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What Causes Cyberbullying and How You Can Prevent It

Linda Collins - October 11, 2021

What Causes Cyberbullying & How You Can Prevent It

Bullying has always existed, but how this abuse is perpetuated has changed as technology has evolved. Unfortunately, the advent of the internet has given bullies new ways to torture their victims. Cyberbullying affects people of all ages but is especially problematic among children and teens. This issue is made worse because it’s difficult for parents to keep up with what their children are doing online, and they may not be aware that bullying is occurring.

Cyberbullying can have deep, long-term psychological effects on children and teens. As such, parents must understand the implications and consequences of cyberbullying and address this issue as soon as possible. To begin with, parents need to understand why cyberbullying is so prevalent.

Cyberbullying thrives because, in the online world, it’s very easy to find and contact just about anyone anonymously. The most problematic areas of the internet are social media pages, instant messaging, direct messaging apps, and forums. Although these platforms usually have rules of conduct in place, they can’t monitor every interaction. Therefore, unless someone reports a problem, the bully can generally get away with their actions.

What is Cyberbullying

Bullying is any action that seeks to harm, coerce, or intimidate someone. Therefore, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place through digital technologies. For instance, while bullying occurs in person, cyberbullying occurs on social media channels, gaming platforms, messaging platforms, and mobile phones. Some examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Sending mean, hurtful messages or threats
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone or spreading lies about someone
  • Pretending to be someone else to send mean messages to others on their behalf.

Bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside one another. However, cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint. Consequently, there is a record of the harassment that occurs, and this can be useful in helping put a stop to the abuse.

In an Ipsos international survey of adults in 28 countries in 2011, 26% of parents in the US reported that their child had been a victim of cyberbullying. However, by 2016, this number rose to 34%. This would seem to imply that the problem is getting worse.

Forms of Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

There are a number of ways that cyberbullying takes shape. This section will highlight the most common forms.

Group Chat Bullying

Group Chat Bullying

There are a number of messaging apps that offer group chat options. This allows multiple people to participate in a digital conversation. Unfortunately, these group chat apps are also rife with cyberbullying. Sometimes the group will gang up on one member and send them nasty messages or exclude someone from participating in the chat. In either case, the victim is suffering harassment from multiple people.

Trolling in Online Games

Trolling in Online Games

A troll is a person in a video game who attacks other players, ruining their enjoyment of the game. Trolling can take several forms. A troll may attack someone verbally through the in-game chat function by trash-talking or flaming. Trash talking means that the troll puts down or makes fun of the player. Flaming occurs when the troll insults, swears, or otherwise uses offensive language toward other players. A troll may also spam players by repeating the use of the same item or action. They may also pretend to be another person to obtain some type of reaction, or they may play the game in a way that’s not the intended way to play. Lastly, trolls sometimes disregard strategic play to make it easier for the opposing team to win.

Spreading Embarrassing Rumors or Media Online

Spreading Embarrassing Rumors or Media Online

This type of cyberbullying is pretty self-explanatory. It involves a person or persons spreading rumors to embarrass someone or sharing photos or videos meant to humiliate a person. Through email, social media platforms, blogs, websites, chat rooms, text messages, and comment sections, people can share rumors and media. For example, imagine your friend accidentally took a photo of you with some of your body showing. The polite thing to do would be to delete this image, but instead, the friend decides to post it on Instagram. Before you can ask her to take it down, everyone from school has seen it and is making fun of you.

Doxing or Outing

Doxing or Outing

Doxing or outing is the act of revealing sensitive or personal information about a person without their consent to humiliate or embarrass them. This can be anything from spreading personal photos of celebrities to leaking social media data or sharing someone’s personal saved messages to an online group.

Social Media Trolling

Trolls exist to cause trouble. They love to cause drama and will intentionally start arguments or write inflammatory messages to get a rise out of people. On social media, you’ll mainly find trolls lurking in the comment sections of your posts, but they may also message you directly or post things about you through their own profiles.

Reasons and Causes of Cyberbullying

Most bullies don’t need a reason to harass someone, but they often resort to specific themes as their reason for picking on a person. Here are a few of the most common types of bullying.


According to a survey by the San Francisco-based non-profit organization, YouthTruth, students reported that their appearance was the most common reason for being bullied.


People of color are the most likely to experience race-related bullying, however, any visible minority can be targeted for their perceived or actual race. Data from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the 2015-2016 school year noted that 15% of the US public school population was black and 35.5% reported being bullied on account of their race.


A 2019 survey shows that nationwide, 26.6% of students who identify as LGTQI were cyberbullied in the past year. Bullying of this nature puts youth at an increased risk for depression, suicidal ideation, and the misuse of alcohol and drugs.


Religion-based bullying is usually born out of fear or ignorance about another person’s religious practices. Oftentimes, the bully uses stereotypes or myths about the religion to fuel their harassment.

How You Can Prevent Cyberbullying

How You Can Prevent Cyberbullying

When someone gets bullied online, this can lead to feelings of worthlessness, leading to depression and anxiety. In the worst cases, cyberbullying has led to suicide. Therefore, if you think or know that someone you love is being cyberbullied, you must take action. Here are a few things you can do:


You must establish trust between yourself and the victim. Make sure they feel comfortable talking to you and then ask questions to learn about what’s been going on, how it started, and who’s involved.

Monitor Your or Your Loved One’s Digital Footprint and Online Activity

If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying, or if you’re concerned with the way someone is treating you online, a good place to start is to run a background check. A background check is an excellent way to find out what people say about you or a loved one on social media platforms. If your search brings up anything that concerns you or you want to be extra safe, you may want to invest in technology to protect your kids from cyberbullying.

Learn More about Social Media Apps and Platforms

Educated yourself about how specific social media platforms and apps function so you understand the ways that someone might get victimized. This will allow you to develop strategies for helping your loved ones avoid or deal with cyberbullying.

Provide Motivational References

If you know a cyberbullying victim, it’s important that you help them understand that they’re not alone. Lots of people, including celebrities, are cyberbullied on a daily basis. Show them examples of people who were bullied online and how they overcame it.

Spread the Word

Even if you’re not currently being bullied or don’t know of anyone getting cyberbullied, it’s important to make cyberbullying a part of your everyday conversation. In this way, people will become more comfortable with the topic and better prepared to handle situations should they happen to them or someone they know.

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