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What are the forms and tactics of Cyberbullying

What are the forms and tactics of Cyberbullying

Those who are bullied often ask themselves “What have I done to deserve this?” and the usual answer is that they have not done anything to deserve such awful messages. The exact approach to cyber bullying will vary and there are several ways that people bully others online. They go after their victim(s) by:

  • Building whole websites, often with password protection, to target specific students or teachers
  • Posting defamatory or obscene messages on online message boards, or creating slanderous websites
  • Posting embarrassing pictures or video footage of someone, or sending unwanted sexual information
  • Sending e-mails or Instant Messages containing insults or threats directly to a person
  • Spreading hateful comments or rumours about a person through e-mail, Instant Messaging or postings on websites and online diaries
  • Stealing passwords and sending out threatening e-mails or Instant Messages using an assumed identity

Cyberbullying occurs in many different places and ways online and the bully will attack in the following ways:


Chat rooms (aka Bash Boards) - Real-time communication between two users via computer. Once a chat has been initiated, either user can enter text by typing on the keyboard and the entered text will appear on the other user’s monitor. Most networks and online services offer a chat feature.

(Webopedia: ).

•         The “bash board” is the nickname for an online bulletin board, or virtual chat room, where teenagers can go to anonymously and write anything they want, true or false, creating or adding mean-spirited postings for the world to see.

The bully will join chat rooms that the victim uses regularly and either post negative comments about the victim or directly engage the victim with name-calling or other derisive verbiage

The victims can be ridiculed and embarrassed through online posts and chat room discussions involving their peers. People are not always who they appear to be or who they say they are in chat rooms. Chat rooms can be places where some strangers may try to “befriend” others, especially young people. They may attempt to lure them into meeting in person. Young people should NEVER arrange to meet someone in person whom they have been in contact with online.

Young kids shouldn’t be in chat room unless a trusted and responsible parent or guardian is sitting with them at the computer. Older kids should be only in moderated chat rooms and even moderated chat rooms can lead to compromising, embarrassing and harassing situations. Kids shouldn’t exchange e-mail with someone from a chat room or arrange to meet someone from a chat room without a parent or guardian present.


Email - Short for electronic mail, the transmission of messages over communications networks. The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard or electronic files stored on disk. Most mainframes, minicomputers, and computer networks have an e-mail system. Some electronic-mail systems are confined to a single computer system or network, but others have gateways to other computer systems, enabling users to send electronic mail anywhere in the world.

(Webopedia: )

Nasty messages can include teasing remarks, jokes and offensive pictures

The bully will send a series of intimidating messages to the victim either through email or the use of an instant messaging application

Use e-mail to send harassing and threatening messages to the targets of their hatred and loathing

It is often possible to trace which e-mail account the message was sent from, however, it is almost impossible to prove who actually used this e-mail account to send the offending messages. Messages sent from accounts with local/regional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can be more easily traced and acted upon than messages sent from large Web-based e-mail accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail etc.

Most e-mail programs allow you to use e-mail filters that will block or automatically delete messages from undesirable senders. This does work to a limited degree, but as most e-mail users now know, it is almost impossible to stop unwanted e-mail messages such as advertisements, SPAM etc.


Instant messaging - A type of communications service that enables you to create a private chat room with another individual. Typically, the instant messaging system alerts you whenever somebody on your private list is online. You can then initiate a chat session with that particular individual. There are several competing instant messaging systems such as ICQ, AOL Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger etc.. Unfortunately, there’s no standard, so anyone you want to send instant messages to must use the same instant messaging system that you use.

(Webopedia: )


The most common place bullying occurs online is over instant messenger

The conversations and conflicts that arise online often give rise to behaviours that are acted out in person during school or at the local shopping mall.


Prevention: Sit with your child when they are signing up for an IM account. If you are not careful, you can give others a great deal of access to your personal contact information. Users of IM should create a buddy list of only people you know and trust well. Most IM programs allow users to create a list of others that users may wish to “block” from sending them messages or contacting them for the purposes of chatting in real time (while the users are both online together at the same time).


Message boards(and other similar venues)

The bully may spread rumors regarding the ethics or morals of the victim in an attempt to damage the individual’s reputation.\

Nasty messages can include teasing remarks, jokes and offensive pictures

Mobile Phones


Text messaging - Short for Short Message Service Similar to paging, SMS is a service for sending short text messages to mobile phones. (Webopedia: )

SMS: The Short Message Service (SMS) is the ability to send and receive text messages to and from mobile telephones. The text can comprise of words or numbers or an alphanumeric combination. SMS was created when it was incorporated into the Global System for Mobiles (GSM) digital mobile phone standard. A single short message can be up to 160 characters of text in length using default GSM alphabet coding, and 70 characters when UCS2 international character coding is used.

