Cyberbullying is becoming common online, with teenagers and older children at greatest risk. Effects of cyberbullying range from anxiety and feelings of loneliness to self-harm and suicide. Cyberbullying on social media can be hard to spot, but parents can take steps to prevent it.

What Is Cyberbullying?
Bullying involves any acts, spoken or written words intended to harass or intimidate an individual or cause physical harm to them or their property. Cyberbullying refers to these actions when they occur in an online environment or through digital devices like cell phones or computers.

Common examples of cyberbullying are sharing negative, harmful or false content about someone else. Cyberbullying can also include sharing embarrassing or humiliating personal information, stalking or threatening harm.

Cyberbullying can happen through text messages, apps, emails, chat forums, social media or gaming platforms. The National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report that 28% of children in grades 6-12 have been bullied. Of those, approximately 16% of U.S. high school students report they have experienced cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying Tactics
Cyberbullying tactics often involve social media, chat apps or gaming platforms but can spill over into life offline. Some cases may involve multiple people targeting a classmate both in school and on social media. Abuse in a relationship may develop through online interchanges, such as harassment via messaging services or online stalking. This aggression may extend to face-to-face interactions.

Common Cyberbully Tactics
• Creating a hurtful webpage about someone.
• Posting embarrassing pictures or videos of someone.
• Posting hurtful comments, names or content online about someone’s characteristics, including race, religion or ethnicity.
• “Spilling the Tea,” or the intentionally hurtful distribution of personal information through an anonymous social media account.
• The destruction or threat of destruction of someone’s privacy through posting sensitive information online. This is called “doxing” and is often used as a revenge tactic.
• Telling someone to kill themselves or threatening harm to a person using the internet or messaging.
• Using a fake online persona to ask for or post private, personal or false information about a person. This fake identity is sometimes called a “Sockpuppet.”

Cyberbullying contributes to social media harm and is increasing in prevalence with the rise in adolescent social media use. Cyberbullying that involves social media may be hard to notice and prevent, but schools, government agencies and health care practitioners can offer ways to detect cyberbullying.

If you suspect your child is being bullied online, speak with their school about resources and guidance. Have an honest conversation with your child about what kind of bullying they are experiencing, how it happens and when to log off for their own safety and protection. Speak with your child’s doctor if you notice mood changes that you think could be linked to cyberbullying.

What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying?
Bullying of any type causes harm to the targeted person, but some research suggests that cyberbullying can cause greater anxiety, depression and loneliness than in-person bullying. Because the targeted individual must endure messages or comments whenever accessing the internet, feelings of isolation and confinement may be exacerbated.

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