Cyberbullying: What Makes it Unique | PACERTalks About Bullying, Episode 13

Written by: Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center


While the definitions of cyberbullying, sometimes called online bullying, vary from source to source, most definitions consist of:

  1. electronic forms of contact
  2. an aggressive act
  3. intent
  4. repetition
  5. harm to the target
    (Hutson, 2016 )

The technology, accessed through computers or cell phones, used to cyberbully includes:

  • personal websites
  • blogs
  • e-mail
  • texting
  • social networking sites
  • chat rooms
  • message boards
  • instant messaging
  • photographs
  • video games
    (Feinberg & Robey, 2009 )

Other helpful definitions include:

  • Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015 ).
  • Cyberbullying occurs “when someone repeatedly makes fun of another person online or repeatedly picks on another person through e-mail or text message or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like” (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2016 ).
  • Cyberbullying is intentional and repeated harm inflicted on others through the use of electronic devices (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2016 ).
  • Cyberbullying is as an aggressive, intentional act distributed by an individual or group, using contact in an electronic medium, continuously and relentlessly against someone who cannot stand up for himself or herself easily (Smith et al., 2008 ).

Unique characteristics of cyberbullying

Recently a student shared “that all bullying hurts, whether in person or through technology, the end result is that bullying in any form is emotionally damaging.”

Contrasting offline bullying with online bullying:

  1. targets might not know who the bully is or why they are being targeted, as cyberbullying can happen anonymously;
  2. cyberbullying can have a large audience – the actions of those who cyberbully can go viral;
  3. it is often easier to be cruel using technology because of greater physical distance and the person bullying doesn’t see the immediate response by the target – they might not recognize the serious harm from their actions because they lack seeing the target’s response; and
  4. it can be harder for parents and adults to manage cyberbullying

(Hinduja & Patchin, 2014 ).

Rates of Incidence

The information provided was reprinted with permission from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center ( )

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