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What is cyberbullying, and how to prevent it

Cyberbullying is any form of abuse online done to make someone feel worthless and vulnerable. Protecting yourself from online bullying and ensuring your cybersecurity doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn more about cyberbullying and keep yourself safe online.

Daniel Markuson

Daniel Markuson

What is cyberbullying, and how to prevent it

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place in virtual spaces, including bullying via social networks, emails, text messages, gaming platforms, or chat rooms. Bullies use digital space to harass, humiliate, or threaten someone. Online abuse can be especially harmful because it can be anonymous, take place 24/7, and reach a broad audience.

Not only do children and young adults face this, but adults can cyberbully each other as well. However, this is often called cyber harassment or cyberstalking, which can be punishable crimes.

Sometimes, cyberbullying is a digital extension of traditional types of bullying. However, there are some differences. The physically violent aspect of playground bullying is gone online. Instead, cyberbullying can spread abusive messages farther and faster than ever before.

There are many different types of cyberbullying. Identifying and being aware of these practices can help keep you safe.

What is the difference between teasing and bullying?

Friends often tease or make jokes about each other without meaning to offend or hurt, but there is a limit to when seemingly innocent jokes turn into bullying, especially online. While teasing each other is playful and meant to be harmless, bullying makes the person suffer and involves repeated aggressive behavior.

Joking around in a lighthearted or good-natured way is supposed to make you laugh, but if they are laughing and you feel like it’s too much – this is bullying. The abuser’s deliberate desire to harm puts the victim in a position of powerlessness and may lead to physical violence, social exclusion, or unwanted attention from strangers.

Whatever the bully’s intentions, you shouldn’t suffer and defend yourself. Once the bullying starts, there is a big chance it will repeat. And nobody deserves to be bullied, so if you experience this kind of negative interaction, it is worth getting help because cyberbullying may have severe and long-lasting effects on your mental health.

How does cyberbullying affect people?

Cyberbullying is dangerous because it can reach you at any time, day or night, and anywhere, such as at work, or even in your safe space – at home. Sometimes, bullying on the internet is carried out by anonymous people, making it even more ruthless, possibly resulting in depression, haunting you for a long time, and not giving you any peace of mind. The effects of cyberbullying include the following:

  • Emotional distress. Cyberbullying may cause feelings of sorrow, anxiety, fear, and depression. It can also lead to low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness.
  • Physical symptoms. Emotional stress may manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches.
  • Difficulty in school or at work. Bullied people may find concentrating and learning at work or school challenging.
  • Social isolation. People who are bullied often withdraw from everyday social interactions and avoid certain people or places.

Bullied people often face difficulties seeking help or speaking up for themselves, but finding someone trustworthy in such a situation can prevent self-harm or even save a life. Every victim of online harassment can benefit from talking to a therapist who can help them learn how to respond to the bully in a healthy way and work through the effects of bullying.

Mental effects of cyberbullying

Victims of cyberbullying often feel trapped and as if there is no escape from the abuse. The constant sense of insecurity, fear, and anxiety may lead to more severe and often long-lasting mental issues. Shame, guilt, or a feeling of judgment may force the person to isolate themselves from family and friends, making the situation even less bearable.

Online bullying can affect a person’s self-esteem, making them feel worthless and unloved. Consequently, victims of bullying may start to feel unhappy with who they are or how they look and start questioning their value.

Losing motivation and neglecting your favorite activities are other effects of cyberbullying. It may become hard to concentrate at work and learn. Teenagers or children who face online bullying may start skipping school to avoid any triggers for further bullying. Severe cases of cyberbullying may lead a person to use alcohol or drugs to hide from reality.

The effect of cyberbullying on mental health depends on the bully and their methods, the intensity of bullying, and many other factors. However, none of the side effects should be ignored, and talking to family, loved ones, or school counselors can be the first step toward protecting your mental health.

Where can I report cyberbullying?

If you are being bullied, the first step is to speak up. Talk to an adult you trust, whether it’s your parents, grandparents, school counselor, or favorite teacher. They will help you to take the right steps, like reaching out to social media platforms or the police to end the harassment.

When the right people know about online harassment, they can help you take further action to block the bully. While blocking them on social media sites may not prevent them from creating another account and continue spreading emotional distress, it may slow them down.

If you witness online harassment in your close environment, it is crucial to show them support and to act on ending the bullying for good. Report the bully to your teacher or an adult you trust.

Talk to a professional counselor if you don’t want to talk to someone close. You can find a helpline in your country to help you overcome this emotionally dreadful period.

Think about the content you share

In a perfect world, the internet should be an indispensable tool and a safe space for browsing and sharing, but the reality is different. With all the convenience comes threats that we must be aware of.

It’s not just about reporting bullying; it’s about preventing it before it starts. And this depends on all of us! Awareness of the potential consequences of sharing information or content online is essential. Think before you post and consider whether the information or content is appropriate to share because an evil tongue may turn against you or the people around you.

Are there any online anti-bullying tools?

Every social network has security systems to protect against unwanted content or people. Online anti-bullying tools include:

  • Filtering and blocking tools. Such tools allow you to block or filter unwanted or offensive content and block specific users from contacting you.
  • Monitoring and reporting tools. These tools allow you to report bullying and harmful behavior to website administrators for review and possible removal.
  • Social media tools. Social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, feature built-in tools and settings that allow users to control who can see their posts and contact them.
  • Cyberbullying education. In addition to technical tools, educating yourself and your children about cyberbullying can be a powerful tool to prevent it.

Are there any online anti-bullying tools?

The best way to protect your personal or private information from prying eyes is to be mindful of the information you share on the internet. Once your personal data is online, it stays there forever and may receive unwanted attention. So keep personal details such as your home address, telephone number, or school address to yourself. Only share personal information that is necessary and that you are comfortable making public.

Here are some tips to keep your personal information safe:

  • Personalize your privacy settings on social networks. Limit the amount of personal information that other users can see.
  • Be careful who you add to your friends list or follow on social networks. Only connect with people you know and trust.
  • You can permanently block a person to prevent them from seeing your shared content or contacting you.
  • Report unwanted photos, videos, or other offensive content, as well as harmful profiles.
  • Be aware of your digital footprint and what it reveals about you.
  • Do your research and educate yourself about how social media works and how to protect your privacy.
  • If you feel that your personal information has been used to manipulate or humiliate you, report it to the social media platform and consider contacting law enforcement if appropriate.

Try to keep your shared information to a minimum, report if you see someone bully another person on social platforms, and be kind to others. We all want online bullying to stop, so let’s start with ourselves to ensure a happy and harmless online environment.


Daniel Markuson
Daniel Markuson Daniel Markuson
Daniel is a digital privacy enthusiast and an internet security expert. As the blog editor at NordVPN, Daniel is generous with spreading news, stories, and tips through the power of a well-written word.