Cyberbullying: Types, Causes and Its Effects


Cyberbullying refers to bullying that happens over digital devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets. SMS, texts, and apps, as well as online social media, forums, and gaming, are all ways for people to engage in cyberbullying. A cyberbully is someone who posts, tweets or sends negative, harmful, false, or hurtful content about another person. A person can embarrass or humiliate someone else by sharing private or personal information about them.

There are instances where cyberbullying crosses the line and becomes unlawful or criminal.

Cyberbullying occurs most commonly in the following places:

  • Social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok
  • Mobile and tablet messaging apps
  • Online chatting, including email and direct messages
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message board sites like Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

Among teens in the United States, 59% report having been bullied or harassed online, and cyberbullying is a public health problem, with its prevalence doubling from 2007 to 2019.

Cyberbullying has become a recent problem with more and more people accessing the Internet. However, its causes remain unclear. Cyberbullying is primarily discussed in the context of how it impacts the victim, without focusing on how to manage cyberbullying, how to reduce cyberbullying, or how to address cyberbullying if you are the bully.

Read: Effects of Bullying on Mental Health

Traits of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can be categorized based on five criteria:  Intention, repetition, power imbalance, anonymity and publicity.


Bullies who engage in online bullying generally intend to cause harm to other people. Even without intent, bullying can still occur if a victim perceives an action as harmful.


One of the hallmarks of cyberbullying is repetition. It also refers to repeated bullying actions on the part of the bully, as well as sharing of material that can last for a very long time on the Internet. Cyberbullying occurs most frequently when people share personal information or photos.

Power Imbalance

The power imbalance between bully and victim is another hallmark of cyberbullying. A public forum can make bullying more difficult, especially if the harassment occurs.


The anonymity of computer screens allows cyberbullies to hide behind them when they bully. The relationship between the bully and the victim does not need to be imbalanced in this case.


The use of publicity is another characteristic of cyberbullying. Bullying should be avoided, especially if it includes publicly humiliating or shaming someone.

Forms of cyberbullying

What are the various forms of cyberbullying? Following is a list of types of cyberbullying.

  • Flaming: Flames are people who use inflammatory language or broadcast offensive messages about others in order to elicit a reaction. Consider the phrase “Crooked Hilary” or “Sleepy Joe Biden” used by Donald Trump.
  • Outing: Sharing embarrassing or personal information about someone online is called “outing”. Cyberbullying of this type tends to occur on a larger scale than it does one-to-one or in small groups.
  • Trolling: When someone trolls someone, they post content or make comments with the intent of making them have an embarrassing reaction online. The purpose of a troll is to rile up people by making derogatory or offensive comments about someone or something. An individual of this type enjoys causing chaos and then observing what happens as a result.
  • Name-calling: Name-calling is the act of demeaning someone else verbally. There is evidence that 42% of teens were called offensive names on their phones or the Internet.
  • Spreading false rumors: A cyberbully who spreads false rumors makes up stories about an individual and then spreads them online. According to the survey, 32% of teens reported spreading false rumors online.
  • Sending explicit images or Messages: It is also possible for cyberbullies to send graphic images and messages to victims without their consent.
  • Cyberstalking/Harassing/Physical threats: Cyberbullies sometimes harass, stalk, or threaten the same people repeatedly. 16% of teens reported getting physical threats from online sources in that same report.

Read: Types of Bullying and Its Impact

What are the reasons for cyberbullying?

What causes people to cyberbully? An individual can become a cyberbully for a wide variety of reasons.

Mental health issues

Cyberbullies may have mental health problems that contribute to their bullying or exacerbate it.  A few examples include impulsivity, hyperactivity and aggression.

Cyberbullying may also affect people with traits relating to the “dark tetrad” of narcissism or psychopathy. They are less likely to display empathy for others and may bully others in order to feel more powerful or valuable.

Victims of bullying

When cyberbullies themselves have been bullied, they sometimes become bullies themselves. Often, they are looking for control or they are trying to lash out after feeling victimized and powerless to retaliate.

Result of conflicts or breakups

Conflicts in the friendship or the breakup of a relationship can trigger cyberbullying between two people who were once friends or in a relationship. Thus, cyberbullying of this type may be considered revenge- and jealousy-driven.

Trying out a different persona or boredom

Some people have suggested that cyberbullying is an act of boredom or the desire to try out a different persona on the Internet.  Anonymous cyberbullying is usually the case.

