As mobile phone and internet use become increasingly common, so has the misuse of this technology to bully. Current research in this area indicates that cyberbullying is a feature of many young people’s lives. One study carried out for the Anti-Bullying Alliance found that 22% of young people reported being the target of cyberbullying.
Some key elements of cyberbullying are as follows:
- 24/7 and the invasion of home/personal space: Cyberbullying can take place at any time and can intrude into spaces that have previously been regarded as safe or personal.
- The audience can be very large and reached rapidly: The difficulty in controlling electronically circulated messages means the scale and scope of cyberbullying can be greater than for other forms of bullying. Electronically forwarded content is hard to control, and the worry of content resurfacing can make it difficult for targets to move on.
- People who cyberbully may attempt to remain anonymous: This can be extremely distressing for those being bullied. The person cyberbullying may never be in the same physical space as their target.
- The profile of the bully and target: Cyberbullying can take place both between peers and across generations; teachers have also been targets. Age or size are not important. Bystanders can also become accessories to the bullying; for example, by passing on a humiliating image.
- Some instances of cyberbullying are known to be unintentional: It can be the result of not thinking (something sent as a joke may be deeply upsetting or offensive to the recipient) or a lack of awareness of the consequences – for example saying something negative online about another pupil, or friend that they don’t expect to be forwarded or viewed outside their immediate group.
- Many cyberbullying incidents can themselves act as evidence: This is one of the reasons why it's important to know how to respond!