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Cyberbullying: Definition, Forms, Groups of Risk Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2022

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a new forms of aggression that is typically perpetrated online. Like conventional bullying, cyberbullying is characterized by repeated behavior that is particularly aimed at causing emotional or psychological harm to another person (Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). However, cyberbullying is distinguished from other forms of aggression by the fact that it is a covert, concealed aggressive behavior that is usually perpetrated in private and the perpetrator may remain anonymous (Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). The anonymity that define this antisocial behavior empowers the bully and makes potential victims vulnerable by rendering them helpless and unable to escape or retaliate (Spears et al., 2009 cited in Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). Cyberbullying is facilitated by the rapid technological advancement and growing access to mobile technologies and social networking media.

Forms of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, like bullying, can manifest in many ways, including spreading rumors or false information, sending nude, embarrassing content, insulting, harassing, or threatening videos or messages to another person. It may also take the form of ignoring laughing at, threatening, or teasing the victim as well as publishing personal information about the individual without their consent (Spears et al., 2009 cited in Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). Cyberbullying manifests in many forms typical to bullying in physical spaces, but it is unique because it is usually perpetrated over the internet. The internet provides the bullies with an effective medium to engage is the antisocial behaviors highlighted above provided that they have access to the internet. For example, a person may publish nude or embarrassing videos, photos, or comments on his or her social media account about another person and even refuse to delete such content.

Who is Most at Risk for Cyberbullying?

Although social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Instagram provides powerful tools for sharing information and resources, they also have serious risk for bullying. Any person, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, faith, and social status, can be bullied online and in physical spaces. However, empirical evidence shows that certain groups are at a greater risk of falling victims of cyberattacks. Particularly, girls are more likely to perpetrate and become victims of web-based harassment (Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). However, research shows that females who engage in this behavior often have been bullied at one time (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009 cited in Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). Spielman and Jenkins (2020) attribute this factor to the nonphysical and less direct nature of cyberbullying. Furthermore, LGBTQ adolescents, particularly gay youth, exhibit higher chances of being bullied than their straight counterparts (Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). Therefore, although many people are constantly connected to the internet, certain girls and gay youth are more vulnerable to cyberbullying compared to their peers.

Consequences of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can cause negative psychological and emotional effects to the victim as traditional bullying. People who experience this form of aggression may feel frustrated, angry, sad, helpless, weak, powerless, and afraid (Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). Another common adverse impact of cyberbullying is low self-esteem (Hoff & Mitchell, 2009 cited in Spielman & Jenkins, 2020). This negative psychological outcome can be attributed to the defamation, rumors, threats, insults, and embarrassment the victims experience. Moreover, drawing on recent research, Spielman and Jenkins (2020) argue that people who perpetrate and experience cyberbullying exhibit higher chances of contemplating and attempting to commit suicide compared their counterparts who have not experience internet-based harassment. These negative health outcomes provide strong evidence for creating more targeted prevention and management of cyberbullying especially among the most at risk groups to improve their health and overall wellbeing.

Experimental Study

Ouvrein et a. (2020) observed a gap in existing research that showed limited knowledge on how adolescent respond to online celebrity bashing. The researchers conducted an experiment to find out adolescents’ emotional and physiological response to this form of cyberbullying. The study employed self-reported questionnaires to collected data from 67 adolescent bystanders before and after exposure to two conditions. In the first group, participants were exposed to online celebrity bashing, and the other group was subjected to a neutral scenario without aggression. The researchers used E4 Empatica Wristlet to record participants’ physiological activation, particularly heart rates and skin conductance.

Experimental Study Results

The results of the experiment revealed that adolescents who were exposed to the online celebrity bashing condition exhibited negative reactions. Particularly, participants felt angered, sad, frustrated, powerless, and stressed (Ouvrein et al., 2020). Furthermore, participants reported significant increases in heart rates and skin conductance after exposure to cyberbullying cases. These findings support assertions by Spielman and Jenkins (2020) that cyberbullying cause negative emotional and psychological responses, including frustration, anger, sadness, helplessness, and powerlessness.


Ouvrein, G., Vandebosch, H., & De Backer, C. J. (2020). Online celebrity bashing: Purely relaxation or stressful confrontation? An experimental study on the effects of exposure to online celebrity bashing on the emotional responses and physiological arousal among adolescent bystanders. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 23(9), 588-594. Web.

Spielman, M. R., & Jenkins, J. W. (2020). Psychology (2nd ed.). OpenStax.

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