3.5 Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has many forms and can include a variety of acts. It can be sending a mean text message, making online threats, sending unwanted provocative photos, posting insults or hate speech, attempting to infect the target’s computer with a virus, flooding an e-mail inbox with messagesor sending harmful material and any other form of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies. Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics are briefly described below.

Cyberstalking: a bully repeatedly and intensively harasses, denigrates or threatens the target, enough to create fear. When Annie broke up with Sam, he sent her many angry, threatening, pleading messages. He spread nasty rumors about her to her friends and posted a sexually suggestive picture she had given him in a sex-oriented discussion group, along with her e-mail address and cell phone number.

Cyberthreats: a bully makes threatening remarks on the internet or implies violent behaviour. It can also be threatening with suicide. Greg set up an anonymous IM account and sent a threatening message to his older sister suggesting that she would be killed the next day at school.

Denigration: a bully starts rumours about a person to damage their reputation. “Dissing” someone online. Some boys created a “We Hate Joe” Web site where they posted jokes, cartoons, gossip, and rumors, all dissing Joe.

Exclusion: a group of bullies excludes someone from online conversations, groups or from events shared online to hurt their feelings. Millie tries hard to fit in with a group of girls at school. She recently got on the “outs” with a leader in this group. Now Millie has been blocked from the friendship links of all of the girls.

Flaming: a bully starts or fuels online fights exchanged through emails, instant messages, chat rooms or comments. There is often harsh language directed towards a specific person. Joe and Alec’s online exchange got angrier and angrier. Insults were flying. Joe warned Alec to watch his back in school the next day.

Harassment: a bully repeatedly sends or posts mean, hurtful or insulting messages or comments. Sara reported to the principal that Kayla was bullying another student. When Sara got home, she had 35 angry messages in her e-mail box. The anonymous cruel messages kept coming—some from complete strangers.

Masquerading/impersonation: a bully creates a fake identity to harass someone anonymously or impersonating somebody else to him send malicious messages or post material to get that person in trouble or danger or to damage that person’s reputation or friendships. Laura watched closely as Emma logged on to her account and discovered her password. Later, Laura logged on to Emma’s account and sent a hurtful message to Emma’s boyfriend, Adam.

Outing: a bully shares someone’s secrets or embarrassing photos online. Greg, an obese high school student, was changing in the locker room after gym class. Matt took a picture of him with his cell phone camera. Within seconds, the picture was flying around the phones at school.

Trickery: a bully tricks someone to share private information or photos with them and then shares this online. Katie sent a message to Jessica pretending to be her friend and asking lots of questions. Jessica responded, sharing really personal information. Katie forwarded the message to lots of other people with her own comment, “Jessica is a loser.”

Of course, this is just one way of classifying cyberbullying. You might find another model that helps you and the young people you are working with even better. But it is always useful to have some language and tools to think and talk about a problem. Take a look at some real life examples below and think about them. Can you identify types of cyberbullying in the following examples? What would you do if you came across one of these messages in real life? How could you talk to a sender of these messages? How could you talk to the recipient?



Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., Educator’s Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet