Teens and Digital Harassment: Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking

Reviewed Jul 1, 2017

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Summary

  • Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.
  • Most teens have seen or experienced digital harassment but few report it.

What do these terms mean?

Digital harassment is repeated behavior using technology that bothers or scares someone. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.

Cyberbullying is a word mostly used:

  • For children or teens
  • When actions are not legal

People use cyberbullying to make someone feel bad or powerless. They tend to involve many people.

Cyberstalking is a word mostly used:

  • For teens and adults
  • When actions are clearly illegal

People use cyberbullying to control someone. They tend to act alone.

How common is digital harassment?

Digital harassment is common but underreported among teens.

  • Forty-three percent of teens report being digitally harassed.
  • Only 10 percent tell parents or school authorities.
  • Seventy percent of teens say they have seen cyberbullying.
  • Only 10 percent reported it or tried to stop it.

These numbers are likely to grow. Why? At least 80 percent of teens have cell phones and can be harassed 24 hours a day.

Women are commonly both bullies and targets of cyberbullying. Cyberstalking is different. Most targets are women. Men do most of the cyberstalking.

What does it look like?

Digital harassment is all about unwanted contact. You may like that your friends text you day and night. You may like their posts about you. These actions become harassment when you want them to stop and they do not.

For instance, Gina’s boyfriend sent her many texts. She thought it was romantic. Then they distracted her from other things. When Gina asked her boyfriend to stop, he got angry and said she was cheating. He kept sending her angry texts. Gina did not think the texts were romantic anymore. She was scared. Gina broke up with him and blocked his number. She avoided him. When he posted mean things about her online, she finally told her father. With his help, Gina reported the posts and blocked him. They stopped the cyberstalking before it got dangerous.

Digital harassment can include:

  • Unwanted texts, emails, or online comments
  • Posting embarrassing photos of you
  • Tagging you in photos and threatening comments or tweets so you see them
  • Talking about you behind your back by “subtweeting” or not tagging you
  • Creating a social media page about you
  • Pretending to be you

Cyberbullies get others to “like” or share their actions. Classmates, strangers, or even friends of the target may participate due to peer pressure or ignorance.

How does digital harassment affect teens?

One excuse for digital harassment is, “I was joking. It’s no big deal.” But digital harassment is not funny. It can wreck someone’s life.

People who are harassed may avoid friends and skip activities due to fear. They may miss school and get bad grades. They are at risk for illness and substance use disorder. They face anxiety, depression, and insomnia. We even see news about harassed teens killing themselves.

What can I do if I am being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Speak up. Talk to a supportive friend or adult. Tell someone at school. Most schools have anti-cyberbullying rules. Report the actions to social media sites. Call the police if you feel threatened.

Increase security. Carefully pick what you share online. Change your passwords. Check Internet and website privacy settings. Block unwanted calls, texts, or emails. Stop “following” or “unfriend” people who bother you.

Gather evidence. Keep a journal of all unwanted actions and your response. Print emails and screenshots of online contact.

What can I do if I see a friend or classmate being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Opt out. Do not add comments or forward mean messages or content. Do not agree with or “like” other people’s comments or photos.

Speak up. Tell the person doing the harassing to stop—even friends. Let the person being harassed know you support her. Tell a trusted adult about what you see. Inform the school.

Ignoring digital harassment is as bad as starting it. Even small acts can hurt people. Teens can reduce digital harassment if they work together. Find more help from the sites below.

Resources

Break the Cycle
www.breakthecycle.org

Loveisrespect.org
(866) 331-9474
www.loveisrespect.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-7233
www.thehotline.org

Stopbullying.gov
(800) 273-8255
www.stopbullying.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov; National Crime Prevention Counsel, www.ncpc.org; Hinduja, Sameer and Justin W. Patchin. "Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide," www.cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying_and_suicide_research_fact_sheet.pdf; Interview: Dr. Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Oxford University Press, 2007; Kirwan, Grainne and Andrew Power. The Psychology of Cyber Crime: Concepts and Principals. Igi Global, 2012.
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.
  • Most teens have seen or experienced digital harassment but few report it.

