This article was published on October 4, 2017

How dangerous is cyberbullying?

How dangerous is cyberbullying?
George Beall
Story by

George Beall

Just last month, Texas passed a law aimed at curbing the epidemic of cyberbullying in the state’s schools. All states have various laws that can be applied in certain bullying situations, but parents are finding with the new onslaught of cyberbullying there are loopholes that often prevent victims from ending up as tragic headlines.

Technology has done wonders for our connectedness as a society, but unfortunately it also makes bullying easier, more anonymous, more permanent, and often also very deadly.

Victims are often reluctant to come forward

Fewer than half of younger kids who experience cyberbullying from peers tell their parents, and the number gets smaller as victims get older. Of adults who experienced harassment online, only 39% took steps to respond.

“One of the largest issues in dealing with cyber bullying is how widespread it is through society,” says Digijaks CEO and founder Alan W. Silberberg. “Don’t stand alone. Ask for help from family, friends, work colleagues, social media friends. Push back.”

Police and school officials can help when bullying and harassment take place. Even if there aren’t state laws in place where you live to prevent cyberbullying in schools, many schools have policies to deal with these situations. And if police can’t offer remedies for online harassment, oftentimes social media sites will have policies for shutting down profiles that break their terms of use.

The difference between cyberbullying and cyber harassment

The main difference between cyberbullying and cyber harassment is age. When both bully and the bullied are minors it is considered cyberbullying. Meanwhile, if either the harasser or the harassed are adults, it is considered cyber harassment. Motives for either situation vary widely and can include boredom, misplaced anger, or even sadistic pleasure in harming others.

Cyberbullying is also much more likely to be perpetrated by someone the victim knows well – kids are 7x more likely to be cyberbullied by current or former friends or romantic interests than just some random stranger. Almost the opposite is true of adults who are cyber harassed – more than a third are harassed by people they don’t know at all, and just under a third are harassed by people who are concealing their identities.

Who is being bullied and harassed online?

There is a definite bias in who is being bullied and harassed online. Perhaps not surprisingly LGBTQ students report higher rates of cyberbullying than cisgendered students. Nonwhite students are also more likely than white students to experience cyberbullying.

But the biggest disparity is between genders – girls are 2.6 times more likely to be cyberbullied than boys, while women are 2 times more likely to be harassed online than men, and 53% of women report receiving unwanted sexually explicit images online.

Cyberbullying and cyber harassment can often be worse than in person

Cyberbullying and online harassment can get out of hand really fast. Even if it is not the intention of the bullier to escalate the situation, the ease of posting, reposting, and fanning the flames means the situation can easily grow much larger than anyone ever suspected it could. What’s more, oftentimes these posts stay there forever, an archived reminder of hatred and spite. There are often refrains of “just turn off the computer and walk away!”

Unfortunately in this day and age people need to be online, even on social media, for their jobs and their liveliehoods, as well as to keep in touch with family members. Kids need to be able to get online to do homework and projects. Just walking away isn’t going to solve anything, which makes cyberbullying and online harassment even more pervasive.

Cyberbullying and online harassment can often have serious consequences for the victim. Tactics include things like doxxing (sometimes also spelled doxing), which involves publishing details of a person’s life such as their address or place of work without their consent.

Imping involves impersonating a target with the intent to humiliate them, while exclusion involves posting about things the victim is purposefully being excluded from. Flaming is starting arguments and using abusive language, while happy slapping is a tactic whereby damaging photos and videos of a target are posted to embarrass them online.

There are long term consequences to cyberbullying and online harassment

We hear all too often tragic headlines about cyberbullying that could have been prevented that ended in tragedy. We hear all too often about women being harassed online to the point they fear for their safety. Cyberbullying and online harassment have severe long term consequences.

It can cause kids to get bad grades and use drugs and alcohol, and it can cause adults to suffer serious damage to their reputations. If you or someone you know is experiencing cyberbullying or online harassment, tell someone. Get some help dealing with it. It won’t go away if you ignore it like schoolyard bullying often will. Learn more about dealing with cyberbullying and online harassment.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with