EMS: -Enhanced Messaging Service (text messaging with more bells and whistles)

MMS -Multimedia Messaging Service, (MMS) is the ability to send messages comprising a combination of text, sounds, images and video to MMS capable handsets.


Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) - PDAs stand for Personal Digital Assistants. You might recognize these better if we used names like Palm Pilot, RIM Blackberry, Handspring Visor / Treo, Sony Clie, iPaq, Pocket PC etc. Most of these are not only personal information organizers, they can now connect to the Internet, receive and send e-mail and browse the World Wide Web.


Social networking sites

The bully may use a social networking site to pose embarrassing photos of the victim, often doctoring the photos to make them more embarrassing.\

Nasty messages can include teasing remarks, jokes and offensive pictures


Cyberbullying by proxy


Cyberbullying by proxy is when a cyberbully gets someone else to do their dirty work. Most of the time they are unwitting accomplices and don’t know that they are being used by the cyberbully. Cyberbullying by proxy is the most dangerous kind of cyberbullying because it often gets adults involve in the harassment and people who don’t know they are dealing with a kid or someone they know.

“Warning” or “Notify Wars” are an example of cyberbullying by proxy. Kids click on the warning or notify buttons on their IM screen or e-mail or chat screens, and alert the ISP or service provider that the victim has done something that violates their rules.If the victim receives enough warnings or notifications, they can lose their account. The service providers are aware of this abuse, and often check and see if the warning were justified. But all the cyberbully has to do is make the victim angry enough to say something rude or hateful back. Then, BINGO! they warn them, making it look like the victim had started it. In this case, the ISP or service provider is the innocent accomplice of the cyberbully.

Sometimes the victim’s own parents are too. If the cyberbully can make it look like the victim is doing something wrong, and the parents are notified, the parents will punish the victim. Alyssa, one of our Teenangels, had this happen to her. To learn more about her cyberbullying problem, read Alyssa’s story.

Cyberbullying by proxy sometimes starts with the cyberbully posing as the victim. They may have hacked into their account or stolen their password. They may have set up a new account pretending to be the victim. But however they do it, they are pretending to be the victim and trying to create problems for the victim with the help of others.

The most typical way a cyberbullying by proxy attack occurs is when the cyberbully gets control of the victim’s account and sends out hateful or rude messages to everyone on their buddy list pretending to be the victim. They may also change the victim’s password so they can’t get into their own account. The victim’s friends get angry with the victim, thinking they had sent the messages without knowing they have been used by the cyberbully. But it’s not always this minor. Sometimes the cyberbully tries to get more people involved.

For example…Mary wants to get Jennifer back for not inviting her to her party. She goes online and, posing as Jennifer, posts “I hate Brittany, she is so stupid, ugly and fat!” on Mary may tell Brittany and her friends that she read the post on and blames Jennifer for being mean. Brittany and her friends now start attacking Jennifer, and may report her to or her school. They are doing Mary’s dirty work for her. Mary looks like the “good guy” and Jennifer may be punished by her parents, lose her account with and get into trouble at school. And Brittany and her friends may start to cyberbully Jennifer too.

Sometimes it is much more serious than that. When cyberbullies want to get others to do their dirty work quickly, they often post information about, or pose as, their victim in hate group chat rooms and on their discussion boards. Cyberbullies have even posted this information in child molester chat rooms and discussion boards, advertising their victim for sex. They then sit back and wait for the members of that hate group or child molester group to attack or contact the victim online and, sometimes, offline.

For this to work, the cyberbully needs to post offline or online contact information about the victim. Real information, not the account they used to impersonate the victim (if they are posing as the victim to provoke an attack). For example…Jack is angry that Blake was chose as captain of the junior varsity basketball team. Blake is black. Jack finds a white supremist group online and posts in their chat room that Blake said nasty things about whites and their group in particular. He then posts Blake’s cell phone number and screen name. People from the group start calling and IMing Blake with threats and hateful messages. Jack has no idea how much danger he has placed Blake in, and Blake doesn’t know why he in under attack. In cases of cyberbullying by proxy, when hate or child molester groups are involved, they victim is in danger of physical harm and law enforcement must be contacted immediately.

