The term “cyberbullying” was first coined and defined by Canadian educator and anti-bullying activist Bill Belsey, as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.”
Cyberbullying has subsequently been defined as “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person”. Other researchers use similar language to describe the phenomenon.
Cyberbullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender, but it may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech), ganging up on victims by making them the subject of ridicule in forums, and posting false statements as fact aimed at humiliation.
Cyberbullies may disclose victims’ personal data (e.g. real name, address, or workplace/schools) at websites or forums or may pose as the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them. Some cyber-bullies may also send threatening and harassing emails and instant messages to the victims, while other post rumors or gossip and instigate others to dislike and gang up on the target.
Kids report being mean to each other online beginning as young as 2nd grade. According to research, boys initiate mean online activity earlier than girls do. However, by middle school, girls are more likely to engage in cyberbullying than boys do. Whether the bully is male or female, their purpose is to intentionally embarrass others, harass, intimidate, or make threats online to one another. This bullying occurs via email, text messaging, posts to blogs, and Web sites.
Though the use of sexual remarks and threats are sometimes present in cyberbullying, it is not the same as sexual harassment and does not necessarily involve sexual predators.