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August 30, 2016
by Hilda Huj

Cyberbullying: The New Era of Bullying That Affects Us All

August 30, 2016 00:02 by Hilda Huj  [About the Author]

Bullying has been a social problem since the beginning of civilized men. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are many different definitions of bullying. However, generally speaking, we can define bullying as repeated intimidation, over time, of a physical, verbal, and psychological nature of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group of people (Slee, 1996).The latter definition gives us a sense of how intricate bullying is.

The problem of bullying has always been complex and challenging. However, over the last couple of decades, things have become more challenging with quick development of electronic media.

Emergence of Cyberbullying            

While physical bullying appears to continue, the proliferation of the use of computers, the internet, and mobile technology has provided additional mechanisms for bullies to reach their victims (Walker, Sockaman, & Koehn, 2011). In order to describe this new form of bullying the term “cyberbullying” was composed.

There are also many different definitions of cyberbullying. However, generally speaking, cyberbullying can be defined as a form of intimidation, harassment, and mistreatment on the part of an individual or group towards another, which involves the use of technological means to channel an aggression repeatedly and involving an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the victim (Talwar, Gomez, Gabriello, & Shariff, 2014). Given that, cyberbullying can take many different forms.

Forms of Cyberbullying            

With advancements in electronic communications, new forms of cyberbullying are emerging every day and it is not possible to list them all. However, Siegle (2010) tried to identify the most common forms of cyberbullying and came up with a list that includes the following forms of cyberbullying:

1. Flaming: Online fights that involve electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.

2. Harassment: Repeatedly sending obscene, mean, and insulting messages.

3. Denigration: Sending or posting gossip or rumors about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships.

4. Impersonation: Pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material to get that person in trouble or danger or to damage that person’s reputation or friendships.

5. Outing: Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.

6. Trickery: Talking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information or images online.

7. Exclusion: Intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group.

8. Cyberstalking: Repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

Although, traditional bullying can also take many forms, it is obvious that cyberbullying has some unique characteristics that could make it extremely dangerous.

Traditional Bullying Vs. Cyberbullying            

What makes cyberbullying so distinctive? Well, it persists over time, given that online content cannot be erased easily. Victims have fewer possibilities to escape from aggression, because online content can reach them,and the large audience of bystanders, everywhere. Perpetrators are anonymous and it is extremely hard to find out who they are. There is a lack of direct contact and face-to-face communication with the victims. Therefore, aggressors and bystanders are less aware of the seriousness of their behavior and the suffering inflicted on the victim (Noncentini et al., 2010).

Even though only few differences are listed above, there are enough to conclude that cyberbullying is a very dangerous type of bullying.

Also, it is important to point out that one of the most dangerous features of cyberbullying is that it does not choose its victims.

Who Are the Victims and Perpetrators?            

For a long time, bullying was considered to be mostly related to school-aged children. However, newer research has uncovered that bullying has become something that can occur at any point throughout our lives (Misawa, 2011).           

For example, Beran and Li (2008) found that 58% of the high school students they surveyed had experienced Cyber-Victimization, while 26% were cyberbullies in their life course. According to Kraft and Wang (2010), prevalence rates of cyberbullying among young adults and college students are estimated to be around 10–15%. Misawa (2010) pointed out that one of four adults’ experience bullying within their workplace.It is apparent that, for many people, bullying and/or cyberbullying is a life-long challenge.            

Due to advancements in technology, our current generation has the option to remain anonymous while interacting with other faceless and nameless individuals. Anyone can become a perpetrator or a victim, anywhere and at all times. Therefore, it is important to become more cautious and aware of the effects of cyberbullying when interacting with others over the internet. 

Effects of Cyberbullying            

Cyberbullying and its effects have been widely studied within middle and high school students. However, less is known about cyberbullying in college students and other age groups. Only recently, researchers started to focus on these other populations.

