How Can I Help Teens Who Are Victims of Cyberbullying?

Mary E. Muscari, PhD, CPNP, APRN-BC


October 25, 2010

In This Article

Methods of Cyberbullying

According to the National Crime Prevention Council and bullying techniques are as inventive as they are cruel:

  • Pretending they are other people online to trick victims;

  • Sending cruel, vicious, and sometimes threatening messages via texting, instant messaging, or emails;

  • Creating Web sites that have stories, cartoons, pictures, and jokes ridiculing others;

  • Posting pictures of classmates online and asking students to rate them, with questions such as, "Who is the biggest ___ (add a derogatory term)?";

  • Posting unflattering photos of peers on the Web;

  • Taking a picture of a person in the locker room using a digital phone camera and sending that picture to others;

  • Altering pornographic photos by adding a peer's face to the image and sending it to porn sites or posting it in a blog;

  • Breaking into an e-mail account and sending vicious or embarrassing material to others;

  • Engaging someone in instant messaging, then tricking that person into revealing sensitive personal information and forwarding that information to others; and

  • Criticizing or defaming teachers and administrators on the Web.

Cyberbullies also use "bash boards." Bash boards are online bulletin boards or chat rooms where youths can anonymously write whatever they want, true or false, creating or adding mean-spirited postings for the world to see.[16] The nature of today's technology makes it possible for cyberbullying to occur more secretly, to spread more rapidly, and to be preserved more easily.[8]

Cyberbully mechanisms have been classified by Nancy Willard, Executive Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use[17]:

  • Flaming: sending angry, rude, or offensive messages;

  • Harassment: repeatedly sending a person offensive messages;

  • Denigration: sending or posting harmful, false, or cruel statements about a person to other people;

  • Cyberstalking: harassment that includes threats of harm or that is intimidating;

  • Masquerading: pretending to be someone else and sending material that makes that person look bad or places that person in potential danger;

  • Outing and trickery: engaging in tricks to solicit embarrassing information about a person and then making that information public; and

  • Exclusion: actions that specifically and intentionally exclude a person from an online group, such as blocking a student from an instant messenger buddy list.

Willard also notes that there are several conditions that foster cyberbullying: (1) the Internet serves as a mechanism for self-disclosure, where teens post everything from sexual experiences to suicidal ideation, and the more outlandish a post is, the more attention it receives -- typically the goal of posting in the first place; (2) cyberbullies claim they are exerting their rights to freedom of speech; (3) the "disinhibition" that arises from anonymity and invisibility afforded by the Internet; and (4) social norms support cyberbullying with the belief that "everybody does it."[17]


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