Bullying is something every parent worries about when they drop their children off at school, take them to the playground or let them hang out at another kid's house. But many kids experience bullying from the safety of their own homes.

The World Wide Web is full of all kinds of places and people. Unfortunately some people take advantage of being able to hide behind a screen, which makes bullying even more prevalent online than out in the real world. When teens were asked if they thought bullying was easier online 81% answered yes. In addition, a third of kids between 12-17 years old say they have been the victims of cyber bullying.

Part of the reason cyber bullying is so prevalent is because bullies have many ways to harass their victims:

  • E-mail
  • Instant messaging
  • Social media
  • Chat rooms
  • Online Games
  • Text messages
  • Websites
  • Apps

The Internet also gives bullies entirely new, high tech ways to intimidate and push other kids around.

Cyber Bullying Comes in Many Forms

An excellent report from the Brookings Institution notes that a substantial amount of information on the subject of cyber bullying exists. However, one problem that has been discovered is that identifying bullies isn't always easy. There is a broad spectrum of online activities that can be considered cyber bullying.

Types of cyber bullying includes:

  • Sending malicious malware.
  • Initiating harassing text and instant messaging threads.
  • Impersonation.
  • Sending out pictures or videos of the victim.
  • Trash talking over voice chat.
  • Sending a barrage of junk emails.
  • Using blogs and social media to start hurtful rumors.
  • Online polling.
  • Hacking accounts.

It's important that parents understand these different forms of cyber bullying so that they can discuss online behavior with their kids and quickly identify if they are being victimized.

Age and Sex Are Factors in Online Bullying

The older a kid is the more likely they are to be bullied online. This is mostly because older kids are given more freedom and additional ways of using the Internet. Smart phones are particularly influential. These Internet-connected devices open teens up to hurtful apps like Burn Book as well as social media. Harassing text messages can be sent by individuals or groups. What's worst is the bullying goes with a kid wherever they are when they have a smartphone.

Another interesting fact is that girls are twice as likely to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying than boys. If you have a teen daughter the likelihood of being involved with cyber bullying is fairly high.

Socializing That Leads to Bullying on Social Media Platforms

Kids spend a lot of time socializing online. A Pew Research Center study found that 80% teens are actively using social media today. Facebook is the biggest platform, but many teens are starting to diversify their social media use. They are using a variety of sites and apps like Instagram and Snapchat that let them share videos, post photos, send messages and bully others.

Another way that kids harass each other online is by creating accounts that are almost identical to another person's then sending out threatening and mean messages. In this way a bully picks on others while also harming the reputation of the person they are imitating.

Creating online polls is another way that bullies get other people involved in their harassment. These are the old Who's Hot, Who's Not type of polls that use to circulate on paper among a few people but are now on the web for anyone to see.

The Prevalence of Cyber Bullying in Online Gaming

Online games are fun for most players, but when a kid is getting bullied it can completely ruin the experience. Competition and role-playing paired with the ability to chat and instant message makes it easy for bullies to trash talk while others are just trying to play.

In addition to verbal abuse, gaming cyber bullies will also try to infect other players' computers, get people locked out of the game and hack into accounts.

Is Your Kid the Cyber Bully?

Many parents are surprised to find that their kids aren't being bullied because they are the ones doing the cyber bullying. There are even some kids who report they've been bullied but also admit that they've bullied others themselves.

Kids will go to great lengths to hide their inappropriate activities online. They'll go so far as to open up multiple social media accounts and delete emails or messages to cover their tracks and keep their parents in the dark. This is why discussing online etiquette with kids is so important.

They have to understand that what they do and say online can cause serious problems offline. Not only will they hurt other kids' feelings, they can also get themselves blocked by ISPs, websites and apps if they aren't following the terms of service and codes of conduct. Kids should also understand that if the bullying is threatening or severe law enforcement could get involved and even hold their parents accountable.

Lay out Internet conduct rules and punishments if they don't follow them to show your kid how serious the issue really is.

3 Things Every Parent Should Do to Protect Their Kids From Cyber Bullies

Know the Internet - "Personally, I find that plenty of parents are not aware of what their children are using the Internet for," said V Phan, a social worker and mother. "It becomes a good babysitter. In addition to this, aging parents are way less savvy than their child, preteen or teen when it comes to Internet use." Knowing how things work online and what types of activities your kids are engaging in is the first line of defense against dealing with cyber bullies.

Talk to Your Kids About Online Conduct - In addition to discussing your kid's online etiquette talk to them about the issue of cyber bullying. Let them know what is and isn't acceptable. Discuss what they should do if they encounter a cyber bully. The most important thing is that they not respond or retaliate as this usually just makes the bullying worse.

Let Kids Know They Can Come to You - Nearly 40% of kids don't tell their parents when they experience something negative online. Why? They think their parent will react negatively. Reassure your kid that you are there to help, and you won't be angry or upset if they come to you when they are feeling bullied. It's also a good idea to create an action plan with your kid that details how you'll handle the issue should it occur.

Additional Resources:

Cyberbullying - Mashable

Youth Internet Safety: Risks, Responses, and Research Recommendations - Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings Institute

Bully Blocking - Bullying and Social Resilience Resources

Ultimate Parent's Guide to Internet Safety Infographic



Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.