What do these terms mean?

Digital harassment is repeated behavior using technology that bothers or scares someone. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.

Cyberbullying is a word mostly used:

  • For children or teens
  • When actions are not legal

People use cyberbullying to make someone feel bad or powerless. They tend to involve many people.

Cyberstalking is a word mostly used:

  • For teens and adults
  • When actions are clearly illegal

People use cyberbullying to control someone. They tend to act alone.

How common is digital harassment?

Digital harassment is common but underreported among teens.

  • Forty-three percent of teens report being digitally harassed.
  • Only 10 percent tell parents or school authorities.
  • Seventy percent of teens say they have seen cyberbullying.
  • Only 10 percent reported it or tried to stop it.

These numbers are likely to grow. Why? At least 80 percent of teens have cell phones and can be harassed 24 hours a day.

Women are commonly both bullies and targets of cyberbullying. Cyberstalking is different. Most targets are women. Men do most of the cyberstalking.

What does it look like?

Digital harassment is all about unwanted contact. You may like that your friends text you day and night. You may like their posts about you. These actions become harassment when you want them to stop and they do not.

For instance, Gina’s boyfriend sent her many texts. She thought it was romantic. Then they distracted her from other things. When Gina asked her boyfriend to stop, he got angry and said she was cheating. He kept sending her angry texts. Gina did not think the texts were romantic anymore. She was scared. Gina broke up with him and blocked his number. She avoided him. When he posted mean things about her online, she finally told her father. With his help, Gina reported the posts and blocked him. They stopped the cyberstalking before it got dangerous.

Digital harassment can include:

  • Unwanted texts, emails, or online comments
  • Posting embarrassing photos of you
  • Tagging you in photos and threatening comments or tweets so you see them
  • Talking about you behind your back by “subtweeting” or not tagging you
  • Creating a social media page about you
  • Pretending to be you

Cyberbullies get others to “like” or share their actions. Classmates, strangers, or even friends of the target may participate due to peer pressure or ignorance.

How does digital harassment affect teens?

One excuse for digital harassment is, “I was joking. It’s no big deal.” But digital harassment is not funny. It can wreck someone’s life.

People who are harassed may avoid friends and skip activities due to fear. They may miss school and get bad grades. They are at risk for illness and substance use disorder. They face anxiety, depression, and insomnia. We even see news about harassed teens killing themselves.

What can I do if I am being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Speak up. Talk to a supportive friend or adult. Tell someone at school. Most schools have anti-cyberbullying rules. Report the actions to social media sites. Call the police if you feel threatened.

Increase security. Carefully pick what you share online. Change your passwords. Check Internet and website privacy settings. Block unwanted calls, texts, or emails. Stop “following” or “unfriend” people who bother you.

Gather evidence. Keep a journal of all unwanted actions and your response. Print emails and screenshots of online contact.

What can I do if I see a friend or classmate being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Opt out. Do not add comments or forward mean messages or content. Do not agree with or “like” other people’s comments or photos.

Speak up. Tell the person doing the harassing to stop—even friends. Let the person being harassed know you support her. Tell a trusted adult about what you see. Inform the school.

Ignoring digital harassment is as bad as starting it. Even small acts can hurt people. Teens can reduce digital harassment if they work together. Find more help from the sites below.

Resources

Break the Cycle
www.breakthecycle.org

Loveisrespect.org
(866) 331-9474
www.loveisrespect.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-7233
www.thehotline.org

Stopbullying.gov
(800) 273-8255
www.stopbullying.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov; National Crime Prevention Counsel, www.ncpc.org; Hinduja, Sameer and Justin W. Patchin. "Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide," www.cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying_and_suicide_research_fact_sheet.pdf; Interview: Dr. Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Oxford University Press, 2007; Kirwan, Grainne and Andrew Power. The Psychology of Cyber Crime: Concepts and Principals. Igi Global, 2012.
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.
  • Most teens have seen or experienced digital harassment but few report it.

