Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that has been difficult to define. The general conclusion among scholars is that cyberbullying refers to any aggressive online activity intended to harm another person (Langos, 2014).
Due to the multiple ways that cyberbullying can manifest, cyberbullying is an umbrella term that includes anything from hacking into someone’s account to blackmail. Regardless of the method of abuse, online bullying can be just as harmful to victims as bullying that takes place in person. In fact, the invasiveness of technology can make it even more challenging for victims to recover from online abuse.
With that said, here are 8 different forms of cyberbullying:
Online harassment is when a victim is bombarded with abusive messages from a person or group. These messages could be sent via text message, email, phone call, chat room, or other instant messaging platforms. Regardless of the method used for communication, online harassment can be both hurtful and threatening to victims.
Cyberstalking is when a perpetrator makes repeated efforts to gain contact or access to a victim. This form of online abuse threatens the personal safety of the victim which can create significant fear. Cyber-stalkers go to great lengths to obtain personal information to exploit your privacy and sense of safety.
Denigration involves making derogatory comments about a victim. A common example of denigration is known as “slut-shaming” which involves labeling a victim as a “slut” based on their image or behavior. Cyber-bullies may also distribute sexually explicit images or videos of a victim as a form of revenge or even blackmail (Cybersmile Foundation, 2020).
- Impersonation or masquerading
In some cases, online bullies may hack into your account or a create a false profile to pretend to be you. They may send offensive messages in a manner that could ruin your personal image or embarrass you. This form of online bullying signifies a loss of control over both your personal reputation and online persona.
- Outing and trickery
This form of abuse happens when a perpetrator manipulates a victim into disclosing personal information and exposing these details publicly. An example of outing is known as “revenge porn” which usually involves an ex-partner distributing sexually explicit images or videos publicly (Cybersmile Foundation, 2020). Regardless of how sensitive materials are released, they can humiliate and permanently damage someone’s reputation. Being humiliated on a public stage can also threaten your right to personal privacy.
Being excluded from peer groups can be harmful in-person and exclusion from virtual places of belonging is no different. Online exclusion occurs when a victim is intentionally forbidden from a certain online forum or group. While this form of online bullying may not be as invasive as other forms, it may be used in combination with other forms of cyberbullying to alienate a victim.
- Happy slapping
Happy slapping involves the filming of a physical assault and distributing the footage publicly. Being assaulted is a distressing experience but having that material distributed to endless viewers exacerbates the extreme humiliation associated with being filmed while being assaulted.
Examples of “happy slapping” demonstrate that technological advances can amplify the level of harm caused by physical and emotional attacks. Multiple studies confirm that visual forms of cyberbullying are perceived as the most harmful and serious because they expose vulnerable information (Langos, 2014).
A common theme in these examples is a significant loss of control. Being attacked on virtual platforms can complicate our efforts to defend or protect ourselves. In some cases, legal action may be required to stop online abusers and remove exploitative information from various sites. However, the permanent nature of information leaked to the online world can make it impossible to escape harassment or humiliation. While cyberbullying is often minimized as a “teenage problem,” it can have a profound impact on the psychological health of all online users.
Langos, C. (2014). Cyberbullying: The shades of harm. Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, 22(1), 106-123.
The Cybersmile Foundation. (2020). What is cyberbullying? Retrieved from https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/what-is-cyberbullying