Four Things to Know About Cyberbullying

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Girl looking at her phone with a hurt expression as two girls in the background with a phone look at her

Bullying is bad news for everybody involved. And “cyberbullying,” the kind that takes place online, is just as real—and can be just as harmful—as bullying that takes place in person.

National Bullying Prevention Month is right around the corner. It's a good time to remember that if you or someone you know is cyberbullied, you can do something about it. Here’s how to recognize cyberbullying and take action.

  1. Cyberbullying can be any type of bullying that uses electronic technology. According to StopBullying.gov, that can mean:

    • Sending mean text messages or emails.

    • Spreading rumors online—on social media, for example.

    • Posting embarrassing pictures, videos, or websites online.

    • Creating fake social media profiles.

    • Sharing private information that you don’t want others to know.

  2. Even though it takes place online, rather than in person, some things about cyberbullying can make it especially hurtful.

    • It can happen anytime, and can reach a teen even when they’re alone.

    • Cyberbullying messages can be posted anonymously.

    • Cyberbullying can reach many people quickly.

    • Deleting cyberbullying messages is very difficult.

  1. There is a link between bullying and substance misuse.

    • Bullying—being bullied, seeing someone else get bullied, and bullying someone else—can take a toll on you.

    • Both people who bully others and those who see other people being bullied have a higher risk of alcohol and drug use, according to StopBullying.gov. (We’ve also talked about this here on the Drugs & Health Blog.)

  1. You can take action to help prevent cyberbullying.

    • Don’t bully others! If you’re having a hard time, talk to a trusted adult or crisis hotline rather than engaging in bullying.

    • StopBullying.gov has a section on what you can do if you or a friend are being bullied. You might talk to an adult, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor.

    • Some forms of cyberbullying are worse than annoying; they’re a crime. When it crosses that line, consider reporting cyberbullying to law enforcement.

    • You can also take it a step further and get involved in anti-bullying initiatives, maybe like some of the initiatives written about on the StopBullying.gov blog, in your school, town, or city.

Bonus: Are you a parent, caregiver, or educator? Check out this video from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration about how to recognize cyberbullying, and download an app with tips to help prevent bullying.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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