Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention
Content provided by the National Association of School Psychologists. For additional guidance, visit www.nasponline.org.
Cyberbullying is a serious form of bullying that can negatively affect children and adolescents. Recent estimates suggest that, in the U.S., about 1 in 4 students (29.3%) from ages 9 to 18 have been victims of cyberbullying at some point in their lives. Cyberbullying victimization can lead to harmful mental health outcomes ranging from stress to suicidal ideation. Adults can help by taking preventive action against cyberbullying and intervening when it occurs.
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
- Cyberbullying is willful and repetitive harm through the use of technology (text messages, social media, and other online means).
- Cyberbullying can be anonymous, spread to large groups of people, and occur 24/7.
In other words, behaviors considered cyberbullying are done purposely, and they are repeated over time. Cyberbullying can take place through text messages, social media, and other online means (e.g., online forums, video game communities). Cyberbullying may come in many different forms, including:
- Flaming (i.e., sending messages that are hostile or vulgar to provoke someone)
- Online harassment (i.e., repeatedly sending offensive messages)
- Cyberstalking (i.e., using technology to intimidate, threaten harm, or cause someone to fear for their safety)
- Denigration (i.e., posting untrue statements or gossip about someone)
- Masquerading/impersonating (i.e., pretending to be someone else or creating fake social media accounts)
- Trickery/outing (i.e., tricking someone into sharing sensitive information and then sharing it publicly)
- Exclusion (i.e., deliberatively leaving someone out of an online group)
Cyberbullying differs from traditional forms of bullying in that it can be anonymous, comments can go viral (i.e., spread to large groups of people), and it can occur 24 hours a day/7 days per week. However, there is often substantial overlap in that students who are involved in one form of bullying (as either the victim or perpetrator) are much more likely to be involved in another form.
RISK FACTORS FOR CYBERBULLYING INVOLVEMENT
It can be difficult to label risk factors as specific to becoming either a perpetrator or victim of cyberbullying. Bullying involvement is influenced by a range of individual and environmental factors that, depending on the
individual, may lead to student involvement as a perpetrator, victim, or both (sometimes called bully-victims). Some common risk factors include:
- Students involved in one form of bullying (e.g., traditional bullying) are more at risk for being involved in other forms (e.g., cyberbullying).
- Students involved in cyberbullying face a higher likelihood of substance use, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicidal ideation, as well as decreased self-esteem and poor academic performance.
- Warning signs of cyberbullying may include changes in emotion after online use, attempts to hide online activities from adults, or a tendency to be insensitive or callous toward peers.
It is important to note that every situation is unique, and students with the above risk factors may not be involved in cyberbullying at all.
PARENTS CAN HELP PREVENT CYBERBULLYING BY:
Parents and caregivers should pay attention to their child’s use of technology, keeping an eye out for signs of cyberbullying involvement. Some behaviors that may warrant attention include changes in emotion after online use, attempts to hide online activities from adults, or a tendency to be insensitive or callous toward peers.
- Talking with children early and often about safe, respectful, and responsible online behavior
- Setting clear expectations related to technology use
- Modeling safe and responsible online behavior
- Monitoring technology and social media use
A particular challenge related to cyberbullying is its low report rate––children often hide cyberbullying from their parents for fear of having their devices taken away, among other reasons. Parents should aim to be proactive in supervising their children’s technology use.
CAREGIVERS WHO DISCOVER A CHILD IS INVOLVED IN CYBERBULLYING SHOULD:
- Provide nonjudgmental support.
- Document incidents of cyberbullying (e.g., save screenshots and text messages).
- Report cyberbullying incidents to the child’s school.
- Contact law enforcement in cases of illegal activity or physical threats.
SCHOOLS CAN HELP PREVENT CYBERBULLYING BY:
- Implementing school-based cyberbullying prevention programs
- Using social-emotional learning (SEL) programming to promote a healthy school climate
- Understanding that zero-tolerance policies are not effective responses
- Using restorative rather than punitive practices
- Teaching students digital citizenship skills (i.e., skills for engaging in safe and responsible online behavior)
- Monitoring activity on school-issued technology
- Collaboration plays a key role in prevention and intervention.
- Schools can provide digital literacy education for families.
- Parents should aim to keep an open line of communication with their children’s teachers regarding bullying issues.
- Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention, https://ed.buffalo.edu/alberti
- Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org/
- Common Sense Media, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
- Common Sense Education (digital citizenship curriculum), https://www.commonsense.org/education/
- Common Sense Education: SEL in Digital Life Resource Center,
- StopBullying.gov, www.stopbullying.gov
- Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, https://www.pacer.org/bullying/
- Pew Research Center: Internet and Technology, https://www.pewresearch.org/topic/internet-technology/
- Children and Screens, https://www.childrenandscreens.com/
Fredrick, S. S., Sun, L., & Nickerson, A. B. (2023, March/April). Cyberbullying and social media use: Overview
and implications for practitioners. Communiqué, 51(6)1, 8–11.
Patchin, J. (2022, June 22). Summary of our cyberbullying research (2007-2021). Cyberbullying Research Center.
Rideout, V., Peebles, A., Mann, S., & Robb, M. B. (2022). The common sense census: Media use by tweens and
teens, 2021. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/8-18-census-integrated-report-final-web_0.pdf