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What Are Bullying and Cyberbullying?

September 4, 2018

Bullying refers to any cruelty or intimidation of the more vulnerable; cyberbullying is bullying using social media technology, such as computers, cellphones, digital cameras, and the Internet.

 Bullying may be in the form of either physical assault or emotional cruelty (taunting, ridiculing, humiliating, threatening, intimidating, stealing, or the exclusion of a child from a peer group).

 Victims may be afraid of retaliation if they report the event, so it may continue for some time before parents are aware of it. Consequences include poor self-esteem, depression, school avoidance, and occasionally (and tragically) suicide.

 Bullies may become overly aggressive adults who have difficulties with social relationships and are at higher risk of criminal behavior and incarceration. Cyberbullying is both public and anonymous, so cyberbullies may be less confrontational and aggressive; they may be shy and quiet, “protected” behind their computers.


The Language of Text Bullying

Text messaging, or “texting,” has developed its own language of codes and acronyms:


182   I hate you

zerg  Gang up on someone

P911  Parents alert

POS   Parents over shoulder

CD9   Code 9 — parents are around

KPC   Keeping parents clueless

MOS   Mom over shoulder

PAL   Parents are listening

PAW   Parents are watching

PIR   Parent in room

WYRN  What’s your real name?


Types of Cyberbullying

     Flaming: Online arguments using hostile rude language

     Harassing: Offensive, insulting text messages or emails

     Stalking: Threats made online

     Outing: Sharing others’ secrets or personal information online to humiliate them

     Exclusion: Intentionally excluding someone from a group or list

     Denigration: Mean-spirited gossip and hateful comments on websites, blogs, or chats

     Impersonation: Posing as someone else (often by using their private passwords) to embarrass them or get them into trouble


How Can Bullying and Cyberbullying Be Prevented?

Anti-bullying programs and clearly articulated policies in schools can be effective if they:

     Provide strategies for victims and for bystanders to safely report bullying

     Communicate clearly the zero tolerance policy, the severe consequences of bullying and enforce them


Code of Silence

Less than 10% of teens that have been bullied online have told their parents. Some may be afraid of the bully, some are ashamed of the on-line posting, while others may be afraid of you taking away their cellphone or Internet access.


Here are a few more basic rules your child can use to prevent cyberbullying behavior:

     Never post or text anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want the whole world to read.

     Never share passwords. Sometimes best friends “turn,” and some are simply careless.

     Don’t respond. Leave the chat room, online game, social networking site or text chat immediately if a threat is made.

     Block subsequent messages. Use the technology to automatically block texts and emails from the individual.


Find more children's health & well-being tips in

The A to Z of Children’s Health by Dr. Jeremy Friedman, MB.ChB, FRCPC, FAAP, and Dr. Natasha Saunders, MD, MSc, FRCPC, with Dr. Norman Saunders, MD, FRCPC




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