What do these terms mean?

Digital harassment is repeated behavior using technology that bothers or scares someone. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are types of digital harassment.

Cyberbullying is a word mostly used:

  • For children or teens
  • When actions are not legal

People use cyberbullying to make someone feel bad or powerless. They tend to involve many people.

Cyberstalking is a word mostly used:

  • For teens and adults
  • When actions are clearly illegal

People use cyberbullying to control someone. They tend to act alone.

How common is digital harassment?

Digital harassment is common but underreported among teens.

  • Forty-three percent of teens report being digitally harassed.
  • Only 10 percent tell parents or school authorities.
  • Seventy percent of teens say they have seen cyberbullying.
  • Only 10 percent reported it or tried to stop it.

These numbers are likely to grow. Why? At least 80 percent of teens have cell phones and can be harassed 24 hours a day.

Women are commonly both bullies and targets of cyberbullying. Cyberstalking is different. Most targets are women. Men do most of the cyberstalking.

What does it look like?

Digital harassment is all about unwanted contact. You may like that your friends text you day and night. You may like their posts about you. These actions become harassment when you want them to stop and they do not.

For instance, Gina’s boyfriend sent her many texts. She thought it was romantic. Then they distracted her from other things. When Gina asked her boyfriend to stop, he got angry and said she was cheating. He kept sending her angry texts. Gina did not think the texts were romantic anymore. She was scared. Gina broke up with him and blocked his number. She avoided him. When he posted mean things about her online, she finally told her father. With his help, Gina reported the posts and blocked him. They stopped the cyberstalking before it got dangerous.

Digital harassment can include:

  • Unwanted texts, emails, or online comments
  • Posting embarrassing photos of you
  • Tagging you in photos and threatening comments or tweets so you see them
  • Talking about you behind your back by “subtweeting” or not tagging you
  • Creating a social media page about you
  • Pretending to be you

Cyberbullies get others to “like” or share their actions. Classmates, strangers, or even friends of the target may participate due to peer pressure or ignorance.

How does digital harassment affect teens?

One excuse for digital harassment is, “I was joking. It’s no big deal.” But digital harassment is not funny. It can wreck someone’s life.

People who are harassed may avoid friends and skip activities due to fear. They may miss school and get bad grades. They are at risk for illness and substance use disorder. They face anxiety, depression, and insomnia. We even see news about harassed teens killing themselves.

What can I do if I am being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Speak up. Talk to a supportive friend or adult. Tell someone at school. Most schools have anti-cyberbullying rules. Report the actions to social media sites. Call the police if you feel threatened.

Increase security. Carefully pick what you share online. Change your passwords. Check Internet and website privacy settings. Block unwanted calls, texts, or emails. Stop “following” or “unfriend” people who bother you.

Gather evidence. Keep a journal of all unwanted actions and your response. Print emails and screenshots of online contact.

What can I do if I see a friend or classmate being cyberbullied or cyberstalked?

Opt out. Do not add comments or forward mean messages or content. Do not agree with or “like” other people’s comments or photos.

Speak up. Tell the person doing the harassing to stop—even friends. Let the person being harassed know you support her. Tell a trusted adult about what you see. Inform the school.

Ignoring digital harassment is as bad as starting it. Even small acts can hurt people. Teens can reduce digital harassment if they work together. Find more help from the sites below.

Resources

Break the Cycle
www.breakthecycle.org

Loveisrespect.org
(866) 331-9474
www.loveisrespect.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-7233
www.thehotline.org

Stopbullying.gov
(800) 273-8255
www.stopbullying.gov

By Beth Landau
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov; National Crime Prevention Counsel, www.ncpc.org; Hinduja, Sameer and Justin W. Patchin. "Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide," www.cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying_and_suicide_research_fact_sheet.pdf; Interview: Dr. Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Oxford University Press, 2007; Kirwan, Grainne and Andrew Power. The Psychology of Cyber Crime: Concepts and Principals. Igi Global, 2012.
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Beacon Health Options

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