“Isn’t ‘cyberbullying’ just another form of ‘bullying’? Why label it as a separate issue?”

We have been asked this question a number of times. And, yes, we agree that cyberbullying is a form of bullying. Ideally, there would not be a need to add “cyber” in front of “bullying.” However, based on regional, community and school events we have attended in the past few years regarding “cyberbullying,” we believe it is important to continue to make the distinction. While anonymity is difficult in a physical setting, typically online, students falsely assume they can remain anonymous and therefore will not be held accountable for anything they post/upload. For this reason something that perhaps would have never been an issue face-to-face, becomes one. Images or video are often altered using editing tools and then uploaded to YouTube, spreading the reach far beyond school hours and school grounds. 

With the ever-increasing availability of new social media apps and options, our students need explicit instruction on the safe, responsible, and ethical use of technology, both within and beyond the school day. In the short time EGUSD has been a Google Apps for Education/G Suite district, the teaching of digital citizenship has been steadily shifting from a stand-alone topic, often taught in a computer lab or during advisory period, to an integral part of the core curriculum. Across grade levels and subject areas, as students connect for online discussions and collaborative projects, teachers make use of teachable moments to address, for instance, a mean-spirited or mocking comment towards another student’s contribution – and in the process, possibly prevent an online incident from escalating into a face-to-face confrontation. More often than not, when a student is the target of cyberbullying (via texting, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube, etc.), he or she is also bullied before, during, and/or after the school day. 

Below are some cyberbullying tactics (from Internet Safety 101: Cyberbullying) commonly used on social media.

Cyberbullying Tactics 

  • Cyberstalking: Posting or sending unwanted or intimidating messages, which may include threats
  • Cyberthreats: Remarks on the Internet threatening or implying violent behavior, displaying suicidal tendencies
  • Exclusion: Deliberately excluding someone from an online group
  • Flaming: Online fights where scornful and offensive messages are posted on websites, forums, or blogs
  • Gossip: Posting or sending cruel gossip to damage a person’s reputation and relationships with friends, family, and acquaintances
  • Harassment: Repeatedly posting or sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages
  • Impersonation: Breaking into someone’s e-mail or other online account and sending messages that will cause embarrassment or damage to the person’s reputation and affect his or her relationship with others
  • Outing and Trickery: Tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information, which is then shared online

Whether a bullying incident happens in the cafeteria or online, the damage to a student’s well-being and the negative impact on the school culture can have far-reaching consequences. We appreciate that many of our favorite go-to resources on bullying, such as StopBullying.gov, also recognize both the differences and the connecting threads between bullying and cyberbullying.

We can not stress enough the importance and benefits of students, staff, and families coming together to confront all forms of bullying. In addition to student-led initiatives, school-wide campaigns, and teacher-guided discussions specifically targeting bullying/cyberbullying, we also value the power of story to change hearts, minds and behaviors. A movie, a book, or a YouTube video that introduces empathy and compassion can serve as an antidote to bullying and can often resonate with students far beyond the impact of a structured lesson. A story from a school cafeteria demonstrates in very real ways the difference a small group can make when they choose to use their school sites and/or social media to promote positivity and kindness.

Stand Up. . . Be InCtrl! – Student Video from NCTA on Vimeo.

 Yes, cyberbullying is different from bullying, yet the two are interrelated, often inseparable, and continue to be equally serious issues. We are constantly on the lookout for resources to empower students to recognize and to speak out against both.

We welcome any resources you might recommend adding to our website. Please let us know by leaving a comment.