How Do You Know It Is Happening? Six Clues That May Indicate Cyberbullying

How Do You Know It Is Happening? Six Clues That May Indicate Cyberbullying

Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior between school-aged children. It is a way that a child with physical or social power abuses a less powerful child. Cyberbullying, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is “bullying that takes place over digital devices” and involves “sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content.” Cyberbullying may involve “sharing personal or private information that causes embarrassment or humiliation.” Here are six questions you can ask yourself to determine if cyberbullying is happening in your learning community.

In daily classroom life:

  1. Do you see small acts of casual cruelty toward a particular child? Research shows that cyberbullying nearly always begins with acts of traditional bullying in school or its environs. Only one percent of cyberbullying incidents in grades three through five are cyberbullying-only actions.
  2. Do you hear humorous yet cruel comments followed by laughter? Is a less powerful student in the vicinity? Bullying is about power. One student shows their power with a humorous yet cruel comment. Others join in to show that they are part of the power group. This can easily grow into cyberbullying in today’s technology-rich world.
  3. Does that child or another less powerful child open their device with a reluctant expression on their face? Do they look sad or lonely as they close their device? Children being cyberbullied do not stop using their devices. That would be too painful.
  4. As you approach a small group of students using computers or tablets, do they quickly cover their devices? Children know that we expect them to be kind and inclusive toward other students. They hide bullying behaviors from the adults at school.

Schoolwide supervision:

  1. Does the tech department supervise student accounts? When most of the girls in the class suddenly send emails to the remaining girl, it is a good idea to open the emails and read them. 
  2. Does the IT department flag inappropriate language? When the mean words start to flow, they can follow up right away.


Written by Caltha Crowe, author of How To Bullyproof Your Classroom, 2nd Edition
(updated to include a full chapter on cyberbullying)