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Cyberbullying is a form of online bullying that happens through the use of the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology. People who cyberbully others generally intend to hurt, harass, threaten or embarrass the targeted person. Victims of cyberbullying can be left feeling very angry, hurt, embarrassed and even scared. Some victims of cyberbullying are affected to the point of feeling suicidal.

One of the difficult things for a person being cyberbullying is that it can feel like there is no escape from the bullying. For example, before cyberbullying, a person may have only been bullied in school, but home felt like a safe escape. But with bullying messages or pictures being sent through various forms of technology, it can feel like you can’t get away from it – like the bullying follows you wherever you go.

Another aspect of cyberbullying that can make it particularly difficult to deal with it that since the people doing the cyberbullying can’t see the effect of their actions (so they know when they have clearly taken things too far), they often take things to levels that wouldn’t happen if the bullying was occurring face to face. So the person being cyberbullied can end up dealing with levels of cruelty and hurtful behaviors that might not happen if the bullying was being done in person.

How many teens are affected by cyberbullying?

Studies show that anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of all teens in the U.S. have experienced some degree of cyberbullying.

What might someone do that would be considered a type of cyberbullying?

  • Pretending you are someone else online in order to trick someone.
  • Spreading lies and rumors about someone.
  • Tricking people into revealing personal information.
  • Sending or forwarding mean text message.
  • Posting pictures of people without their consent – especially if the pictures have the potential to anger, hurt or embarrass the person in it.

What are some negative reactions victims of cyberbullying might have?

With all of the social, emotional and cognitive changes and development occurring during adolescence, teenagers can be particularly affected by cyberbullying. This is a time of life when feeling included and liked by peers is especially important – so being targeted by peers in any kind of cruel manner can often leave teens feeling sad, scared, embarrassed, powerless, and angry. Sometimes these intense emotions can cause victims to:

  • Seek revenge on the person bullying them.
  • Avoid friends, activities, and being in certain places.
  • Cyberbully back.

Not only can the victims of cyberbullying have negative reactions, but sometimes their friends and family members can also look to seek revenge on the bully. There have been cases of parents being arrested because of various acts of threats or revenge towards the person they believe to be cyberbullying their child.

What are some positive reactions victims of cyberbullying might have?

  • Blocking communication with whoever is cyberbullying them.
  • Deleting messages that could be hurtful in any way without even reading them.
  • Talking to a friend, parent, school staff member or other trusted adult about the cyberbullying.
  • Reporting the problem to the police or to an Internet service provider or website moderator.

What can you do if you don’t know who is cyberbullying you?

It may feel particularly scary if you are receiving threats or hurtful messages, but you don’t know who is behind them. But remember that while some cyberbullies may think they can act with total anonymity, they can be found. If you are being cyberbullied, save all communication received from the person who has targeted you and talk to a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer, or other adult you trust so that this person can be tracked down.

How can teens prevent cyberbullying?

Teens can help put an end to cyberbullying by doing the following:

  • Don’t pass along cyberbullying messages.
  • If you know of a friend who is cyberbullying, don’t be afraid to stand up to that person. Tell them to stop and make it clear you are not into what they are doing.  
  • If you know of someone who is cyberbullying don’t laugh it off, don’t participate in the bullying, and don’t do anything that might encourage them to continue.
  • If you have a friend who is cyberbullying, consider why you want to be friends with someone who is interested in intentionally hurting others.
  • Block communication with cyberbullies.
  • Report any knowledge of cyberbullying to a trusted adult.
  • Keep this rule of thumb in mind: If you wouldn’t say it in person, then don’t say it online.

What are some of the laws pertaining to cyberbullying?

  • Certain types of cyberbullying may violate school codes or breach anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws.
  • While laws differ around the world, in the U.S., cyberbullying can warrant a misdemeanor cyber-harassment charge or result in a charge of juvenile delinquency. It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a “terms of service” violation.
  • In some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved, it can be considered a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.
  • In many states “sexting” or forwarding a “sext” (sexual messages) is punishable as distributing or possessing child pornography, and requires even minors to be registered as sex offenders.
  • If an adult becomes involved, cyberbullying becomes cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, serious criminal offenses.

What are some general ways to stay safe on the Internet?

  • Never post or share personal information online (i.e., full name, address, phone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, Social Security number).
  • Never share personal information of friends, family members or peers.
  • Never share your Internet passwords with anyone except your parents.
  • Never meet face-to-face with someone you met online.
  • Let your parents know what you are doing online.


For more information, go to the TeensHealth webpage on CYBERBULLYING.

Gay and lesbian teens can be at particular risk for cyberbullying. For help in the U.S., call 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).

If you are being cyberbullied, speak to a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school counselor. If you are having trouble managing your thoughts, feelings, and reactions due to cyberbullying, consider speaking with a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist. If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.