What do we know so far? It is obvious that cyberbullying has adverse effects. Research has shown that youths who have been victims of cyberbullying report higher levels of depression and suicidal ideation, as well as increased emotional distress, externalized hostility, and delinquency compared to non-victimized peers (Patchin and Hinduja, 1996; Jbarra, Mitchel, & Wolak, 2006). Furthermore, cyberbullying is associated with various academic problems, including withdrawal from school activities, school absence, and school failure (Mason, 2008).            

It is important to note that, although much attention has focused on victims, the perpetrators also experience adverse effects. According to Selkie, Kota, Chan, and Moreno (2015), any involvement in bullying, as a victim or as a perpetrator, can contribute to depression and alcohol use in young adulthood.  Furthermore, one study demonstrated that adolescent girls who cyberbully others have increased rates of depression and anxiety compared with uninvolved peers (Kowalski, 2013). In another study, perpetration of cyberbullying was correlated with increased substance use (Ybarra, Espelage, & Mitchell, 2007).            

Although it is not possible to list all of the adverse effects associated with cyberbullying, it is evident that they are numerous and detrimental to the mental health of those involved.


It is clear that cyberbullying is a serious public mental health problem which has potentially devastating consequences on those involved. Therefore, it is imperative that we begin to address this problem as soon as possible. In my opinion, the first step in fighting this pervasive and silent plague, is to raise awareness by highlighting its existence and effects to the general populace. 


Beran, T., & Li, Q.(2008). The relationship between cyberbullying and school bullying. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 1(2), 16–33.

Kowalski ,R.M., & Limber, S.P. (2013).  Psychological, physical, and academic correlates of cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53, 13–20.

Kraft E.M., & Wang, J. (2010).  An exploratory study of the cyberbullying and cyberstalking experiences and factors related to victimization of students at a public liberal arts college. International Journal of Technoethics, 1, 74–91.

Misawa, M. (2011). The intersection of racist and homophobic bullying in adult and higher education. In Proceedings of the 30th Annual Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, Community and Extension Education (1-6). St. Louis, MO: Lindenwood University. Retrieved from

Misawa, M. (2010). Racist and homophobic bullying in adulthood: Narratives from gay men of  color in higher education. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 24(1), 7-23.

Nocentini, A., Calmaestra, J., Schultze-Krumbholz, A., Scheithauer, H., Ortega, R., & Menesini, E. (2010). Cyberbullying: Labels, Behaviours and Definition in Three European Countries. Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 20(2), 129–142.

Patchin, J.W.,  & Hinduja, S. (2006).  Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: a preliminary look at cyberbullying. Youth, Violence & Juvenile Justice,  4, 148–169.

Selkie, E.M., Kota, R., Chan, Y., & Moreno, M. (2015). Cyberbullying, Depression, and Problem Alcohol Use in Female College Students: A Multisite Study. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(2): 79-86.

Siegle, D. (2010). Cyberullying and Sexting: Technology Abuses of the 21st Century. Gifted Child Today, 33, 14-17 and 65.

Slee, P. T. (1996). The P.E.A.C.E. pack: A programme for reducing bullying in our schools. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 6, 63-69.

Talwar, V., Gomez-Garibello, C., & Shariff, S. (2014). Adolescents’ Moral Evaluations and Ratings of Cyber-bullying: The effect of veracity and Intentionality behind the event. Computers in Human Behaviour, 36, 122-128.

Walker, C. M., Sockman, B. R., & Koehn, S. (2011). An exploratory study of cyberbullying with undergraduate university students. TechTrends, 55(2), 31-38.

Ybarra, M.L., Espelage, D.L., & Mitchell, K.J. (2007).The co-occurrence of Internet harassment and unwanted sexual solicitation victimization and perpetration: associations with psychosocial indicators. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), 31-41.

About the Author

Hilda Huj Hilda Huj, B.A., M.A.

Hilda is a registered clinical counselling and forensic psychologist in Edmonton, Alberta. She specializes in working with youth, adults and families that have been impacted by trauma. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in Psychology in Osijek, Croatia, and subsequently equated her academic credentials to Canadian standards. Currently, she volunteers with the Edmonton Police Services as a Victim Support Worker and also helps to promote Psychology by volunteering for the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta.

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