What is Cyberbullying? Definition, types and how to stop it

Bullying in its different aspects has become quite common in our society. It is difficult to know what reasons give rise to this type of behavior, but what is clear is that behaviors such as cyberbullying or workplace bullying cause serious damage to their victims and that the consequences are They can even last for years.

Cases become even more serious when minors are involved. In this type of situation, it is the parents who must be especially attentive to detect possible signs that make us realize that our child may be a victim of bullying.

At ESPIAMOS we want to help stop this type of situation, so on this occasion We are going to analyze technological bullying in detail.


What is cyberbullying? Definition

Bullying is a behavior almost as old as human beings. Throughout history it has occurred fundamentally in two ways:

  • Face to face: the bully directs his threats directly against his victim.
  • Remotely: in this case the stalker used means such as mail to send notes to his victim in order to frighten her.

The development of new technologies has brought many good things to our lives, but also some bad things. One of those harmful effects that nobody expected is cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying includes all those harassment behaviors that occur through electronic means. This involves the phone, instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp, social networks and even online video games in which players have the opportunity to talk to each other.

It is necessary that both the harasser or harassers and their victim are minors. If any of them has reached the age of majority, we are not dealing with cyberbullying but with another type of cyberbullying.

Harassing behaviors can be very varied. It can be insults, threats, discrediting the victim, spreading rumors, continuous calls, etc. Actually, this is where all those behaviors come in whose ultimate objective is to undermine the victim's self-esteem, make her feel alone, isolated and bad about herself.


What is cyberbullying ? Explanation for children

As parents we must be aware that our children can be victims, but they can also become bullies. What's more, there are cases of victims who end up becoming harassers of other children.

That is why it is especially important that children recognize that they are facing a case of bullying through telematic means. This way they can take action if they are being victimized and also they will have no excuse if they commit this harassing behavior to say that they did not know they were harassing a person.

The best way to explain things to children is using language that is understandable to them.

We must begin by explaining that Internet access through any means or the use of mobile phones must always be done responsibly. Just as they do in the real world, in their digital lives they should refrain from conduct that causes harm to others.

If their use of the Internet is no longer fun or entertaining, then something is wrong. In case they notice that the behavior or words of a "friend" are causing them harm, what they should do is tell an adult immediately.

The important thing when explaining cyberbullying to children is that they understand that they are not alone. If they are harassed in any way, they can confidently tell their parents so that the adults are in charge of putting a stop to the matter.


How is cyberbullying on the Internet ?

The forms of cyberbullying are so varied that it is almost impossible to encompass them all. However, let's review the most common behaviors:

  • Issuing false accusations on social networks, chat forums, etc. on the victim in order to turn people against her.
  • Creation of online spaces intended solely to make fun of the victim. Comments, photos and even videos are usually posted.
  • Collection of data about the victim through their social networks to use their personal information against them.
  • Hacking of email accounts to send emails on the victim's behalf to their family or friends.
  • Publication of the victim's means of contact on different Internet pages so that more people join the harassment.

All cyberbullying behaviors among minors have in common that they have the clear intention of harming the victim and that they are repeated over time. Unlike what happens in bullying, here it is not necessary for there to be physical closeness between the bully and the victim. In fact, they can be thousands of kilometers away.

It is also common to find cases in which it is the harasser himself who tries to manipulate the situation by telling others that his victim is harassing him. Thus he gets more allies to continue attacking the harassed.


Origin of bullying

Before advancing further on this complicated topic, it is worth doing an introduction to cyberbullying and analyzing its origins a bit.

Bullying is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin that refers to taking advantage of physical or emotional superiority to intimidate another person. If we add the prefix Cyber, we have the definition: carrying out intimidating behaviors against another person through digital media.

Stalking may seem like something new, but it's not. Aggression among children and adolescents, to the point of harassing, seems to have always been present in society.

In fact, those of us who are adults today have no problem rememberinglike ourselves or some classmate had incidents at the time with the typical class bully.

