Cyberbullying Characteristics, Causes and Consequences

Robert Johnston

The cyberbullying or virtual harassment is an aggressive and intentional act, carried out repeatedly, through the use of electronic forms of contact by a group or an individual against a victim who cannot easily defend herself.

It is a repetitive act of harassing, attacking and harming another person through telematic means: internet, mobile telephony, etc. In recent years there has been a great advance in technology and digital media, and we are increasingly using the internet for a greater range of activities, especially those related to communication..

In cyberbullying, children and adolescents use the internet and its platforms to harass, assault or psychologically attack other minors with apparent freedom and little control.

It should be noted that when we talk about cyberbullying we are referring to that abuse that takes place between equals. That is to say: cyberbullying is the act of a child or adolescent to harass another child or adolescent of the same age (or similar).

Therefore, all those situations in which there are no minors at both ends of the harassment are excluded from this term..

Article index

  • 1 Is cyberbullying the same as bullying??
  • 2 Causes
    • 2.1 Rise of social networks and the internet
    • 2.2 Access by children and adolescents
    • 2.3 Lack of parental and teacher control
    • 2.4 Lack of education in values
  • 3 How is cyberbullying manifested?
  • 4 Cyberbullying statistics
  • 5 Consequences of cyberbullying
  • 6 What should they do if you are a minor?
  • 7 What should adults do?
  • 8 Topics of interest
  • 9 References

Is cyberbullying the same as bullying??

Although the origin of cyberbullying and school bullying (traditional bullying) may be the same and both types of bullying have many similarities, they are not exactly the same.

Obviously, cyberbullying can represent a form of school bullying at the moment that a minor (or more than one) begins to carry out actions of harassment and aggression to a classmate through the internet.

However, cyberbullying is not always carried out by a classmate. As we have said, access to the virtual world in a more or less autonomous way exposes the minor to a greater number of people than in the real world.

This means that any child can start receiving cyberbullying, regardless of whether they know him or not.

In addition, certain differences have been noted between cyberbullying and traditional bullying:

  1. Cyberbullying can be carried out by any minor, without the need for them to be a classmate.
  2. Unlike traditional bullying, when harassment is carried out by a group of minors, in cyberbullying there is usually no clear leadership of any of the components.
  3. In traditional bullying, harassment by children predominates, in cyberbullying in gender it is distributed more equitably.
  4. Cyberbullying can be carried out by children who are not sociable and with few friends, a fact contrary to the traditional bullying that is usually carried out
    children with high popularity among their peer group.
  5. In cyberbullying, the anonymity of the bully is very simple.
  6. The victims of cyberbullying are usually girls, in traditional bullying boys predominate.

However, it is estimated that the consequences of cyberbullying and those of traditional bullying are very similar.


The rise of social media and the internet

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viver, electronic messaging services such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo ... All of them allow us to communicate easily and quickly, but at the same time they bring us all into us in a virtual world.

Access by children and adolescents

This virtual world becomes especially important when used by children and adolescents, since they have direct and autonomous access (often without the supervision of their parents) to a world that is difficult to control..

Lack of parental and teacher control

Parents and teachers are the authority figures of children and adolescents and it is advisable that they have some control over the activities that their children / students do on the Internet. When there is lack of control, these acts of violence are more likely to appear.

Lack of education in values

Obviously, when a child or adolescent has values ​​of respect, tolerance and kindness, they will not have violent behaviors such as cyberbullying towards friends or acquaintances.

How manifests cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can manifest itself in any way, since the telematic means offer a great variety of forms of expression. In fact, the manifestation of cyberbullying is reserved to the imagination that the bully can apply within the technological world.

However, there are a series of cyberbullying actions that occur more frequently than others.

In order to better identify possible cases of cyberbullying and to delimit a little better this phenomenon that can often be ambiguous, below I will comment on the 10 most common manifestations of cyberbullying.

  1. Publish and share content with public Internet profiles that may harm, embarrass or humiliate the person. The content can be real or formatted images, personal data, opinions, expressions, etc..
  2. Impersonate the victim on websites or social networks, creating a false profile with the name and photographs of the person. The profiles are usually edited with negative or humiliating content to, as in the previous case, embarrass or outrage the victim.
  3. Use profiles like the one described above to add it on websites intended for mockery or ridicule. A common example is usually registering the victim's profiles on websites where it is about voting for the ugliest, stupid, clumsy person, etc. Subsequently, the profile is disclosed in order for as many people as possible to see it.
  4. Using the false profiles of the victim to write in the first person as confessions about certain events, always with a humiliating speech. The themes are usually sexual, personal, satirical anecdotes, etc..
  5. Impersonating the victim in forums or chats, expressing themselves in an aggressive or provocative way, with the aim of creating conflicts with people so that they later reproach the victim for their behavior (not the harasser who does not show their identity).
  6. "Hack" the passwords of the victim's email or social network accounts to read their messages, violate their privacy, create conflicts with their contacts and change the password so that the victim can no longer access their own accounts.
  7. Provoke the victim in the web services that they use and that contain a moderator (chats, forums, online games), to get them to respond violently, and later report their reaction so that they are excluded or expelled.
  8. Register the victim's email address on unpleasant or unpleasant websites so that they receive “spam” in their email.
  9. Circulate through the network rumors about reprehensible behavior or actions of the victim, so that their social circle can read it, believe it and exercise their own forms of retaliation or harassment. In this way, the harasser gets other people outside of Cyberbullying to also reproach or harass the victim.
  10. Talk to the victim directly through chats or instant mail applications such as WhatsApp, sending them threatening, repetitive and frequent messages, with the aim of annoying or intimidating them.

