallout from this form of bullying for many years. However, by its very nature it is difficult to stop. However, we won't give up.

      • Tory Peta profile image

        Tory Peta 

        5 weeks ago

        I think this is one of the best times to write about this as more and more people, young or not, have dealt with something similar. We need to bring more awareness to this issue. This is a great message, thanks for sharing!

      • Nicoartz profile image

        Jason Nicolosi 

        5 weeks ago from AZ

        Cyberbullying is nothing short of a coward's way of intimidating or threatening someone online. These people who are involved in this type of behavior is reprehensible.

        There is also quite a lot of Cyberbullying going on in gaming as well. These people are sometimes referred to as trolling. I even have seen extreme prejudice, using all kinds of racial remarks in online gaming. The problem is that anytime you have an open environment for the speech you're going to get your a**holes that are going to try to ruin it. I guess they have such crap lives they feel they need to bring others down. Who knows? Maybe they are just escaped mental patients that found a PC.

        Either way, it's truly unfortunate that these types of platforms get taken advantage of by such hate-filled people. I suggest that we don't let this type of hate get to us. In a way, you should feel bad for the people that Cyberbully or Troll because they obviously have deep-rooted issues. Great article.

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        5 weeks ago from Texas

        Cyberbullying is awful. What's worse is that the schools can't do much to help if it happens off-campus. So even knowing who the child-bully is, is not of much use if you don't know who that child's parents are. Luckily, when my child went through this via a video message, the school moved the bully to a different class. They were legally not allowed to provide me with the parent information but I was assured that the child's parents were notified and there was a discussion about the significance of cyberbullying and its impact.

        You've done an excellent job presenting the issue. Thanks for helpign to raise awareness.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        Cyber bullying is rampant in social media, chat rooms and the like. Every effort needs to be made to reduce it if not stop it completely. It is a cowardly act that can have very serious consequences and needs to be punished harshly. Thank you for raising awareness.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for commenting Chitrangada. Unfortunately this particular form of abuse is on the increase and the law really needs to clamp down on it. Unless there is a deterrent such as a substantial punishment then sadly it will not stop.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        5 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        A very important and valuable article on a very relevant subject.

        I feel so bad, when people unnecessarily attack others, on social media. Sometimes it is just for their fun or time pass. But the people do get badly affected emotionally. This must stop, whether by law or by awareness.

        You have made some important points and suggestions in this article.

        Thanks for sharing.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for visiting Tamara and for your kind comments. Drawing awareness to cyberbullying is so important if anything is to change.

      • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

        Tamara Yancosky 

        5 weeks ago from Uninhabited Regions

        Excellent post, and invaluable information, here. This post is a great benefit to our society! ♥️

      • Asad Dillz profile image

        Asad Dillz Khan 

        5 weeks ago from United Kingdom

        Yeah Lorna.... Absolutely! You're Welcome...

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for visiting Asad and unfortunately many people, in particular children are still not speaking out about this type of abuse. I see the consequences of cyberbullying in schools and it robs the young person of the life they should be having. Awareness programs are effective, however, there needs to be more of them. This form of bullying has now reached epidemic rates and I feel on-line forums could do more to help tackle it. Many thanks for your kind comments.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Hi Pamela, Thank you for commenting and I agree it is a particularly cruel type of abuse, as in many cases the abuser was a friend. The programs in schools are working, however, when it happens outside of school or the workplace, it is harder to control. Awareness programs are successful and there needs to be more of them.

      • Lorna Lamon profile imageAUTHOR

        Lorna Lamon 

        5 weeks ago

        Thank you for visiting Iqra and for your kind comments. I have been involved with various school programs to eradicate this type of abuse for many years now. I have also set up a treatment plan for both the the person who bullies and the victim. It has to be an ongoing process as it has so many layers. Progress is slow but steady.

      • Asad Dillz profile image

        Asad Dillz Khan 

        5 weeks ago from United Kingdom

        Cyberbullying or online bullying is nothing less than an assault, a constant attempt to make the victim feel like he or she is not wanted or does not belong. Like a water torture, it’s a drip-drip-drip from a hundred different directions that slowly robs the victim of any sense of self worth or self-esteem. Worse, it’s often beyond the reach or understanding of most who might help.

        Young people who experience cyberbullying are at a greater risk than those who don’t for both self-harm and suicidal behaviors.

        Very crucial topic and very very vital writing Lorna. I really appreciate your efforts and work. Fantabulous Job!

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        This is such a good article about cyberbullying.It is such a cruel thing to do to anyone. I am glad my sons are grown up.

        I was shocked to hear a girl kept sending a bot messages to kill himself and eventually he did, I guess that is an awful type of cyberbullying. It is good for parents to know the symptoms you listed. I am glad you put this information out so we can all learn more about this problem.

      • Iqra431 profile image

        Iqra 

        5 weeks ago from Pakistan

        Cyberbullies need to be stopped at once, this isn't cool anymore...too many lives are at stake everyday....

        I would encourage you to keep speaking about this into more than one piece as it spreads awareness and compassion

        Great job lorna, very finely portrayed the dark truth about bullies

        good job....

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