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Combat Online Bullying: Supporting Positive Student Behaviors on Campus and at Home

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Cyberbullying is a serious problem for tweens and teens nationwide. Up to 83% of teens will experience cyberbullying, either as a bully, victim, or witness (Source: Bark). It is more important than ever for parents and educators to come together to prevent bullying (online and in-person) to help protect students. 

Students have more options than ever before to stay connected with each other and communicate with strangers. Previously, students who were bullied at school could find relief at home or other safe spaces away from their bully. Today, students have smartphones and social media, allowing them to stay connected 24 hours a day—which means a cyberbully can continue the harassment no matter where the student goes. 

These cyberbullying prevention techniques and tips from experts can help students protect themselves from cyberbullying and help adults understand how they can provide support.

Educators and parents: Guide your students' reflection and discussion with this student worksheet. (Log in to your Google account and select File-->Make a Copy)

How to Support a Friend Who is Being Cyberbullied (Student Video)

How to Deal with a Cyberbully (Student Video)

Combat Online Bullying (Student, Parent, and Educator Video)

What Parents Need to Know about Online Bullying (Parent and Educator Video)

Red Flags that Your Child is a Victim of Cyberbullying (Expert Video)

How to Support a Child Who is Being Cyberbullied (Expert Video)

What Is Cyberbullying?

  • Cyberbullying involves the use of digital technologies such as the internet, social media, and smartphones to harass, threaten, or purposely embarrass another person
  • There is often a power imbalance, which can be physically, socially, or intellectually
  • There is an intent to harm with cyberbullying, meaning it is not an accidental offense
  • True bullying is ongoing and not a one-time incident

What Is Not Considered Bullying? 

  • Accidental harm: When someone accidentally bumps into you in the hallway or during sports, it's not always bullying. Bullying involves intentional harm
  • Single disagreement: A one-time argument or disagreement (online or in person) with a classmate, even if it's heated, doesn't qualify as bullying. Bullying is repetitive and targeted
  • Not being chosen for a team or seeing a photo of an event you weren’t included in: Feeling left out because you weren't picked for a team or a group activity isn't always bullying. Bullying is about repeated and deliberate exclusion
  • Joking among friends: Careless jokes among friends (online or offline) that end up being hurtful but weren’t meant that way usually don't constitute bullying. Bullying is about causing harm, distress, or fear
  • Not sharing interests: A friend not wanting to hang out with you is not always bullying. Bullying involves deliberate and repeated hostile behavior
  • People ignoring you: Sometimes your friends are going through a lot and can’t respond to you online. They may have struggles you don’t know about

What Types of Messages Do Cyberbullies Send? 

  • Insults or name-calling - Messages that contain derogatory language aimed at belittling or shaming an individual
  • Public shaming - Messages that aim to embarrass or humiliate an individual in a public online space such as a social media platform, including sending embarrassing, sensitive, or private messages
  • Threats - Messages that include threats of harm or intimidation, attempting to instill fear in the victim
  • Manipulation - Messages that try to control or coerce an individual into doing something against their will
  • Harassment - A barrage of unwanted messages that may be aggressive, condescending, or offensive
  • Identity theft - Sending messages while pretending to be the victim, often to ruin their reputation or relationships

How Can You Avoid Becoming A Cyberbullying Victim?

  • Protect your personal information - Don’t make it easy for an online bully to target you. Keep your passwords and contact information private 
  • Think before posting - Don’t post anything online unless you are comfortable with everyone seeing it
  • Choose your friends wisely - Only accept friend/follow requests from people you trust and know in person. Block anyone who is negative towards you
  • Establish good online boundaries - Decide how you want to be treated, and speak up when those boundaries are crossed so things don’t escalate 
  • Focus on self-confidence - Showing confidence can often scare bullies away, but it can also help you recover from situations that would otherwise tear you down

What To Do If You See Cyberbullying (or experience it)

  • Don't respond or retaliate - If students are targeted, advise them not to respond or retaliate, as this can often make the situation worse
  • Regularly check and clean up profiles - Have students review their online profiles regularly and remove anything that could make them a target
  • Be an upstander, not a bystander - Encourage students to support peers who are bullied online and to report it to an adult
  • Save the evidence - Encourage students to save messages or take screenshots of any bullying in case they need to report it
  • Use reporting features - Teach students how to use the report features on social networks and online platforms to report cyberbullying
  • Discuss online interactions with a trusted adult - Foster an environment where students can talk about their online interactions with parents or teachers so they don’t feel alone
  • Know when to disconnect - Encourage students to take breaks from social media and to disconnect from devices if they are feeling overwhelmed by online interactions

Dialogue Starters Around Cyberbullying

  • Have you ever seen someone being embarrassed or humiliated online, like with private images or personal secrets being shared? How did that make you feel?
  • Have you or any of your friends ever received messages with mean words or name-calling? How did you react to those messages?
  • Has anyone ever tried to pressure or trick you into doing something you didn't want to do online? How did you handle it?
  • Has there ever been a time when you felt scared or intimidated by something someone said to you online? Can you tell me about it?
  • Has anyone ever pretended to be you online or sent messages using your name? How did that affect your friendships or reputation?
  • Have you ever received repeated messages online that made you uncomfortable or upset? What did those messages say?

Signs Your Student is Being Bullied Online

If you notice a change in your student's habits then that might be a sign your child is being bullied online.

  • Shows signs of aggression
  • Change in habits
  • Loses interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Withdrawn, doesn’t want to talk

Dialogue Starters to Determine if Your Child is Being Bullied 

  • How do you feel after spending time online?
  • Have you ever seen someone being treated unkindly online? How did that make you feel?
  • How do you think someone feels when they are being bullied online?
  • Who are the adults or friends you trust enough to talk to if a situation online makes you feel uncomfortable?
  • What are some safe ways to respond if you see someone being bullied online?
  • Have there been any times when you have felt bullied or uncomfortable by something that was said to you online?

Steps for Parental Intervention

  • Talk to your child - Have an open and supportive conversation about what’s happening and what your child feels the best solution would be
  • Document the bullying - Keep a record of incidents, including dates, times, and descriptions
  • Contact the school - Work with teachers and administrators to address the issue
  • Professional support - Consider seeking help from a counselor or psychologist if your child is struggling emotionally
  • Legal advice - In severe cases, if the bullying includes illegal activity, such as physical assault or sharing nude photos, legal advice might be necessary
  • Empower your child - Work with your child to develop strategies to handle bullying and to boost their confidence and resilience

Support Services for Students Dealing with Cyberbullying

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://988lifeline.org/chat/
  • Stop Bullying Now Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • No Bully Help Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
  • LGBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743

More resources for parents, students, & educators 


Cyberbullying is a serious issue that is impacting the lives of many students today. Recognizing the tactics used by cyberbullies and having a clear understanding of how to support students who are being cyberbullied is crucial. Parents and educators need to keep the lines of communication open with students to support them and help them respond to bullies in a healthy way. Cyberbullying is an ongoing problem. It will require vigilance, empathy, and a collective effort to create safer spaces online.

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In this guide, parents & educators will learn:

  • What is and is not cyberbullying
  • Expert advice on how to deal with cyberbullying
  • What to do if a student sees (or experiences cyberbullying)
  • Advice for parents around online bullying

Learn why parents and educators should care about online bullying

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


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