What Is Cyberbullying?

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kelly Dillard is a psychology student at the University of North Texas as well as an accomplished dancer and pageant contestant. A strong advocate for cyberbullying-prevention efforts, Kelly Dillard recently appeared on a national talk show to discuss her experiences.

Cyberbullying involves using the Internet, cell phones, and similar technology to humiliate, harass, or threaten an individual. The behavior includes starting disparaging rumors online or by text message, sharing photos without consent, creating a fake online profile to intimidate or embarrass someone, spreading someone’s personal information to others, or sending malicious emails, texts, or other messages. While all bullying is hurtful, cyberbullying has several distinctive aspects. It is often done anonymously so a victim may not know the source of the bullying, and it can frequently be more abusive than bullying that occurs in person. It also has more far-reaching effects since online commentary and images can be accessed at all times.

Cyberbullying can have a range of consequences for its targets. It can affect school and work performance, and negative information posted by a cyberbully may even prevent an individual from finding employment. Other consequences for a victim of cyberbullying can include depression and anxiety and, in some cases, withdrawal from previously enjoyable social activities.

A victim should discuss cyberbullying with a trusted person or victim advocate. He or she should also report the cyberbullying to an Internet service provider or website administrator and keep detailed records of all incidents in case law enforcement needs to get involved. Although many states have enacted laws against cyber-stalking, less threatening forms of cyberbullying are not yet considered criminal. Many victims of cyberbullying, like Kelly Dillard, are promoting laws that balance free speech rights with an individual’s ability to seek legal redress.

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