Common Sense Media, Understood Founding Partner
At a Glance
Cyberbullying means using online technology to hurt someone on purpose.
Kids with learning and thinking differences are more likely to be cyberbullied than their peers.
There are lots of things you can do to help prevent your child from being cyberbullied.
Before the Internet, bullying mostly happened in person. Kids were bullied at the bus stop, at recess or in the lunch line. But once a child got home, the bullying stopped. Now with technology, online bullying, or cyberbullying, can happen anywhere at any time.
It’s scary to think that your child can be threatened, picked on and intimidated nonstop. But with social media, bullies can hurt other kids during school or all hours of the night.
Here’s what you need to know about cyberbullying and how to protect your child.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when kids use online technology to hurt other kids. In other words, they use the Internet to harass and embarrass people. It’s done on purpose and is usually ongoing.
Today, kids use social media, texting, and email to talk to their friends. This means cyberbullying can happen easily. Cruel messages or unflattering photos can be sent to everyone in the school with just one click. And kids can keep sending mean messages from home, on the weekends or even during holidays.
Sometimes, cyberbullying is a single child sending a cruel text. But it can also be a group of kids posting hurtful things about someone to other kids. And then those kids forward the messages to even more people. This
short video shows one example of cyberbullying.
Here are more examples of behavior that could be cyberbullying:
Sending mean emails, texts, or instant messages
Sending neutral messages to someone to the point of harassment
Posting hurtful things about someone on social media
Spreading rumors or gossip about someone online
Making fun of someone in an online chat that includes multiple people
Attacking or killing an avatar or character in an online game, constantly and on purpose
Pretending to be another person by creating a fake online profile
Threatening or intimidating someone online or in a text message
Taking an embarrassing photo or video and sharing it without permission
It’s important to know that not all online conflicts between kids are cyberbullying. Sometimes, kids get into arguments on social media. They may also banter with each other or use inside jokes while texting. (Read about the difference between teasing and bullying.)
But there’s a way to determine if a behavior falls under cyberbullying. If a kid is sending hurtful messages on purpose and on a regular basis, then it’s cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying and kids with learning and thinking differences
All kids can be cyberbullied. However, kids with learning and thinking differences face special risks because of their challenges. This means they are more likely to be cyberbullied than their peers.
For instance, kids who get school services or accommodations may be targeted because they seem different. They may be singled out because of their academic or social challenges.
Online messaging can be tricky for kids with learning and thinking differences. Most online communication relies on text, so kids with reading and writing issues may struggle with this.
Kids with social skills issues may misinterpret emails or texts. They may not understand the context of a post on social media. And for kids with impulsivity issues and
, they may respond badly to a message without thinking it through.