What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber- or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.

Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a text, tweet, or response to a status update on that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like impersonating a victim on-line or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some kids report that a fake account, web page, or on-line persona has been created with the sole intention to harass and .

Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, Instant Messaging (IM) clients (Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, etc.) and emails make it very hard to detect the sender’s tone — one person’s joke could be another’s hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, texts, and on-line posts is rarely accidental.

Because many kids are reluctant to report being bullied, even to their parents, it’s impossible to know just how many are affected. But recent studies about cyberbullying rates have found that about 1 in 4 teens have been the victims of cyberbullying, and about 1 in 6 admit to having cyberbullied someone. In some studies, more than half of the teens surveyed said that they’ve experienced abuse through social and digital media.