Recognising the Signs of Cyberbullying

Recognising the Signs of Cyberbullying

In this article we help you to identify the signs of the cyberbullying victim and the cyberbully

Article can be used by schools, sports clubs, youth centres and educators to help you identify incidences of cyberbullying.

“Top Tip: Remember that you can’t deal with cyberbullying if you don’t recognise the signs!”

Before we explore the signs, it is important to define what we mean by cyberbullying:

“Cyberbullying is the use of inappropriate behaviour, strength or influence, whether directly or indirectly, and whether verbal, written, physical or through displays of or use of imagery, symbols or otherwise, to intimidate, torment, threaten, harass or embarrass others, using the Internet or other technology, such as mobile telephones.” David Fagan, Lawyer,

Signs that somebody is being cyberbullied – the victim

1. Change in mood

  • Have you noticed the person feeling sad?
  • Are they isolating themselves from social events?
  • Is there a change in behavior, most notably in relation to their attitude to the Internet?
  • Are they reluctant to use their mobile device as often as before; or, when it pings, does it cause a negative reaction?

A sudden change in mood over a period of time may be an indication that a person is being cyberbullied. It can also be a sign of other issues, but it is worth ruling out cyberbullying first by having a gentle conversation that is non-judgmental and friendly.

2. Feeling fearful

Are there signs that the person is feeling fearful in some way? Are they:

  • Afraid to go to school?
  • Afraid to participate in social events?
  • Afraid to attend regular clubs/sporting activities?
  • Afraid to use the Internet?
  • Afraid of their mobile phone when it sends them a message alert or when it starts to ring?

Fear is an emotion that should be cause for concern and, if a person is feeling frequently fearful it may be a sign of cyberbullying. It can also be a sign of other issues, but if you spot fear in a person you care about then you should first try and rule out cyberbullying.

3. Closing down social networking profiles

A person being cyberbullied may shut down some or all of their social networking sites to avoid abuse or messages from the cyberbully. If you know somebody who has suddenly disappeared from social media for an unexplained reason, they may be trying to protect themselves from cyberbullying. If you are concerned about a loved one or a friend, then talk to them.

4. Public images or messages that are derogatory or abusive

Bullying can happen very publicly so you may be witness to it on social networking sites, Internet forums or on gaming devices. Messages for everyone to see may be directed at a person you know or are friends with online.

“Top Tip: Cyberbullies don’t always hide their actions. They may engage in cyberbullying publicly.”

Signs of a cyberbully

There are particular signs that can help you to identify a cyberbully in action – both offline and online.

1. Change in behavior

Are they rude, cheeky, abrupt or negative online? Are they are following one person online and commenting on their posts too much and/or deliberately sending abusive or derogatory messages?

Change in attitude to other people/friends

Have they stopped talking to close friends and positive influencers? Do they avoid interacting with people and have a sudden change in attitude towards attending social gatherings, school and/or extra-curricular activities? Are they interacting with other people who are a bad influence and have a bad reputation? Have they joined forums that are mostly negative?

Change of habits in relation to Internet devices

Are they spending noticeably more time online using Internet devices such as their smartphone, tablet, laptop, games console or PC? Are they using devices privately? Are they using a secret device that you didn’t know about such as a mobile phone? Are they angry if you look at their device? Do they think negative activity online is funny?

2. Comments received from third parties

Have other people commented to you publicly online or privately about the online comments or content of that person? Have other people confided in you that this person is showing signs of being a cyberbully?

3. Change in social media activity

Do they use bad language online frequently and without thinking? Are they constantly on social media to such an extent that it is interfering with daily life? Are they constantly talking about or following, commenting or interacting with one particular person in a negative way?

“Top Tip: Take action and speak out if you know somebody is cyberbullying another person. If you are a victim of cyberbullying tell a trusted adult, take screenshots of the abuse and block and report the bully.”

Cyberbullying is a real issue. It happens every day online and to help put a stop to it you need to recognise the signs. Being a ‘cyberbuddy’ and not a cyberbully is how we can all help to make the Internet a safer place to play, learn and work. It is the responsibility of all of us to be good digital citizens, so please share this article with somebody you know and help us to build a safe global community.

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