Can you think of examples of cyberbullying by proxy? Share them with us and other kids, preteens and teens here at the site. We’ll never use your name or personally identifying information, share it with others or bother you. Read our privacy policy to know how we use your information. You should always read a privacy policy before submitting anything to anywhere online.


Other Cyberbullying Tactics


Blogs are online journals. They are a fun way for kids and teens to messages for all of their friends to see. However, kids sometimes use these blogs to damage other kids’ reputations or invade their privacy. For example, in one case, a boy posted a bunch of blogs about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend, explaining how she destroyed his life, calling her degrading names. Their mutual friends read about this and criticized her. She was embarrassed and hurt all because another kid posted mean, private, and false information about her. Sometimes kids set up a blog or profile page pretending to be their victim and saying things designed to humiliate them.



Posing as the victim, the cyberbully can do considerable damage. They may post a provocative message in a hate group’s chatroom posing as the victim, inviting an attack against the victim, often giving the name, address and telephone number of the victim to make the hate group’s job easier. They often also send a message to someone posing as the victim, saying hateful or threatening things while masquerading as the victim. They may also alter a message really from the victim, making it appear that they have said nasty things or shared secrets with others.


Instant Messaging/Text Messaging Harassment

Kids may send hateful or threatening messages to other kids, without realizing that while not said in real life, unkind or threatening messages are hurtful and very serious.

Warning wars – Many Internet Service Providers offer a way of “telling on” a user who is saying inappropriate things. Kids often engage in “warning wars” which can lead to kicking someone offline for a period of time. While this should be a security tool, kids sometimes use the Warn button as a game or prank.

A kid/teen may create a screen name that is very similar to another kid’s name. The name may have an additional “i” or one less “e”. They may use this name to say inappropriate things to other users while posing as the other person.

Text wars or text attacks are when kids gang up on the victim, sending thousands of text-messages to the victims cell phone or other mobile device. The victim is then faced with a huge cell phone bill and angry parents.  Kids send death threats using IM and text-messaging as well as photos/videos (see below)


Interactive Gaming

Many kids today are playing interactive games on gaming devices such as X-Box Live and Sony Play Station 2 Network. These gaming devices allow your child to communicate by chat and live Internet phone with anyone they find themselves matched with in a game online. Sometimes the kids verbally abuse the other kids, using threats and lewd language. Sometimes they take it further, by locking them out of games, passing false rumors about them or hacking into their accounts.


Internet Polling

Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? Who is the biggest slut in the sixth grade? These types of questions run rampant on the Internet polls; all created by yours truly – kids and teens. Such questions are often very offensive to others and are yet another way that kids can “bully” other kids online.


Sending Malicious Code

Many kids will send viruses, spyware and hacking programs to their victims. They do this to either destroy their computers or spy on their victim. Trojan Horse programs allow the cyberbully to control their victim’s computer remote control, and can be used to erase the hard drive of the victim.


Sending Pictures through E-mail and Cell Phones

There have been cases of teens sending mass e-mails to other users, that include nude or degrading pictures of other teens. Once an e-mail like this is sent, it is passed around to hundreds of other people within hours; there is no way of controlling where it goes.

Many of the newer cell phones allow kids to send pictures to each other. The kids receive the pictures directly on their phones, and may send it to everyone in their address books. After viewing the picture at a Web site, some kids have actually posted these often pornographic pictures on Kazaa and other programs for anyone to download.

Kids often take a picture of someone in a locker room, bathroom or dressing room and post it online or send it to others on cell phones.


Sending Porn and Other Junk E-Mail and IMs

Often cyberbullies will sign their victims up for e-mailing and IM marketing lists, lots of them, especially to porn sites. When the victim receives thousands of e-mails from pornographers their parents usually get involved, either blaming them (assuming they have been visiting porn sites) or making them change their e-mail or IM address.


Stealing passwords

A kid may steal another child’s password and begin to chat with other people, pretending to be the other kid. He/she may say mean things that offend and anger this person’s friends or even strangers. Meanwhile, they won’t know it is not really that person they are talking to

A kid may also use another kid’s password to change his/her profile to include sexual, racist, and inappropriate things that may attract unwanted attention or offend people

A kid often steals the password and locks the victim out of their own account

Once the password is stolen, hackers may use it to hack into the victim’s computer


Web sites

Children used to tease each other in the playground; now they do it on Web sites. Kids sometimes create Web sites that may insult or endanger another child. They create pages specifically designed to insult another kid or group of people.

Kids also post other kids’ personal information and pictures, which put those people at a greater risk of being contacted or found.


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