Cyber Bullying 101
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies, such as the internet, social networking sites, online forums, gaming forums and applications (apps), community apps, websites, email, text messaging, and online messaging to repeatedly harass or intimidate someone.
Cyberbullying may include:
- Repeated tormenting online.
- Sending someone insulting emails, texts, or messages.
- Sending someone threatening emails, texts, or messages. Threats could include threats to cause physical harm, harm to property, or harm to a person's family or household.
- Creating a website or blog to embarrass, insult, or threaten someone.
- Creating a fake profile to ruin or harm someone's reputation.
- Impersonating someone with the intent to cause harm.
- Sharing defamatory information.
- Making threats to share someone's personal information, if he or she does not comply with a demand.
A recent report by the Cyberbullying Research Center shared that 33.8% of middle and high schoolers experienced cyberbullying, and 11.5% cyberbullied others. The report also shared cyberbullying's devastating effects, "there are many detrimental outcomes associated with cyberbullying that reach into the real world. First, many targets report feeling depressed, sad, angry, and frustrated . . . Those who are victimized by cyberbullying also reveal that they are often afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic difficulties, school violence, and various delinquent behaviors. Finally, cyberbullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts."
Only 52% of students who experience cyberbullying report the incident to a parent or other adult. While this is a tremendous increase from previous years, there is still great concern that nearly half of student victims do not report it.
New York State currently does not have a law that directly defines or specifically addresses cyberbullying, but many of the behaviors carried out during cyberbullying are covered under other laws. Learn more about aggravated harassment and stalking.
For more information about New York's anti-bullying laws, including cyberbullying, visit StopBullying.gov.
Take action if your child is experiencing cyberbullying.
If your child has experienced cyberbullying by another minor, take action and find support:
- If the acts of cyberbullying include private messages, emails, or text messages, send the responsible account one message, "Stop."
- Other than sending "stop" once, do not communicate with the child engaging in cyberbullying, or his or her parents or legal guardian.
- Instruct your child not to engage or retaliate.
- Offer your child support, and contact a mental health counselor, as needed.
- Document all incidents. Create an outline with dates, times, social networks, apps, websites, individuals involved, and known witnesses.
- If the child engaging in cyberbullying attends the same school or a school in the same district as your child:
- Contact your child's principal and request a face-to-face meeting.
- Review the school's anti-bullying policy. Be prepared to discuss how the policy was broken or challenges with the policy.
- Explain the situation fully. Be prepared, and bring organized printouts. Share what happened and how it has impacted your child.
- Outline your expectations.
- Listen carefully to the school's response, and ask questions. Request specific information on how the school will handle the situation.
- Take detailed notes of the conversation, and summarize your understanding of the meeting and next steps.
- Follow up with the principal to ensure steps are carried out, and inform the school of additional incidents.
- Obtain copies of all documentation and reports.
- Follow up with your child to see if the cyberbullying has stopped.
- If the cyberbullying continues, consider contacting the school board, superintendent of schools, board of education, state or federal authorities, or law enforcement.
- If the child engaging in cyberbullying does not attend the same school or a school in your child's district, contact local law enforcement.
- If your child is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, if the cyberbullying includes threats of violence, contact your precinct or village police.
- Block the account(s) of the child engaging in cyberbullying on all social networks, apps, and other sites in which your child is active.
- Report abusive content to social networks, apps, and other sites.
- Consider blocking mutual acquaintances of the child engaging in cyberbullying.
- Make sure your child does not share private information online.
- Do not publicly post information and photos of your child. Change your settings to ensure your posts are private, for connections or friends only.
- Set up alerts to inform you if content about your child is posted online at Google Alerts.
- Find support to help prepare you to work with law enforcement or navigate the judicial process, if necessary.
- Consider contacting an attorney to explain relevant laws where you reside; advocate on your behalf with law enforcement, the school, or organizations; consider issuing a cease and desist order; or assist with defamatory content removal.
- Avoid using labels like "bully," "cyberbully," or "victim," when discussing incidents with your child.
You also can reach out to the following resources with or without your child:
- Stomp Out Bullying HelpChat Line
- StopBullying.gov Get Help Now
- Ditch The Label Removal of Abusive Content on Social Media
Signs your child is experiencing cyberbullying
Only 52% of students who experience cyberbullying report the incident to a parent or other adult.
Cyberbullying can have devastating effects, so it's imperative parents learn to recognize the signs their child may be experiencing online abuse:
- Changes device screen, closes apps, or hides device when adult enters room.
