The One Thing You Shouldn’t Do in Response to Cyberbullying

Let’s talk about a hypothetical scenario. Your daughter, who is finishing up grade seven, has something important to tell you. There’s a group of kids from her school who have been sending her harassing messages over Instagram. They do it pretty much every day. She’s blocked them all, but they create alt accounts or try and use other classmate’s Instagram accounts. She knows they have a private Snapchat group where the bullies talk trash about her and others. One of her friends joined, giving your daughter a chance to peek in and see what they’re saying. She’s also heard that they’re asking around for information about other social media accounts she may have.

So you think to yourself: step one, let’s take a break from Instagram for a little while. We’ll work out the next steps later.

Clearly these bullies are using Instagram as a vector to attack your daughter, so if you take away the vector, you take away the bullying. And it might be a bit healthy to take a social media break anyway.

That’s a very understandable line of reasoning. But it doesn’t hold up. Taking away a kid’s technology, social media, and/or Internet access is the one thing you shouldn’t do if they’re cyber bullied. Here’s why.

It’s Like Punishing a Kid for Being Bullied

Social media is a place cyberbullying happens, but it is not a cause. If your teenager got bullied at the mall, you wouldn’t ban them from the mall. It wouldn’t be fair to take away something they like because something bad happened to them.

Phones are a way for bullies to reach their victims, but they are not a cause. If, in some odd non-digital world, your child was getting bullied via letters in the mail, you wouldn’t ban letters at your house. The bully remains the cause, not the letters.

Internet access is a major part of social life in today’s world, not to mention a major connection to TV, music, culture, news, and just about everything important to kids and teens. Bullying is already isolating. It doesn’t make sense to isolate your child further.

Kids Don’t Like Reporting Cyberbullying for Exactly This Reason

Research shows that kids don’t like reporting cyberbullying to their parents. Fear of losing social media privileges, phones, and Internet access is the big reason why. It’s important for your child to keep you as a resource and ally against cyberbullying, so it’s important to make clear to your child that they won’t be punished for reporting cyberbullying.

Online Space Is the ‘Real World’

Some people make the distinction between the online world and the ‘real world’. To be sure, the online world has some major differences than the non-digital world and it’s worth exploring those differences, but the online world is real. We know that digital news isn’t less ‘real’ than something in the print edition of the newspaper, we know that a digital bank account balance isn’t less ‘real’ than the one you get it the mail, we know that a shirt you buy from a digital store won’t be less ‘real’ than one you buy at the mall, so why do we pretend like digital social space isn’t the ‘real world’? The realness that makes cyberbullying as real as bullying you’d find on the schoolyard also makes the rest of social interaction online real. And it isn’t fair to take that social interaction away. Especially if it wasn’t their fault.

Read More >

What Are the Forms of Cyberbullying in 2018? 

Social media and 24/7 connectivity means bullying looks a little different than it did in the pre-digital era. The forms of cyberbullying are many these days, and include cyberstalking, impersonation, doxxing, and more.

But before we get into that, let’s define bullying. For an aggressive act to be considered bullying, three criteria need to be met. First, there needs to be a power differential. The bully has more power than the bullied, be it physical power, social power, or economic power. Second, there is an intent to harm. Bullying isn’t an act of misunderstanding, miscommunication, or an accident. Third, bullying is repeated. A shove is an assault. A shove every day is bullying.

In an online world, each of these characteristics can look very different. For example, power in an online context can refer to somebody being more technically skilled. Cyberbullying is something that every parent worries about and it can be quite complicated.

So, what are the forms of cyberbullying in 2018?


Impersonation works a few ways. A cyberbully can use a false identity (for example, on Facebook) to torment their victim, thus covering their own tracks. Or, a cyberbully can impersonate someone their victim knows, perhaps to damage relationships or wheedle information out of their victim. Or the cyberbully can impersonate their victim in order to ruin a reputation.


Cyberbullies can spread rumours to embarrass or harm their victims. The 24/7 nature of social media means that the rumour mill is always running and kids don’t really have a ‘break’ from their social lives.


Cyberstalking involves following a person across social media and other Internet accounts, frequently sending harassing or aggressive message. The cyberbully will make their victim fear for their safety. The cyberbully may not even know their victim offline.

Note that in Canada, cyberstalking can be considered criminal harassment.


Flaming is when a cyberbully makes vulgar, abusive, or aggressive comments in order to start a fight. Teenagers sometimes call this “drama”.

Sharing Private Images

Cyberbullies can upload or share private or embarrassing images with other cyberbullies. One so-called “sexting ring” in the US has resulted in three teenagers charged with serious crimes and a further 20 referred to a juvenile review board.

In Canada, this is called non-consensual distribution of intimate images and is an evolving area of law.

Note that if you need help removing images from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, a peer’s phone, and more, visit

Password Theft

Cyberbullies can attempt to figure out their victims account passwords to manipulate their social media accounts, humiliate them, or even cyberbully others.

Website Creation

Some cyberbullies have a lot of time on their hands. How much? Enough to create entire websites devoted to torment, humiliate, or embarrass their victims. A Burlington, ON, teenager ended up leaving school after he found out about a website created specifically to bully him.


Doxxing is when someone researches and broadcasts private information about a person or organisation. In the context of cyberbullying, it involves finding out a person’s private accounts and online activities and then making them public. For example, a gay teen may post on an LGBT forum under a username they keep secret. A cyberbully could figure out the username and then publish it widely.

PC Attacks

A tech-savvy cyberbully may attempt to infect their victim’s computer with viruses, spyware, or other malware.

Proxy Attacks

A proxy attack is something only a very technologically savvy cyberbully would try. Basically, the bully installs a proxy on their victim’s computer. The victim’s Internet traffic travels through the proxy, which sends said information to the bully. The bully can then use whatever confidential information they glean in their bullying.

The Bottom Line

The forms of cyberbullying have certainly changed. However, the first step to fighting cyberbullying is knowledge. By understanding the forms of cyberbullying and how bullies operate online, you can help your child or teen take steps to stop cyberbullying.


Read More >