Loneliness or isolation

People who engage in cyberbullying may also feel isolated or lonely in society. Feeling ignored can lead a person to lash out in order to feel better or vent their ire at society.

Read: How Loneliness Affects Mental Health

Why do people become cyberbullies?

People who bully in real life, as well as online, are different from those who bully exclusively online. What makes this difference? Who would bully another online if they wouldn’t do so in person? This behavior has many explanations.

Non-confrontational & anonymous

It is the nature of the Internet that may make people bullies online when they would not bully in their daily lives. Bullying online can be done completely anonymously. It is impossible to do this in traditional bullying situations.

Online bullying can also be done without confrontation, particularly when conducted anonymously. Consequently, cyberbullies may skip around the Internet leaving nasty comments without bothering to listen to responses.

No need for popularity or physical dominance

It is typically necessary to have some advantage over your victim in order to be a bully in real life. One example of this might be being physically bigger than your victim. One example of this might be being more popular than your victim. It might also be indicative of a power imbalance between you and the other party.

Cyberbullying can be committed by anyone. You don’t need to be popular or dominant to commit cyberbullying. This means bullies can easily bully on the Internet irrespective of the status they hold in real life.

Read: What is a Toxic Relationship

No barrier to entry

Similarly, there is a very low barrier to entry for cyberbullies as well, similar to the concept that there is no need to be dominant or popular. It takes little more than access to the Internet to engage in cyberbullying. It is very easy to bully others online since friends are defined loosely.

No feedback from the victim

One reason for the use of cyberbullying by people who do not bully in person is the lack of feedback from their victims. It takes cyberbullies a long time to engage in bullying, largely because victims don’t provide feedback as they would in face-to-face interaction. If someone is cyberbullied, they are not likely to back off, as they would in real life if they were watching their victim’s reaction.

Differences between in-person bullying and cyberbullying

When a victim of cyberbullying is abused and harassed, there is often no way to escape the abuse. Bullying on the Internet or online never truly stops, and it is unrelenting, unlike what happens in real life.

Victims may feel they can’t escape such harassment, particularly if their personal information is shared or if things posted about them go viral. This kind of bullying can be prolonged.

Read: Paranoid Personality Disorder

Effects of cyberbullying

People who are dealing with cyberbullying may experience several effects. One way to identify when someone is being bullied online is to know what to look for in the victim.

The victims of traditional bullying often cannot escape the abusive situation, so some of these effects are even stronger. Some of these effects are:

  • Feelings of distress caused by the bullying
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Higher levels of anxiety
  • Sleep issues (insomnia)
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Increased feelings of fearfulness
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of unworthiness
  • Spending a lot of time alone, social isolation, or withdrawing from friends
  • Giving up activities they enjoyed in the past
  • Poor academic performance
  • Relationship troubles within the family and with friends
  • PTSD symptoms
  • The act of self-harm (such as cutting, hitting yourself, or headbanging).
  • Substance abuse
  • Angry outbursts, irritability and increased anger

Read: Schizoid Personality Disorder

Characteristics of victims

The following characteristics apply to victims on a regular basis, including:

  • Young adults and teenagers are at the greatest risk
  • It is more likely that girls are victims of spreading false rumors and being exposed to explicit images
  • It might be more common for homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgenders to fall victim to crime
  • Socially awkward individuals, shy people, or those who don’t fit in well may fall prey to this phenomenon
  • Lower-income individuals are more likely to be targeted
  • It is more likely that people who constantly use the Internet will become victims of online bullying.

Cyberbullying can affect anyone, including public figures. Social media users are frequently targeted by cyberbullies due to their large followings.

How to deal with a cyberbully?

Cyberbullying can be dealt with by adults and parents in many different ways. We’ll explore each of them in turn.

As a parent

Getting your child to stop responding to an online bully is the best course of action if they are being bullied online. Further, remind them to save text messages, emails, photos, and any other forms of communication that are associated with cyberbullying. Screenshots are an appropriate method to do so. Make sure you have records of everything your child tells you.

Report cyberbullying incidents to the teacher, principal, or admin at your school in the case that they originate from a school contact. It is also necessary to contact the police if you witness extreme bullying or threats.

Finally, you should assure your child that he/she is not responsible for online bullying. It is possible that victims believe they are somehow responsible for the problem or that their behavior caused the problem. Due to this, it’s crucial for you to ensure that your child understands they are not responsible for what happened.

