Cyberbullying and Bullying

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Girl being bulliedThe terms “bullying” and “cyberbullying” are often used to describe mean behavior. However, they’re both specific types of mean, aggressive behavior, which are part of a wider range of aggression and harassment behaviors.

Bullying is a mean behavior that:

  • Is intentional – the bullying is being done for a reason.
  • Involves the aggressive person using some sort of power over his/her victim. He or she may feel powerful because they are popular or the aggressive person might feel it’s okay to put down others.
  • Happens repeatedly – more than just a couple of times.

Bullying can be physical or verbal and can be face to face, or behind someone’s back. It can also involve actions that border on discrimination, whether it’s about sexuality, gender, race, class, or something else.

Cyberbullying, or “online” bullying, is bullying that happens on the internet or on a mobile device. As technologies grow and change over time, so do new ways to use them to carry out acts of bullying.

Bullying and cyberbullying aren’t totally different things. They’re examples of the same kind of behavior — with the same social, cultural, and human roots — in different contexts. It’s often hard to separate bullying and cyberbullying, since your experience of the online and offline worlds are so closely connected. For example, many online victims know their bullies in real life (although they might only be bullied by him or her online). Conflicts dealing with relationships that start out offline may carry over to social media sites, cell phones, etc., or vice versa, and escalate or turn into cyberbullying. For example: A prank pulled in the locker room at school results in ongoing social humiliation through pictures shared via cell phones and online. Another example could start with a nasty Facebook post which leads to bullying at school.

So what counts as bullying and cyberbullying, and not other kinds of meanness?

Some examples include:

  • Regularly insulting someone for their sense of style or bad grades.
  • Someone repeatedly posts unflattering photos or insults about a person on his/her Facebook timeline, or encourages others to do the same thing.
  • Someone creates a new website or online group meant specifically to insult another person or group of classmates.
  • Someone shares texts of private photos of someone else without their permission

Bullying and cyberbullying are not:

  • Once in a while, or a one-time event, where a person puts someone else down.
  • Posting a rude comment to someone else’s Facebook timeline when both people are in a fight.
  • Disagreements, fights, or mean words that result from misunderstandings.

Still, things aren’t always crystal clear.

It’s important to keep in mind that conflicts that start out as jokes, misunderstandings, or arguments can escalate and lead to ongoing bullying situations.

What’s more common – bullying offline or online?

In general offline bullying remains more common than cyberbullying. Offline bullying is more common among middle school students, but online bullying tends to be more common among high-school students.

What roles do people play in online bullying?

Different roles include the bully, victim, bully-victim, and bystander. However, these roles aren’t always clear-cut. For example, bully-victims are people who are victims, but also bully others. Bystanders observe an act of bullying happening to someone else.

Regardless of what role a person plays, being involved in bullying both online and offline is connected with certain negative psychological, social and academic consequences. Examples include: low self-esteem, trouble with relationships and less success in school.

Other things to know about bullying at school:

Your relationship with your friends and others at school can affect the way you feel about bullying and can also affect your involvement in it. If you’re comfortable in your social group and your friends don’t support bullying, you likely won’t either. People who have friends who don’t support bullying are also more likely to stand up for the victim if they witness bullying. However, if your friends are bullying others, it can be easy to give into peer pressure and take part in bullying with them.

What should I do if I’m being cyberbullied?

Instead of responding to threatening messages, save the messages or inappropriate pictures in a folder and get off of the site or chat room, or close out of the IM right away. If you’re being cyberbullied on a social networking site, take a screen shot while the bullying is going on, because the bully may be able to delete the offending message or picture at any point. Tell an adult what happened or seek support from a close, trusted friend. In extreme cases, it may be necessary for you to report a bullying/cyberbullying situation to school officials and/or the police.

If this happens, you should be ready to answer the following questions:

  1. What exactly was said? (Print out a copy of the message/post/picture, or show the saved text message)
  2. What type of technology was used to make the threat? (IM, text, cell phone, other hand-held device, etc.)
  3. How often has the threat occurred?
  4. Do you know who is responsible for the threats? (Answer this question honestly. Do you know exactly who it is? Do you think you know who is doing it? Do you not have a clue who is making the threats?)

You can also report abuse to the online application that was used to deliver the harassing behavior. For instance, if someone is repeatedly posting mean comments about you on Facebook, you can click the “Report/Mark as Spam” option that comes up on the right side of the post if you mouse over the pencil icon. If someone is sending e-mails to your Gmail account that violate Gmail policies, fill out the form to report the abuse. Remember that you can usually block and filter users from contacting you by adjusting your privacy settings.

What is “trolling?”

“Trolls,” or people who “troll,” are users who purposefully post inflammatory or controversial comments in order to provoke other users and create arguments. The best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. If you respond to their comments, you will encourage them to continue posting rude or malicious posts. If a troll is posting repeatedly or making rude or offensive comments, you can also report them to the hosting site, and they may be removed or forbidden from making future comments.