Cyberbullying statistics

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that is increasing, and since new technologies emerged, more and more cases have been observed. In fact, the high prevalence of this problem means that numerous studies have recently been carried out..

However, the results obtained in each study are very disparate, and an exact figure cannot yet be provided today. What does seem to be in agreement is:

  • The percentage of students affected by cyberbullying is very high, either moderately (less than once a week) or severely (more than once a week).
  • In the United States and Asia is where the highest prevalences are collected (55%), Europe and Canada (25%), South America (22%).
  • In general, between 40 and 55% of students are involved in some way in cyberbullying (victims, aggressors or observers).
  • Between 20% and 50% say they have been victims of cyberbullying, although of them only between 2% and 7% are severe..
  • The more use is made of ICT, the greater the risk of being both an aggressor and a victim of cyberbullying.
  • The percentages found in the prevalence of cyberbullying are increasing, so as we have said, there is an increase in this problem among young people.

Emphasizing this last point, we could find the following aspects as possible explanations for the increase in the prevalence of cyberbullying:

  • Increased availability of new technologies among minors.
  • Increase in the social importance that the virtual world plays in the lives of minors.
  • Less perception of harm caused by the aggressor: when harassing online, the effects of harassment are less visible even to the harasser himself.
  • Greater number of victims (since the aggressor does not even need to know his victim to start cyberbullying) and greater sense of impunity (since he can remain anonymous behind the screen).
  • Increase in social networks, ease of communicating with people, creating groups, contacts, etc. In Internet.

Consequences of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has negative consequences for all those involved (aggressors, victims and observers), although logically, those who fare worse are the victims.

Through different studies, it has been shown that cyberbullying causes the same effects as traditional bullying, and the fact that the aggression is virtual and not directly or physically does not constitute a protective effect on the victim.

The consequences that have been demonstrated today about cyberbullying are the following:

  • Cyberbullying victims are more likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety symptoms, behavioral and social adjustment problems, and drug use.
  • Cyberbullying victims see their self-esteem and self-confidence diminish, their academic results worsen, and their social relationships decrease.
  • Many victims of cyberbullying can become stalkers.
  • Cyberbullying produces feelings of anger, rage, sadness, frustration and helplessness in victims.
  • Cyber-bullies tend to have a higher probability of moral disconnection, lack of empathy, personality and antisocial behaviors, school absenteeism, drug use and criminal behavior.

What should they do if you are under?

To prevent and manage cyberbullying:

-Be very careful with the data, photos and personal information you enter online. Try to make this information only available to your contacts.

-Be very careful with those you expose in chats or public forums, never provide information about yourself, you do not know who is on the other side of the screen.

-Do not respond to provocations online, especially if you do not know the provocateur.

-When you are harassed, it is preferable that you keep evidence of cyberbullying (messages, photographs, etc.), turn off the computer or mobile and consult an adult.

What should adults do?

To solve a cyberbullying problem it is important to:

-It transmits confidence to the minor so that if they have a problem like this they do not hesitate to come to you, if they try to solve it on their own, things can get complicated.

-When you are informed, respond calmly and serenity, support the child and tell him that you will help him solve it.

-Inquire about the problem in question, and pay attention to its severity. If the aggressor has personal data such as home or school and the violence of harassment is high, it will not hurt to go to the police.

-If cyberbullying is less serious, help your child to delete his internet accounts and erase all his data on the net so that the aggressor cannot contact him again.

-If the cyber-aggressor is a companion of the victim, go to adults in their area to help you solve it (teachers at the center, parents or relatives of the aggressor, etc.).

Themes of interest

Types of bullying.

Psychological abuse.

Have you ever suffered cyberbullying? Tell us what you know about this phenomenon to help readers. Thank you!


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  5. Ybarra M, Diener-West M and Leaf P (2007). Examining the overlap in Internet harassment and school bullying: Implications for school intervention. Journal of
    Adolescent Health, 41, 42-50.

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