Read: How to Deal With a Narcissist

As an adult

In dealing with a cyberbully as an adult, you will need to use many of the same principles as above.

Make sure that you keep a record of any instances of bullying, whether they come through text messages, messenger chats, Facebook groups, Instagram DMs, or other means of online communication. You should keep a copy of screenshots and folders with evidence to prove the cyberbullying.

Next, determine if you can take any action against the person who is committing cyberbullying. Does HR have someone at work that you can speak to, for example, if it is a coworker or supervisor? Could you ask other family members for support if it is a family member? Could you block/delete the person from all your social media accounts if they are someone you only know online?

Trying to ignore cyberbullying as much as possible would be the best course of action. It is recommended that you contact the police with the evidence that you have collected if you receive threats.

As a community

Trying to find ways to deal with cyberbullies and find solutions to the problem is not enough for victims of cyberbullying. There are often emotional scars on these victims preventing them from getting help.

Our community’s responsibility is to establish systems that prevent cyberbullying from happening in the first place. We have listed a few potential initiatives below.

Cyberbullied children and teens still need time to learn how to control their emotions and handle social situations. Cyberbullying can have lasting, long-term effects on these young people. It is important to provide cyberbullying victims with mental health resources to help them cope with the trauma.

Bullying thrives on approval and status. When cyberbullying is socially rejected, they are no longer motivated to act in the manner that they are. Whenever online bullying (including troll comments) is observed it should be ignored. Furthermore, online bullying should be addressed with awareness campaigns to show that it is not only not acceptable, but also a sign of social weakness.

Cyberbullying is a problem that parents try to solve by contacting the school. Therefore, schools must have programs and policies in place to prevent and respond to cyberbullying quickly and effectively. Families shouldn’t need to request assistance repeatedly without getting it.

Read: Schizotypal Personality Disorder

What if you are a cyberbully?

Do you know what will happen if you are a cyberbully yourself? The best course of action to take if you are bullying others through cyberspace is to take stock of your reasons for doing so since this will help you decide how to stop. Now, let’s review each of them and what you might do to stop.

You have a mental health issue

Get in touch with your doctor if you think that your psychological health isn’t up to par and this is affecting your cyberbullying behavior. You may benefit from an anger management program if you struggle with anger or aggression.

You will find it more difficult to find insight and change if you lack empathy for others or identify with the characteristics of psychopathy. Nevertheless, you might try to focus your energy on another outcome.

When you are cyberbullying someone, do you ever think about taking up a hobby or starting a business that would allow you to feel the same thrill without creating harm to someone else?

You have been bullied yourself

It is time to examine your options for change if you have been victimized by cyberbullying, and now you are harassing others. There could be unresolved anger within you that needs to be expressed in a different way.

Bullying might also help you feel like a stronger person, which keeps you from feeling like a victim anymore. It may be necessary to improve your self-awareness in that case so that you don’t feel as helpless and powerless. It’s not surprising that you knew how it felt once to be a victim yourself.

You can rise above your past and break the cycle of bullying and victimhood rather than continue down the same path. For that, you will probably need professional assistance, most likely in the form of therapy.

Read: 17 Signs of a Materialistic Person

You had a conflict or breakup

Cyberstalking occurs when you have a conflict with someone or have had a bad breakup, and you should re-evaluate how you are acting. What are you hoping to accomplish by cyberstalking? If these behaviors are caused by your feelings, you will likely need the help of a professional.

Feeling lonely or isolated

Can cyberbullying be the result of being lonely? The victims of this kind of bullying are often those who feel that the world is passing them by. That there is no reason for you to enjoy life since everyone else is.

You should begin to build up your social connections in person in this case. Meet other people who share your interests by joining a club, volunteering, or taking up a hobby.

You are bored

You may want to consider why you believe it is acceptable for you to hurt another to satisfy your need for boredom (if you are not a psychopath).

The world is full of bored people, but none are cyberbullied. Consider taking up a hobby, learning a second language, or finding an activity to do.

Read: Histrionic Personality Disorder

Bottom line

Know that you are not alone if you have been victimized by cyberbullying and there are options available to you. Visit these websites if you need assistance.

Last but not least, even if you are a cyberbully, you can still change. Find alternatives to your bullying behavior by examining your reasons for being a bully.

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