What Is Cyberbullying?

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13207

How can you tell the difference between a joke, a mean comment, and bullying? Is there a way to distinguish one from the other? Let's explore the signs of cyberbullying and learn how to spot it!


Communications, Interpersonal Skills

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Imagine walking into your classroom thinking about how great your day will be. As soon as you step into the room, all eyes are on you, and some students even burst into laughter. You have no clue what is going on. So many things race through your confused mind as you walk across the room toward your assigned seat.

When you sit down, some of your classmates in the back call you names, which makes the laughter even louder. One of your good friends stands up and asks your classmates to stop before she quietly approaches you. With a concerned face, she reluctantly shows you something on her cellphone.

What? Your eyes widen in surprise as you look at a ridiculous childhood photo of you, captioned "ugly duckling," that is spreading on social media.

  • How did someone get this photo of you?
  • How many people have seen this?
  • Who is sharing it?

You have absolutely no idea what to do. You are so confused. You are so embarrassed.

  • This is a terrible situation to be in, right?
  • What do you think you should do?

The widespread popularity of virtual communication through social media makes it possible to connect with just a click. Most of us enjoy navigating through these applications. However, many people are victimized by persistent abusive language and other forms of unwanted online activity. In this lesson, you will explore the meaning of cyberbullying and learn effective strategies on how to deal with it.

What Is Cyberbullying?

  • Have you ever been bullied before?
  • In what way?
  • Did you tell anyone about it?

In the past, bullies had to identify themselves and be physically present to hurt their victims physically and emotionally. While this is still happening in some cases, many bullies have gone online.

Strategically, cyberspace is a perfect platform to bully someone without identifying yourself. In fact, it is so efficient that hundreds or even thousands of people can be sent abusive content with just a few clicks. This is cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that happens through digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. It can be shared in many forms such as SMS, text, apps, social media, forums, or gaming sites where people can view, participate in, or share content.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.
  • sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

In some cases, cyberbullying even crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior, resulting in many other tragic events.


The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
  • SMS (Short Message Service), also known as text message, sent through devices
  • instant or direct message via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features
  • email

Cyberbullying on Spotlight

  • How do you know if it is cyberbullying?

While some cases of cyberbullying are easy to spot, it is important to understand that not all conflicts occurring on the technology mentioned above qualify as cyberbullying. You may have an argument with a friend on Facebook Messenger, banter with each other in a forum, or crack jokes through SMS. However, if the messages are not sent consistently for the purpose of hurting you, then it is not cyberbullying.

Below are some common examples of cyberbullying situations:

  • posting and/or sharing hurtful or embarrassing things about someone online
  • spreading rumors or gossip about someone online
  • sending mean messages through email, text, or SMS
  • making fun of someone in chat messages
  • threatening or intimidating someone online or in a text message
  • taking an embarrassing photo or video and sharing it without permission
  • pretending to be another person by creating a fake online profile

Watch Stacey's Story: When Rumors Escalate, from Common Sense Education, to hear a personal cyberbullying experience:

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  • What form of bullying was used to harass Stacey?
  • How did she respond?
  • If you were Stacey, would you have done the same thing? Why or why not?

Four Ways to Deal with Cyberbullying

There are several ways to deal with cyberbullying; however, the way you choose to respond will depend on the situation. Not matter what you do, persistent bullying is not easy to deal with. Cyberbullying can be incredibly stressful and hurtful.

While your first reaction may be to fight back or detach from your peers, there are better choices you can make.

  • Avoid Responding

Cyberbullies love your attention. If a bully makes inappropriate remarks about you online or sends you hurtful messages, the best response is to remain calm and not respond at all. Even responses like Please stop or I will report you to the authorities may not be helpful. In fact, sending back insults or exchanging hurtful remarks with the bully could make the situation even worse.

  • Gather Information

In most cases, cyberbullies do not identify themselves. They may use fictitious names on email, text messages, and social media as a disguise. Remaining unknown to their victims gives them the courage to bully in many ways.

It is important that you keep messages, emails, and screenshots for future reference. This information is evidence that may be helpful in identifying the bully later on.

However, it is not advisable to read these hateful comments over and over because it will not make you feel any better. Remember that the messages do not reflect who you are. Focus instead on how important you are to others.

  • Block or Report

After collecting evidence of the cyberbullying, many social media sites will allow you to block or report a user. You can find these options in the settings of the site. It is important to review the policies or terms and conditions of these sites or apps because they are designed to protect you from these situations.

If the bullying becomes so serious that you are threatened with harm, you must inform your parents or another trusted adult. They may decided to contact the police.

  • Talk to an Adult

Cyberbullying is a serious matter. For help coping with the embarrassment and humiliation, you need to talk to a trusted adult. This could be your parent, guardian, counselor, coach, or teacher.

Adults have the resources needed to take further steps and make sure the cyberbullying ends. Regardless of who is bullying you or how they are doing it, a trusted adult will help protect you.

You do not have control over cyberbullying, but there are positive things you can do to make sure you are not a victim! In the Got It? section, you will review the basic concepts of cyberbullying and practice appropriate responses in case you encounter similar situations.

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