3.3.1 How does cyberbullying begin?

A big part of cyberbullying does not start out with an intention to deeply hurt someone. Young people post or text something they think is a joke or a random comment, but it may not be all that funny for the receiver. In fact, it could easily cross the line to cyberbullying.

In a recent online pilot study, young people who engage in cyberbullying behaviour reported the following reasons for their actions: posting without thinking they could hurt anyone (72%), to get back at someone (58%), the target deserved it (58%), for fun or entertainment (28%), to embarrass the target (21%), to be mean (14%), to show off to friends (11%) and other reasons (16%).

We will be exploring who is especially at-risk of becoming a cyberbully or a target in one of the following sections. For now, it is important to know that cyberbullying can happen to anyone. Relatively little can be said about a typical cyber target or a typical cyberbully: they can be rich kids or poor kids, left-out kids or popular ones, A-students or struggling students, majority or minority students, someone who has been bullied before or someone who has never experienced violence, someone who is online much too much or someone who rarely uses technology, it can be someone who uses technology to pass their free time by browsing and chatting, but also someone who mostly uses it for online learning, research, time management or school.

Nevertheless, there are some things young people can do to protect themselves online: 3

  • Keep privacy settings on. Secure all online information.
  • Protect their usernames and passwords. Do not share them with friends.
  • Choose friends wisely, including virtual contacts.
  • Only accept close friends on social networking sites.
  • Do not share personal information online.
  • Do not open anything from someone they don’t know.