- Jumpy when receiving notifications or in general around their devices.
- Becomes unusually upset when cannot use devices.
- Constantly checks devices.
- Uses devices at all hours.
- Stops using devices.
- Changes in behavior or moods.
- Decreased or increased appetite.
- Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares.
- Increased school absences or uneasiness to attend.
- Decline in grades or interest in school.
- Avoidance of social activities and situations.
- Loss or changes in friendships.
- Decrease in self-esteem.
Some of the above signs may indicate other challenges, including in-person bullying, or mental or emotional health issues. If your child is exhibiting any of the signs, initiate an open, comfortable conversation to understand what may be happening. Remember that your child may not want to discuss it with you and may be afraid of blame or having electronic devices removed. Show support, and discuss the options for handling the situation. It also may be helpful to provide your child with counseling, if necessary.
Documenting incidents can be critical to stopping cyberbullying:
- Be careful. Don't click on anything you shouldn't.
- Take screen captures. The best screen captures include the full URL, which are easiest to get on a desktop or laptop. If you're on a Mac, make sure your window is set to show the full URL. If you're on the move, take the screen captures on your mobile device.
- Be consistent with your file naming convention. Make sure it's meaningful to you. For example:
Profile Name - URL or extension - Description - Date of Screen Capture – Number in Sequence
- Sort your documents in folders by date, content type, person's name, and profile name. For example:
- Facebook messages from person's name and profile name
- Instagram post by person's name and profile name
- Regularly place screen captures from all sources into the categorized folders.
- Save your documentation in multiple locations. For example, save documents on a computer, an external hard drive, and a secure file sharing platform.
Engaging Law Enforcement
When reporting incidents to law enforcement:
- Be prepared.
- Bring organized printouts to your precinct or village police.
- Be able to explain the situation fully, but also succinctly.
- Ask questions about laws and your child's rights.
- Take notes.
- Record report numbers and officer names.
- Write down follow-up instructions.
- Get copies of reports or report receipts.
Nassau County Law Enforcement
- Nassau County Police Department (516)-573-7000
- First Precinct (516) 573-6100 900 Merrick Road, Baldwin N.Y. 11510
- Second Precinct (516) 573-6200 7700 Jericho Tpke, Woodbury N.Y. 11797
- Third Precinct (516) 573-6300 214 Hillside Ave, Williston Park N.Y. 11596
- Fourth Precinct (516) 573-6400 1699 Broadway, Hewlett N.Y. 11557
- Fifth Precinct (516) 573-6500 1655 Dutch Broadway, Elmont N.Y. 11003
- Seventh Precinct (516) 573-6700 3636 Merrick Road, Seaford N.Y. 11783
- Village and City Police
- Center Island (516) 922-6466
- Cove Neck (516) 624-0700
- Floral Park (516) 326-6400
- Freeport (516) 378-0700
- Garden City (516) 742-1211
- Glen Cove (516) 676-1000
- Great Neck Estate (516) 487-7700
- Hempstead (516) 483-6200
- Kensington (516) 482-0480
- Lake Success (516) 482-4600
- Laurel Hollow (516) 367-3350
- Long Beach (516) 431-1800
- Lynbrook (516) 599-3300
- Malverne (516) 599-3141
- Old Brookville (516) 626-1300
- Old Westbury (516) 626-0200
- Oyster Bay Cove (516) 922-6363
- Rockville Centre (516) 766-1500
- Sands Point (516) 883-3100
- Kings Point (516) 482-1000
- Port Washington (516) 883-0500
Online privacy is always important and, possibly even more so, if your child is experiencing cyberbullying. To protect your child as best as possible:
- Keep private information private. Never share the following information online:
- Full birthdate
- Driver's license, passport, or other identification numbers
- Current location
- Home address
- Phone number
- Vacation plans
- Embarrassing photos or information
- Teach your child to keep private information private.
- Think twice before posting any personal content.
- Do not tag your underage children or your friends' underage children in public posts.
- On personal Facebook pages, keep your post privacy set to friends only or use a custom setting of friends with exclusions.
- Consider turning off other people's ability to post on your page(s).
- If you want to keep your online behavior private, do not like or comment on other accounts' posts that are public.
Digital Citizenship Pledge
Discussing positive online behavior with children is important. Sharing your expectations and online safety best practices are critical for their well-being and protection, especially when they begin to independently use the internet or have their first cell phone.
Some parents introduce a digital citizenship pledge that is signed by their child. It can be a good conversation starter and reminder of points to address.
