Cyberbullying is bullying using electronic technology, including harassing text messages or emails; rumors spread or posted on social networking sites; and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

Cyberbullying is bullying using electronic technology, including harassing text messages or emails; rumors spread or posted on social networking sites; and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that almost 15 percent of high school students were cyberbullied, and research from the 2014 Teens and Screens survey confirms that cyberbullying is increasing significantly. Twenty-four percent of teens and preteens indicate that, if they were cyberbullied, they would not know what to do. Only 41 percent of cyberbullied teens reported the incident to an adult.

Research shows that students who are cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Children may have a difficult time escaping the behavior because cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, with the messages and images being posted anonymously and distributed widely very quickly. Students who are cyberbullied are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, avoid or skip school, receive poor or declining grades, and have low self-esteem and a variety of health problems.

Prevention begins with awareness, both for educators and for students. Educators should talk with their students about cyberbullying and its harmful effects. Here are some additional recommendations for bullying prevention:

  • Know the sites your students visit and their online activities.
  • Establish rules about the appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology.
  • Teach students how to be smart about what they post. Instruct them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others.
  • Encourage students to think about personal privacy (i.e. geo-location): Should complete strangers see this?
  • Remind students to keep their passwords safe and not to share them with anyone.

Each October, individuals and organizations nationwide come together to raise awareness during National Bullying Prevention Month. Educators can take action to prevent all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, by fostering a culture of caring and respect in school, home and the community.