What is Cyber-Bullying?

Like traditional bullying, cyber-bullying involves an imbalance of power, aggression, and a negative action that is often repeated.  It is done through email, instant messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA).

How do kids bully each other in a high-tech world?
  • Exclusion:  The process of designating who is a member of the “in-group” and who is an “outcast.”  Students, particularly girls, will omit certain other girls from e-mail lists, chat room conversations and so on.
  • Flaming:  A heated argument, frequently including offensive or vulgar language, that occurs in public communication environments, such as discussion boards or groups, chat, or newsgroups.  Flamers may use capitol letters and a range of visual images and symbols to add emotional intensity and anger to their messages.
  • Outing:  The public display, posting, or forwarding of personal communication or images, especially those that contain sensitive personal information or images that are sexual in nature.  Increasingly, images taken using mobile phone cameras and mobile phone text messages are used as part of outing bullying.  Reading saved text messages on each other’s phones can also be part of the outing process.
  • Cyber-stalking:  Includes threats of harm, intimidation and/or offensive comments which are sent through personal communication channels.  Frequently with cyber-stalking there is a threat, or at least a belief, that the virtual could become real stalking.
  • E-mail:  One student sends a threatening e-mail to another, who then forwards it to additional people.
  • Harassment:  Sending hurtful messages to someone in a severe, persistent, or pervasive manner.
  • Instant Messaging (IM):  Several students log on to an IM platform and simultaneously “slam” one another.
  • Websites:  Bullies set up derogatory websites dedicated to one or more victims.
  • Impersonation:  Students may impersonate other students and make unpopular online comments, and even set up websites that lead to the impersonated student being ostracized or further bullied in more traditional ways.
  • Voting/Polling Booths:  Some websites offer users the opportunity to create online polling/voting booths, many at no cost. Cyber-bullies can use these websites to create web pages that allow others to vote online for “The Ugliest”, “Fattest”, “Dumbest” etc. Boy/Girl at their schools.

This list has been adapted from Russell A. Sabella, PhD. e-newsletter Issue #70 October 4th 2006 and a publication originally created for “Take a Stand. Lend a Hand. Stop Bullying Now!” a campaign of the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.