However, today it seems that this problem has worsened. If before the problem was between the bully and the victim and ended when the victim stood up to his harasser, this is not the case today. The harasser seems to have the protection of other colleagues, so that the victim is much more unprotected and has no courage to defend himself.

The Z generation was born in a world in which technologies are a regular part of their daily lives. Although they know how to use them, they don't really understand the scope and power of the Internet. Hence, they also bring bullying behaviors to their online life.

The first case of suicide due to cyberbullying occurred over ten years ago, and things haven't gotten much better since then.

Types of bullying

In order to understand what cyberbullying and cyberharassment is we must make an approximation to the different cases that can occur. As in school bullying, when it comes to bullying through digital media can also have different types of behavior.

  • Psychological bullying: encompasses different behaviors whose ultimate goal is to make the victim feel isolated and bad about themselves. The actions can be very diverse: putting the victim in a common WhatsApp group and consciously ignoring them, creating online spaces to insult and harass the victim, constantly sending insults to their mobile phone, making memes with their photos, etc.
  • Stalking: here what is done is spy on the victim, monitoring their digital life and even trying to spy WhatsApp to get information about it. In many cases, stalking is part of gender-based cyber violence, very common among minors, which implies controlling the couple's digital communications.
  • Sextortion: the harasser uses sexual photos or videos of his victim to keep him threatened and get what he wants from her or uses information obtained by other means so that the harassed sends him sexual content. sexual character.


One of the most serious consequences of cyberbullying is that the damage to the victim is magnified even more. It is no longer a problem between the harasser and the victim, but rather there is always someone willing to join in this type of behavior to do harm.

Unfortunately, we find many people who might not have the courage to carry out face-to-face harassment but who, protected by the anonymity that the Internet gives them, are capable of truly despicable behaviors.< /p>


It is enough to take a look at specialized websites on this subject and books written by specialists to find a large number of serious cases that have even ended with the victim taking their own life.

One of the most serious cases on record is the one committed in 2010 by nineteenagers against 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. For months the girl was physically and verbally assaulted by her schoolmates, who also sent her SMS with insults and threats.

This situation led Phoebe to take her own life, but this did not stop her stalkers, who continued to tarnish her honor in different online media after her death.

In the Balearic Islands, a group of inmates in a juvenile center subjected one of his classmates to physical and verbal abuse, recorded him with his mobile phone and broadcast the recording. Finally, the young people were indicted for a crime against moral integrity.

A good example of how serious these cases can be was experienced a few years ago through Facebook. A 10-year-old girl created a group on this social network in which she dedicated herself to insulting and humiliating a classmate of hers, giving various reasons to hate her. She amassed more than 5,000 fans and the mother of the bullied girl had a hard time getting Facebook to take down the page.


Statistics on cyberbullying

As a country and as a society there are lists where we wouldn't mind being on the top, but there are others where it's embarrassing to appear. That is just what happens with cyberbullying.

The World Health Organization has ranked Spain as one of the countries in which bullying behaviors through digital media are more common.

Let's learn a little more about these cases:

  • Cyberbullying increases with age. From the age of 13, one in three cases of bullying also extends to digital media.
  • In most cases the victims are girls, with a proportion of 70%-30%.
  • The average age for developing bullying behavior or becoming a victim of it is 13 years.
  • In 81% of cases, WhatsApp is the medium chosen to harass, followed by social networks.
  • Harassment often continues for more than a year.
  • The profile of the victim is a boy or girl of Spanish nationality, belonging to a conventional family and without financial problems.
  • In most cases, the aggressors are classmates of their victims or go to the same school or institute.
  • There is usually not a single bully.
  • In more than 30% of cases, digital harassment is linked to physical aggression.
  • Most of the victims do not usually ask for help from an adult until he has finished the school year.
  • 75% of teachers who are aware of this type of behavior take measures to avoid it.
  • Almost 60% of victims and families of victims consider that the measures adopted are insufficient.

These data are serious, but it is even more serious to know that in a survey of more than 21,000 children in Spain, more than half of them admitted having engaged in cyberbullying on some occasion, highlighting many of them who didn't really know why they had done it.

How do you manifest cyberbullying in your child?

