Cyberbullying: Classroom Harassment Goes High-Tech (page 2)

By — Committee for Children
Updated on Mar 9, 2012

Safeguarding Our Children

Is cyberbullying a passing trend or a permanent phenomenon? Dr. Ybarra believes cyberbullying is here to stay. She notes that this practice has been around for at least five years, and is gaining recognition in the health fields, particularly since 1999, when the federal government sponsored the first Youth Internet Safety Survey to gauge the potential for negative online experiences to young users, including unwanted sexual solicitation and harassment. Dr. Ybarra continues to focus her research on the important intersection of children’s mental health and Internet use, and offers suggestions for children, parents, and educators to deal with cyberbullying.

“Adults see the Internet as a thing, but children see the Internet as a place, like home or school,” reflects Dr. Ybarra. “Just like any other environment, it poses both risks and benefits to kids. It’s the job of adults to teach young people how to correctly identify and safely navigate the potential risks, while also taking advantage of the benefits of the online world.”

Important Strategies for Dealing with Online Bullying

Tips for Children

  • Practice appropriate online communication etiquette. Treat people online the same way you would in person—if it’s not okay to say something in person or on the phone, it’s not okay to say it online.
  • Turn off the computer or cell phone immediately if you are being bullied online.
  • Tell an adult you trust about the cyberbullying incident.

Tips for Parents and Educators

  • Educate yourself—know what cyberbullying is, who is most likely to bully or be a target, and when a child is most likely to be distressed by an online bullying incident.
  • Talk to the parents of the bullying child, who often don’t know their child is involved in online bullying.
  • If cyberbullying takes place off campus, a school may get involved if the incident poses a substantial likelihood of disruption at school.
  • Make sure your school has a bullying prevention program in place.

More Tips for Parents

  • Teach your child appropriate social skills for online communication.
  • Remind children not to give out their personal information (address, telephone number, etc.) online.
  • Set age-appropriate boundaries for use of technology and online behaviors.
  • Create open and honest relationships with your children so they feel comfortable coming to you when questions or problems arise.
  • Don’t punish your child if she or he is the target of an online bullying incident. Cutting off your child’s Internet access will not solve the problem. If your child is not upset by the incident, don’t overreact. Partner with your child to come up with a solution.

Distressing Situations for Online Targets

Dr. Ybarra notes that the majority of youth are not affected negatively by cyber bullying. Some are, however. It’s important to talk to your children about how they feel about the experience and help them deal with any negative feelings they may have as a result.

Characteristics of Online Targets

Seventy percent of online targets are 14 years and older. In 1999, the Youth Internet Safety Survey revealed that 6 percent of youth report being harassed online in the previous year. Of those who report being bullied online: 48 percent are female, and 33 percent report feeling distressed by the incident. Most episodes occurred in instant messaging (33 percent), chat rooms (32 percent), and emails (19 percent). Fortunately, 76 percent of those harassed online report the incident to a friend, parent, or person of authority.

Characteristics of Children Who Bully Online

Children who bully online tend to be older than those who bully in person. Traditional bullying peaks in middle school and drops off during the high school years. According to the 1999 Youth Internet Safety Survey, 52 percent of online bullies are older adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 years, and 54 percent are male. Less than one third (28 percent) of bullies were known to the victims offline before the event.

by Kara Witsoe Committee for Children

Back to list of cyber bullying articles.


Nansel, T., et al. (2001). "Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth: Prevalence and Association with Psychological Adjustment.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 285(16), 2094–2100.

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