Download our Digital Citizen Pledge (PDF).
What if your child is engaging in cyberbullying?
If you suspect or learn your child is engaging in cyberbullying:
- Understand your child could be engaging in harmful behavior that may be against school policy and/or the law.
- Thoroughly review the incidents.
- Speak with your child, and explain the harmful impact of cyberbullying. It's important to discuss the negative impact cyberbullying has online and in real life.
- Listen to your child's explanations, discuss expectations, and share potential ramifications if the cyberbullying does not stop.
- Explain how using the internet leaves a trail, and people engaging in cyberbullying may face ramifications.
- Consider installing a cyberbullying prevention app. Software to detect and stop cyberbullying is available, and may be helpful in addressing challenges. It can provide youth with an opportunity to pause, reconsider harmful posts, and learn to make better choices.
- Regardless of which child started, make sure your child understands not to engage or retaliate.
If your child's negative online behavior continues or escalates, consider seeking professional help and/or programs in impulse management, social media addiction, gaming addiction, etc., as necessary.
It also is essential to remember your child is a child who may make mistakes and needs direction. Your response should depend on the severity of the incident(s) and focus on lessons learned, expectations, and better behavior going forward.
If your child posted harmful or defamatory content, it should be removed.
If you're experiencing cyberbullying, speak about it with a trusted adult — parent, other relative, teacher, coach, activity leader, guidance counselor, or member of the clergy.
If someone has threatened to hurt you physically, speak with an adult immediately.
Steps to handle cyberbullying:
- Speak with a trusted adult.
- Do not respond or retaliate.
- If you received private messages, emails, or text messages, consult with your parent or legal guardian about sending the account responsible a message to "Stop."
- Do not forward or share posts or messages.
- Save the evidence — screenshots, images, posts, texts, emails, or private messages.
- Block the accounts engaging in cyberbullying.
- Report abusive content to the website or app.
You also can reach out to the following resources:
- Stomp Out Bullying HelpChat Line
- stopbullying.gov Get Help Now
- Ditch The Label Removal of Abusive Content on Social Media
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Lifeline Crisis Chat (Online)
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- For the deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889
Be an Upstander
If you witness cyberbullying:
- Don't be a bystander. Be more than a witness. Be an upstander.
- Don't publicly engage the person who is cyberbullying.
- If you feel comfortable, reach out to the person engaging in cyberbullying privately or reach out to a mutual acquaintance.
- Let the person know what he or she is doing is wrong and hurtful.
- If you know the victim, consider reaching out and offering support.
- Speak to an adult — parent, other relative, teacher, coach, activity leader, guidance counselor, or member of the clergy.
Educators and School Officials
Sample activities to foster empathy, kindness, and respect.
- Discuss digital citizenship, and have students sign the Digital Citizen Pledge (PDF).
- Upstander Awards — weekly or monthly awards where students nominate other students, and faculty committee chooses recipients.
- Competition to create cyberbullying prevention video or artwork.
- Recognize National Bullying Prevention Month (October)
- Kickoff assembly and discussion groups.
- Daily messages and tips.
- Students volunteer to perform play, music, dance, poetry, artwork, etc. to demonstrate school values of empathy, kindness, and respect. This could be announced at the beginning of October and performed at the end of the month. Artwork would be displayed.
- Digital Citizen Pledge discussion and signing.
- Kindness Counts
- In October or before, but after bullying and cyberbullying conversations have begun, initiate a Kindness Counts campaign. Discuss kindness and share kindness stories. Challenge students to perform one kind act (define to keep the acts similar in scope) within a specific time frame for someone in their grade. To ensure each student performs and receives one kind act, students can pick names from a bowl or they can be assigned. The school can decide if the students carrying out the act will be anonymous or known. At the end of the time period, students share stories of the kind acts they received and how it made them feel. Schools can create murals or simple pieces of art with one-word feelings/expressions by each student.
For additional information and resources for educators, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center.
- Cyberbullying Unplugged (PDF)
- Cyberbullying Unplugged en Español (PDF)
- Protecting Your Kids Online (PDF)
- Protecting Your Kids Online en Español (PDF)
- Rules 'N Tools Checklist (PDF)
- Social Media Parental Guide (PDF)
- Social Media Safety for Teens (PDF)
- Social Media Safety for Teens en Español (PDF)
- Technology 101 (PDF)
- Tips for Teens (PDF)
- Tips for Teens en Español (PDF)
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