Online bullying can take different forms, but one of the main characteristics of cyberbullying is that the effects produced on the victim are common in the vast majority of cases

The victim is in a situation where they feel totally defenseless, so they end up being afraid to communicate with the rest and become socially isolated, which affects even more to their self-esteem.

In most cases these symptoms appear:

  • Anxiety.
  • Isolation.
  • Sadness.
  • Loneliness.
  • Fear.
  • Low self-esteem.

Fortunately, only in a very small number of cases (about 10%) do young people attempt to injure or kill themselves.


It is usual for the victim to hide what is happening at first, but there comes a time when her mood is so bad that the symptoms are evident.

At home we can begin to notice strange behaviors such as changes in behavior, appearance of episodes of physical or verbal violence, the boy or girl wants to be alone, eating problems, fear of going out alone, etc

When we go from childhood to adolescence it is normal for changes to appear in our children's behavior, but we are all aware that a change that is too radical can be a sign that something is happening . If so, the time has come to talk to our children and try to detect the problem.

Why does cyberbullying happen

We have seen before that many studies show that cyberbullying and bullying are two sides of the same coin.

There is no reason that can logically justify a situation of this type, but if we analyze the cases of harassment we can see that behind most of them there are a series of common elements:

  • Believing that bullying a person is a simple joke . A fun pastime without any consequences. Here we adults are partly to blame, by defining certain behaviors as "children's things" without stopping to analyze their seriousness.
  • The desire for revenge when something has previously happened between the victim and the harasser. This happens because the bully is a person with little or no tolerance for frustration, a problem that in most cases comes from inadequate education.
  • The bully's lack of self-esteem sometimes leads him to show off her supposed superiority to earn the respect of others. 
  • Social pressure or wanting better social status within the group to which one belongs.

All of these reasons can give rise to bothto cyberbullying as to bullying. But when it comes to cyberbullying, there is one more reason: many do it simply because they can.

When analyzing the statistics on cyberbullying, we have seen that many children admit to having practiced these behaviors simply because they did, without having a specific reason for it. The anonymity provided by the Internet encourages many young people to engage in this type of behavior without really being aware of what they are doing or the effects that their behavior may have on other people.

How does bullying affect your child?

We cannot analyze what school cyberbullying is without being clear about the consequences of this phenomenon.

In previous sections we have seen the immediate effects, but we must not forget that these behaviors can also generate long-term effects. It is more common for this type of effect that we are going to see now to appear if the boy or girl does not receive the assistance that they need.

It is not just that parents take action to put an end to the problem, it is that they must seek specialized help so that their child can overcome the psychological consequences of bullying. Otherwise, we can find:

Chronic depression

Depression is a frequent consequence of all types of bullying, if it is not treated over time it is normal for it to worsen. The more serious the problem becomes and the more isolated the victim feels, the more feelings of depression and loneliness increase. In some cases this can lead to the appearance of suicidal thoughts.

If the depression has not been well treated, the problems of low self-esteem can be prolonged over time and we can find ourselves with a person who will carry mood problems throughout his life.

Chronic psychological problems

In addition to depression, there may be problems such as anxiety, eating disorders, social phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder that can condition a person's life forever if they are not properly treated.

Self-destructive behaviors

In those cases in which bullying puts the victim in a situation of genuine despair, it is common for cases of self-harm to appear or for the victim to put herself in different risk situations as a way to get rid of the stress and anxiety you feel.


Psychological problems that are not treated in time can end up deriving into an addiction with which you seek to escape the problem or its effects. Drug addiction or alcohol abuse are usually the most common in these cases.

Does this mean that all children and adolescents who experience cyberbullying or even bullying will suffer these consequences throughout their lives? Of course not, but all those people who have suffered serious problems in their childhood or adolescence are at risk of having psychological problems in adulthood.

That's why it becomes so importantbefore giving our children all the help they need in a case of this type and taking them to a specialist to help them overcome the trauma and give them tools to deal with problems.

As parents we must be aware that we cannot solve everything. Sometimes it's better to seek help.

Do you have cyberbullying problems?

