Definition & modalities of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying involves systematic, deliberate and repeated aggressive behaviour inflicted on an individual or group over time. Some people refer to cyberbullying as online stalking or harassment, but there are other modalities like ‘flaming’, ‘catfishing’, or ‘ratting’ that also describe online bullying behaviour.
Cyberbullying is conducted through online communication like email, instant messaging or texting, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and online chat rooms. The intention of cyberbullying is to embarrass, hurt, humiliate, offend, get revenge, have fun, and/or exert power over others. In most cases, cyberbullying is directed at a person or group of people who have difficulty defending themselves. Recipients of cyberbullying can be repeatedly exposed to hurtful behaviour.
If you would like to learn more about what cyberbullying is within higher education contexts, click on the Cyberbullying Fact Sheet link below.
Why do people bully online?
Cyberbullying is a serious problem that cannot be underestimated. In higher education, students and staff are required to teach, learn and interact online in a safe and ethical manner. However, there is research that finds unethical behaviour like cyberbullying is still experienced by people in higher education.
Now that educational interactions and materials are more available online, there is potential for more cyberbullying. Online bullying is motivated by perceived anonymity; unrestrained, constant and easy access; and contact without physical interaction (Carter et al., 2017). There are other reasons why people are motivated to bully others. Some find people find bullying pleasurable, others dislike the person they are bullying or are retaliating to being bullied themselves (Faucher et al., 2014).
Consequences of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can impact peoples mental and physical health in many ways. For example, victims of cyberbullying can feel powerless and afraid that they are missing out. They might also experience self-esteem problems, loneliness, anxiety or distress. As a result, victims might withdraw from their social relationships, form addictions and struggle with their recreational, academic or work pursuits. Bystanders who are witnesses to cyberbullying can have similar issues, or they may feel pressured to participate in the bullying. Any involvement in cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint that is traceable.
Benefits of safe online environments
People who are bullied can experience low academic motivation, which can lead to low performance; decisions to leave; and an overall effect on the persons' wellbeing (Young-Jones et al., 2015). Creating an anti-cyberbullying ethos in higher education can help support and empower the community, thus protecting students and staff from cyberbullying and positively influencing each individual’s wellbeing and academic outcomes (WHO, 2010).
About Prevent Cyberbullying
Prevent Cyberbullying is the leading resource in the prevention of cyberbullying for higher education communities. This website operates by adhering to the Prevent Cyberbullying Mission, Vision and Values detailed below.
Mission Statement: Our mission is to teach the higher education community about cyberbullying and how to prevent cyberbullying. We are committed to empowering people in higher education so they can practice and advocate for positive online behaviour that is respectful, inclusive and safe. To do so, this website provides a way for people to:
Access authentic, evidence-based information and resources that promote an anti-bullying online ethos;
Work with people from all walks of life to build an online community that takes a stand against cyberbullying; and
Use intellectual and creative approaches to prevent cyberbullying.
Vision Statement: Our vision is for people in higher education to rally together to build a positive online environment. We strive to advance an online community who can keep each other accountable and encourage well-informed, critically reflective, safe and considerate treatment of others who are online.
Values in action: Our values and beliefs influence the way we think and act every day. We fundamentally believe in:
Intentional authenticity and social responsibility
Mutual respect and inclusivity
Diverse and collaborative advancement
Purposeful self-reflection and empathy
Intellectual and creative curiosity
Prevent Cyberbullying will continue to grow and change as technology evolves and new, relevant research is shared online. You can find helpful, and current, research-informed resources about preventing cyberbullying by viewing our Take A Stand blog. If you have any recommendations for how this website can address the needs of people in higher education, please contact us.
Professor Margaret-Anne Carter
Meet the team
Prevent Cyberbullying has been developed through the collective effort of students, counselling and academic research staff in higher education. Project Manager Professor Margaret-Anne Carter has worked with a range of university students and staff through several cycles of website testing and design. All present and past contributors to the Prevent Cyberbullying website are listed below.
Elijah van der Kwast
Security and Risk Specialist
Past student contributors
Past staff contributors