Cyberbullying That’s Not So Obvious

On the final day of Bullying Prevention Month, I wanted to shed a little light on some types of cyberbullying that are not so obvious but just as dangerous and hurtful.  As parents, it’s important be aware of some behaviors that are more passive-aggressive, and thus much harder for us to detect.  After all, this new social world our children live in is far more vast and complex than the one we had to manage when we were their ages.  Bullying looks a lot different for this generation, and cyberbullying is evolving and taking on a few new forms.

First, a refresher on a few of the latest cyberbullying statistics taken directly from

Cyber Bullying Statistics 2014

  1. 25 percent of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying via their cell phone or on the internet.
  2. Over half (52 percent) off young people report being cyber bullied.
  3. Embarassing or damaging photographs taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject has been reported by 11 percent of adolescents and teens.
  4. Of the young people who reported cyber bullying incidents against them, one-third (33 percent) of them reported that their bullies issued online threats.
  5. Often, both bullies and cyber bullies turn to hate speech to victimize their target. One-tenth of all middle school and high school students have been on the receiving end of ‘hate terms’ hurled against them.
  6. Over half (55 percent) of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium.
  7. An astounding 95 percent of teens who witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior..

OK. We know it happens.  A lot. Despite increased efforts in education and awareness nationwide, we still turn on TV or browse the news online and run into sad or tragic cyberbullying stories far too frequently.  However, for the most part (making a big generalization here!) older kids generally know it’s wrong to cyberbully anyone- obviously, some do it anyway.  BUT. Some have become savvy about how to get the job done without being too obvious.

As parents, if we know exactly how some of the passive-aggressive cyberbullying behaviors work, we are better equipped to understand the potential hurt they cause and to open new lines of dialogue with our children.

I asked one of our teen guest bloggers to talk about some examples of this uniquely packaged behavior that she has either seen or heard about in her social world.


Cyberbullying that YOU can’t see

Contributed by guest blogger, Lexie Maitland

Cyberbullying is prevalent. People call one another names, leave nasty comments on photos, and put forth hatred towards other people.  And, while there are many obvious forms of cyberbullying, but there are also plenty of ways that aren’t as transparent. Just because YOU don’t see someone being cyberbullied online, doesn’t mean that it isn’t actually happening. Unfortunately, cyberbullies have found a way to be mean AND keep on the down low.  Here’s how:

1.) Unfriending/ unfollowing- Although this may sound like no big deal, when someone unfriends or unfollows another person, that person may potentially be offended or hurt and then assume that the person doesn’t like them.   It’s altogether different if you unfriend or unfollow someone because they post innapropriate content or because you don’t really know them well, but in certain scenarios, it can actually be a form of cyberbullying.  Let me explain.

Scenario: Let’s say that that one person (Person A) doesn’t like another person (Person B) because Person B always tries to hang out with Person A, and Person A has decided they are no longer friends. Person A yells at Person B and calls her a bunch of mean names. When Person A gets on her Twitter account, she immediately unfollows Person B.  This act was extremely rude and intentional. It could be considered cyberbullying because Person A is obviously trying to make Person B feel bad about about herself.

My commentary:  Parents, we have to remember that our kids have a whole different social currency than we did.  While being “unfollowed” may seem silly or trivial to us as adults, it’s analogous to saying, “you’re not my friend anymore” in public.

2.) Tagging- For those of you who may not be familiar with this concept, tagging is when you can link someone’s name to a photo or tweet that you posted. Tagging is normally harmless, but in some cases it isn’t. For instance, someone may tag another in a picture to intentionally make them feel left out.

Scenario: Let’s say that there is a big party taking place at Person A’s house. Person B, however, was the only person out of her friend group that wasn’t invited. The next day, Person A posts a picture of her party on Instagram and tags everyone in it, including Person B who was not invited. This act may seem simple and harmless on the outside, but it is extremely hurtful to Person B because it intentionally reminds her that she wasn’t invited.   Most adults who might be following Person A would never notice this because of the context and the way in which Person B was bullied “behind the scenes.”  Essentially, most people who see the post are going to assume the Person B was at the party and that’s why she was tagged. The truth and the motive behind the destructive tweet is well hidden.

My commentary: Wow.  That’s overwhelming.  And, it’s not something we can easily pick up on as parents.  Open communication, frequent dialog about what’s going on in our kids’ lives, and coaching them to manage a positive social media presence are critically important here. 

Cyberbullying comes in many forms. Whether it’s direct and transparent or hidden and passive-aggressive, it’s hurtful, mean, and wrong.  As parents, we need to keep the focus on raising awareness and educating our kids about the importance of online manners and positive digital citizenship.