Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015, p. 11). Willful means they meant to do it and it wasn’t an accident or unintentional. Repeated refers to a pattern that develops over time and harm can even include perceived hurt, which allows for emotional and social injury. All of these portions are included in regular bullying, therefore the only difference between traditional bullying and cyberbullying is the use of an electronic device for delivery.
Adolescent and preadolescent students are most likely to experience cyberbullying in their lives. Willard (as cited in Siegle, 2010) identified eight forms of cyberbullying as flaming, harassment, denigration, impersonation, outing, trickery, exclusion, and cyberstalking. Flaming is online fights with vulgar language, denigration is spreading rumors to damage someone’s reputation. Impersonation is when the bully takes on the persona of the one they want to bully and they post/send inappropriate things on their behalf. Outing someone is sharing their private thoughts in a public way. Trickery is how personal information is gained through pretending to be their friend or someone else. Exclusion is purposefully and maliciously not including someone, and cyberstalking is repeated harassment that can include threats meant to incite fear (p. 15).
Some of the consequences of cyberbullying are emotional, psychological, academic, and behavioral. Eating disorders, chronic illness, running away, feeling lonely and insecure, difficulty making friends, and poor relationships are some of the emotional and psychological consequences of bullying. In order to avoid the bullies in school, a student may avoid school and lash out through violence, shoplifting, drug use, and vandalism. Some signs of this avoidance of cyberbullying are avoiding their devices and quickly turning it off when a parent comes in the room (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015).
My school has a bullying policy that includes cyberbullying since they are the same with the only difference being the delivery of the bullying. Cyberbullying is considered bullying within my district and both are treated equally. The school’s administration conducts the investigation and the consequences vary from detentions, changing classes, changing campuses, to removal from traditional classes to the disciplinary alternative education placement (DAEP). The school resource officer (SRO) may even become involved if needed.
In an effort to prevent cyberbullying, I would recommend lessons about cyberbullying and the steps to report it to be incorporated into a digital citizenship course delivered by the guidance counselor during their before school and specials rotations. They would teach them to ignore minor teasing, block messages from unknown people, don’t respond, create a log of the attacks, save all evidence of bullying, and tell a trusted adult (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015, p. 212). As teachers increase technology use in the classroom, they should also have open discussions with the students about proper use of the technology and how they can become upstanders instead of bystanders when they may witness bullying whether it is traditional or cyber. When students are aware of the consequences of cyberbullying, they may be more inclined to use compassion when online.
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Siegle, D., Ph.D. (2010). Cyberbullying and sexting: Technology abuses of the 21st century. Gifted Child Today, 32(2), 14-16, 65.