Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Cyberbullying: Intervention and Prevention Strategies

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Cyberbullying: Intervention and Prevention Strategies

Article excerpt

Brian was a shy, quiet boy who was labeled a social outcast by his classmates. A group of students created an online chat room devoted to making fun of Brian, and they invited him to join, telling him that they wanted to be his friends. This harassment drove Brian to depression and he eventually dropped out of school.

Jessica and Ashley were best friends until they started liking the same guy. Jessica posted information on a social networking website that Ashley had told her in confidence. She also posted embarrassing pictures of Ashley. Almost everyone at school read about Ashley's secret and saw the pictures. Ashley was humiliated.

American teens make frequent use of the Internet for such activities as communicating with friends, finding information for school assignments, and downloading music. Recent research (e.g., McQuade & Sampat, 2008) suggests that nearly all youth in middle and high school with access to a computer at home or school will use the Internet and that this represents a rapid increase over the past decade. The number of teens with online profiles, including those on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, has also increased, and there is evidence that many of these teens who access the Internet at home make efforts to keep their activity away from parental scrutiny.

In 2006, national law enforcement leaders estimated that more than 13 million children and adolescents ages 6-17 were victims of cyberbullying (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2006). Survey data shows that a significant number of youth report that they have harassed someone online (McQuade & Sampat, 2008). Research has identified characteristics of youth that predict cyberbullying as well as the consequences of such harassment. It is critical that parents and educators understand the characteristics of cyberbullying and strategies for prevention.


In general, cyberbullying involves sending or posting harmful or cruel text and/or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices, such as cell phones. Cyberbullying may occur on personal websites or it may be transmitted via e-mail, social networking sites, chat rooms, message boards, instant messaging, or cell phones. Cyberbullying occurs most often when children are at home, but it can also take place during school. To their credit, many schools have made good use of filtering software that can often prevent cyberbullies from utilizing school computers to bully other students.


Most cyberbullying falls into one or more of the following categories:

* Flaming: Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language

* Harassment and stalking: Repeatedly sending cruel, vicious, and/or threatening messages

* Denigration: Sending or posting gossip or rumors about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships

* Impersonation: Breaking into someone's e-mail account and using it to send vicious or embarrassing material to others

* Outing and trickery: Engaging someone in instant messaging, tricking him or her into revealing sensitive information, and forwarding that information to others

* Exclusion: Intentionally excluding someone from an online group (Willard, 2007a)


Cyberbullies are just as likely to be female as male and are more likely to be older teens rather than younger. Similar to traditional bullies, cyberbullies tend to have poor relationships with their caregivers. They are more likely than nonbullies to be targets of traditional bullying and to engage in delinquent behavior and frequent substance use. They are also more likely to be frequent daily Internet users.

A cyberbully may or may not be a person the victim knows. Cyberbullies can often remain anonymous, making it difficult if not impossible to tell who the abuser is. …

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