Cyberbullying generally takes a psychological rather than physical form but is often part of a wider pattern of “traditional” bullying. It can be as simple as continuing to send emails to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender, but it may also contain threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (e.g. hate speech), ganging up on victims by making them the subject of ridicule in forums, and posting false statements as fact aimed at humiliation.
Cyberbullies may disclose a victim’s personal information on websites or forums or may pose as the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them. Some cyberbullies may also send threatening and harassing emails and texts to the victims, while others post rumours or gossip and instigate others to dislike and gang up on the target.
The different ways in which technology can be used to cyberbully include:
- Personal Intimidation: sending threatening text (SMS) messages or emails, posting abusive comments on the victim’s profile or other websites or sending threatening messages via instant messaging. These can be sent to a single target, or to a group of people to encourage them to become part of the bullying.
- Impersonation: setting up fake profiles and web pages that are attributed to the victim. It can also involve gaining access to someone’s profile or instant messaging account and using it to contact others and subsequently bully while impersonating the account or profile owner. Anyone contributing to these pages or even visiting them compounds the problem and adds to the distress of the target.
- Exclusion: blocking an individual from a popular group or community such as a school or class group in sites such as Bebo, Facebook or MySpace.
- Personal Humiliation: posting images, videos, blogs or emails intended to embarrass or humiliate someone. It can involve users sharing and posting images or videos of victims being abused or humiliated offline or users sharing personal communications such as emails or text messages with a wider audience than was intended by the sender.
- False Reporting: making false reports to the service provider or reporting other users for a range of behaviours with a view to having the user’s account or website deleted, or sending viruses to a target to delete information from their computer or even to destroy it.