Cyberbullying is a problem so many children, families and caregivers deal with. BRIDGES is taking a closer look at what is bullying and how to deal with it.

What Is Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

Special Concerns

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Laws and Sanctions

All states have laws requiring schools to respond to bullying. As cyberbullying has become more prevalent with the use of technology, many states now include cyberbullying, or mention cyberbullying offenses, under these laws. Schools may take action either as required by law, or with local or school policies that allow them to discipline or take other action. Some states also have provisions to address bullying if it affects school performance. You can learn about the laws and policies in each state, including if they cover cyberbullying.

What To Do?

If you have done everything you can to resolve the situation and nothing has worked, or someone is in immediate danger, there are ways to get help.

Problem: There has been a crime or someone is at immediate risk of harm. What you can do: Call 911.

Problem: Someone is feeling hopeless, helpless, thinking of suicide. What you can do: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in our national network. These centers provide 24-hour crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Problem: Someone is acting differently than normal, such as always seeming sad or anxious, struggling to complete tasks, or not being able care for themselves. What you can do: Find a local counselor or other mental health services. The Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help consumer portal prototype can help consumers get to the correct resource to solve their Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder insurance coverage issue.

Problem: A child is being bullied in school. What you can do: Contact the: 1)teacher 2) school counselor, 3) school principal, 4) school superintendent, and/or 5) State Department of Education. See more on working with the school.

Problem: The school is not adequately addressing harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion. What you can do: Contact: 1) school superintendent, 2) State Department of Education, 3) U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and/or 4) U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

Palm Beach County School District

This year, the district’s hotline number is changing. The district is updating its phone system and the old number constituted a long distance call in some reaches of the district. To remove that barrier, a new phone number has been instituted: 561-434-8200.

The number is on the district’s website under the “Students & Parents” tab, listed as District Bullying Hotline. The number and link are also on the school district’s phone app. Schools are hanging posters on campus with the new number and a QR code to scan that can send you to the district’s bullying hotline page with a form to fill out or the number to call. The form takes details and can be filled out anonymously. As is now the norm nationally, Florida has anti-bullying laws that address everything from teasing to stalking, threats and physical violence, both in-person and so-called cyberbullying done through technology.