Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumours sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Why Cyberbullying is Different
Children who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, children who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
- Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a child when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
- Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
- Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cell phones and computers themselves are not to blame for cyberbullying. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting children with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment. But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar.
Children who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Truant from school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
Frequency of Cyberbullying
The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that 6% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.
Research on cyberbullying is growing. However, because technology use changes rapidly, it is difficult to design surveys that accurately capture trends.
School-based bullying has been a persistent problem for LGBT youth which has been associated with psychological harm such as depression and suicide.
Data from the Human Rights Watch study, indicate that LGBT youth are almost 3 times more likely to have been assaulted or involved in a physical fight at school, 3 times more likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, and are approximately 4 times more likely to skip school due to unsafe feelings compared to their heterosexual peers. However, with the increase in technological advancements that have made communication easier and more efficient; cyber-bullying has developed into a cause for great concern among school officials, parents, and policy makers. Cyber-bullying can allow perpetrators to remain anonymous, post messages to a wide audience, and experience reduced responsibility and accountability compared to face-to-face bullying. Since this is a relatively new form of bullying there has not been a substantial amount of research into cyber-bullying among LGBT youth and how it differs from school-based bullying.
Research findings indicate that LGBT youth were far more likely than their peers to report cyber-bullying (33.1% vs. 14.5%) and school bullying (42.3% vs. 24.8%).
Results also show that youth, regardless of sexual orientation, who experienced only cyber-bullying were at higher risk of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and suicide attempt compared to those who had only experienced school-based bullying.
Separate finding also show that LGBT youth are at a significantly higher risk for these outcomes compared to their peers.
These finding indicate the need for school administrators, policy makers, and parents to continue to place emphasis on prevention efforts to curtail cyber-bullying since it is such a critical problem facing LGBT youth which has been linked to several negative health outcomes as well as poorer school performance.