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Cyberbullying is defined as bullying that occurs via electronic devices. In order to meet the criteria of bullying, the following conditions must be met:

  • the harm caused by the bully (behavior or words) is intentional
  • the target has less physical or psychological power than the bully
  • the harm recurs over time

The most dangerous effects of cyberbullying include:

  • developed social anxiety
  • developed depression
  • suicidal thoughts
  • engagement in self harm

Cyberbullying occurs in many different formats. Some of the more common forms are:

  • doxing – having personal information shared online without consent
  • outing – sharing embarrassing or humiliating information or photos
  • denigrating – spreading gossip or rumors about someone

An overwhelming majority of cyberbullying victims do not tell their parents out of fear that they will be labeled a “tattletale” or a “poor sport.” Parents should be aware of these signs that indicate cyberbullying may be occurring:

  • sleep problems
  • appearing withdrawn, depressed, angry, or anxious, especially after using the internet
  • more frequent use of social media
  • declining grades or work performance
  • decreased desire to attend school
  • lower self-esteem

Parents should take an active role in their children’s lives and familiarize themselves with the current social media trends of teens. Parents should also:

  • educate their child on what cyberbullying is, how to recognize it, and why it is wrong
  • encourage two-way communication with their child
  • explain that they should spread hurtful information or gossip as it might make them a cyberbully or a target for retaliation
  • be understanding so the child will not be afraid to come forward with questions or concerns
  • set ground rules for online activity so there are some boundaries for the child

If a parent discovers that their child has been cyberbullied, the following steps should be considered:

  • talk with the child about cyberbullying and how it has affected them
  • block the cyberbully on all social media accounts
  • save evidence of the cyberbullying in case the school or police need to be involved
  • decide on a plan of action for the child to continue using their social media accounts

More resources are available at and Connect Safely: The Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying. The information on this page was compiled using Sunshine Behavior Health as a resource.