If you are being bullied online as a minor, you should talk about it with your parents. You must be clear that in no case is the situation you are experiencing your fault, but you need an adult to be able to find a solution.

If you are a parent who has noticed that her son or daughter has this problem, talk to him or her. It's critical that they open up to you so you know exactly what's going on and can take action.

Once the problem has been revealed, it's time to get down to business. The first thing is to collect evidence of what is happening.

Downloading voice messages and other files in which the child is insulted or threatened, saving screenshots of conversations on WhatsApp and social networks is essential to have proof of what is happening.

Then it is best to remove the minor from that bullying environment. For the moment it may be a good idea to leave social networks unlocked in case more evidence is needed, but it is better for the child to refrain from using them. The same with the phone number, it is better to provide him with a new one.

With all this information, it is advisable to go to a lawyer specialized in cyberbullying and determine with the professional the legal steps to follow. It must not be forgotten that in many of these cases a crime is being committed, so it is possible to go to court.

Since the harasser is a minor, in most cases the penalty will not go beyond house arrest or placement in a juvenile facility in the most serious situations.

What can be asked of the parents of the minor harasser is  compensation for the damages that their son has caused to the victim.

On the other hand, while the entire legal process is resolved, it is highly recommended that the minor who has been a victim receive specialized psychological help in order to overcome the situation as soon as possible.</ p>

Justification of bullying by the culprits

Being a conduct carried out by minors, it is normal for the justification they give for their actions to be immature. Many of them try to justify their behavior by pointing out that it is some kind of revenge, that they were not aware of the damage they were causing or that they directly do not know why they have done it.

These are simple and nonsensical explanations, which is not surprising considering that there is absolutely nothing that can justify harassing another person in any way.

Social media risks

Social media has become the perfect arena for cyberbullying. But in reality the problem is not in these means of communication, but in the use that minors make of them.

As adults we must teach our children to use these tools and see that there is a life far beyond the digital world.

We must also control more of their use, using parental control programs that are really useful and making sure that they are making safe use of their social networks, without being victims nor stalkers.

Associations against cyberbullying

Luckily there are more and more associations where you can find help if your child has been a victim of cyberbullying. These are some of the most prominent:

Stop Haters

It is the first Spanish association specialized in cyberbullying. Behind this project we find Pedro García Aguado. It is an association that offers free help to victims. It is made up of lawyers, computer scientists and psychologists.

Ignis Association

Offers help against school and workplace bullying, as well as training for teachers who want to be up-to-date on these issues and know what they can do if they detect a situation of harassment towards a student.


Tips to avoid cyberbullying

  1. Inform children and adolescents well about this type of behavior so that they can recognize it quickly.
  2. Build trust between parents and children so that children quickly come to their parents if they are being victimized.
  3. Teach children to make responsible use of new technologies and to protect their privacy online.
  4. Educate children so that their leisure is beyond the mobile, tablet or computer.
  5. Teach children not to do things online that they wouldn't dare to do to their face.
  6. Promote self-esteem so children know not to be influenced by what others may say.
  7. Use good parental control tools.
  8. Do not allow the minor to have uncontrolled access to the Internet at any time of the day.
  9. Check from time to time the social networks and the messages the minor receives. Better to do it in front of him and making him see that it is not done to violate her privacy but to prevent her from being a victim of some kind of harassment, deceit or crime.</ Li>
  10. As adults, be informed about the seriousness of this type of bullying and take immediate action if you spot a problem.

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, here is a complete guide to prevent cyberbullying.


Conclusions on cyberbullying

After this detailed analysis of cyberbullying, what we can conclude is that it is a behavior that is difficult to avoid, but working with our children and educating them in the proper use of new technologies we can reduce the risk of them becoming bullies or victims.

On the other hand, once the problem has arisen, it is best to act as soon as possible. This includes the parents of the victim, but also the parents of the bully. We must not forget that this type of behavior can worsen over time if measures are not taken.

Cyberbullying is a problem that can affect us all, so it is important to know it well and know what to do about it.

Do you want to know more about this topic? You can continue reading our collection of questions and answers about cyberbullying.