What is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying, also known as electronic bullying or online social cruelty, is defined as bullying:

  • through email
  • through instant messaging
  • in a chat room
  • on a website or gaming site
  • through digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone

Although sharing certain features in common with traditional bullying, cyber bullying represents a unique phenomenon that has only recently begun to receive attention in both the popular press and in academic circles. Cyber bullying not only looks and feels a bit different than traditional bullying, but presents some unique challenges in dealing with it. (Kowalski, Limber and Agatston)

Who Cyber Bullies?

Both boys and girls cyber bully, although it appears that girls are more likely to engage in cyber bullying and be targeted by cyber bullying than their male counterparts. This is a difference from traditional bullying, where we find boys engaging in bullying behaviors or being targeted in higher numbers than girls.  (Learn more about the research findings for cyberbullying and traditional bullying by reading our book, Cyber Bullying:  Bullying In the Digital Age.)

How can we prevent Cyber Bullying?


Communicate with your children about their online experiences.

Parents need to discuss cyber bullying with their children as part of their regular discussions about Internet Safety and appropriate use of technologies.  Parents can make it clear that using the Internet or cellular phones to embarrass or hurt others’ feelings is not part of their family values.  Discussing the golden rule as it applies to internet and technology use can be very helpful. Parents should discuss bystander behavior as well, encouraging children to speak out against cyber bullying they witness and to report it to the appropriate person. In addition, parents need to set up guidelines for appropriate use for each new piece of technology that is brought into the home.  (Learn more about what parents can do in our book, Cyber Bullying:  Bullying in the Digital Age.)


Teach Students Online “Netiquette”, Safe Blogging, and How to Monitor Their Online Reputation.

“Online netiquette skills are becoming vital as technology is increasingly being incorporated into most career paths. Many schools encourage teachers to keep blogs where class and homework assignments are posted for students to review. Students are asked to post assignments online. Providing tips on appropriate posting and online etiquette as part of incorporating more technology in the classroom is critical.  In addition schools need clear policies against bullying and cyber bullying, and bullying prevention programs in their schools.” (Kowalski, Limber & Agatston)

(Learn more about what educators can do to develop effective bullying prevention programs in our book, Cyber Bullying:  Bullying in the Digital Age.)


Become a courageous bystander!

  • Don’t engage in or support mean material, gossip, or rumors posted online, or talk about it at school.
  • Support a classmate being targeted online by posting positive messages!
  • If you know the person being targeted, invite him/her to spend time with you.
  • Tell an adult at home and at school.
  • Print the evidence to share with an adult.
  • Confront the student who is cyber bullying if it is safe, and make it clear that you think their behavior is wrong.
  • Remember that we are not invisible online, and anything we post can be traced back to us.  Monitor your online reputation. (Kowalski, Limber & Agatston)