3.1.1 Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying is an aggressive behaviour of more powerful individuals against weaker ones, for example hitting, verbally threatening or mocking, spreading rumours, taking the money and other actions. Bullying typically peaks in frequency during adolescence.

Cyberbullying is deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person. It can happen through cell phones, computers, tablets and other electronic devices and communication tools like websites, text messages, instant messages, e-mail, social networking sites, applications or chat. Cyberbullying is the most common online risk for teens, can occur to any young person online, and can cause psychosocial outcomes4 such as depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and even suicide.

Cyberbullying can have many forms. It can be a mean, hurtful or threatening message to someone or about someone. It can be an embarrassing post, picture or video. It can be a website or a fake profile. It can be a rumour spread by e-mails, texts or posted on social networking sites and many other things. Cyberbullying is often anonymous (the bully does not use his or her name), public (in open view for other people) and viral (rapidly and widely circulates on the internet or through other media). This video can give you an idea how cyberbullying can spread quickly, much like a virus.

3.1.2 Bullies, targets and bystanders

Cyberbullying usually includes a bully (or bullies), a target and several observers. Cyberbully is someone who engages in cyberbullying. Cyberbullies use the internet and electronic devices to emotionally hurt others by making fun of them or insulting them.

Targets of cyberbullying are individuals who are hurt by such actions. Most often, cyberbullying does not stay limited to the bully and the target. There may be many observers, who can take on many roles: they can be passive bystanders, they can perpetuate the bullying or they can act to stop cyberbullying.

3.1.3 Preventative measures and strategies

Cyberbullying is difficult to stop. However, there are things individuals and communities can do to stop it from happening or limit it from spreading. For example, targets of cyberbullying can temporarily limit their online connection time; avoid opening messages from unknown sources, change passwords or accounts. In extreme cases, authorities may get involved and legal actions may be taken.

Often, cyberbullying becomes a bigger problem than just something between individuals. A community might become aware that cyberbullying has become prevalent and threatens the well-being of its members and develop specific measures to fight it and to relieve negative effects. Such activities can be simple activities or complex strategies.

For example, a school might include a simple five-minute presentation on cyberbullying during a parent meeting. But they could also organize a complex year-long, school-wide project with counselling, workshops, and awareness raising activities for students, parents, and teachers.

With the rise of cyberbullying, certain organizations, initiatives, and projects have been developed to deal specifically with this phenomenon. Their activities can be online-based (some examples include informational and promotional videos, infographics, websites, virtual campaigns, online courses for teachers and youth workers) or done in-person or through other media (workshops, counselling, lectures, research, training, skill building activities, TV shows or magazines articles). Preventative measures to fight cyberbullying often include basic online safety training.

3.1.4 Online safety

Online safety or internet safety is a preventative measure. It includes information, knowledge, and skills that help people (including children and youth) be safer while using the internet and online technologies. This includes personal safety, password protection, privacy, security risks and protection from cybercrime in general. You can learn a few simple tips for internet safety for young people in this video.

3.1.5 Digital citizenship

Digital citizenship is an expression for the norms of appropriate, responsible use of technology. Digital citizenship has nine elements: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness and digital security. Themes like digital security, etiquette, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness are closely connected to the topic of cyberbullying. Many cyberbullying prevention programs focus on teaching these skills.

Digital etiquette or netiquette is a new word that combines the concepts of ‘internet’, networking and etiquette. It means online etiquette, the rules of online communication. Netiquette covers common courtesy online as well as the informal do’s and don’ts of cyberspace.

Respect, educate and protect (REPs) is another popular concept closely connected to digital citizenship that is often used in cyberbullying prevention. It is a way to present nine elements of digital citizenship in a way that is appropriate even for very young learners (from kindergarten level onwards).