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Cyber Bullying Literature Review

Christopher O'Leary

University of Texas at El Paso


There has been a growing concern in the United States as many kids and adolescents are victimized by those who harass others online also known as cyber bullies. This literature review piece talks about the information on the topic and gives a in-depth analysis of cyber bullying. It will talk about the differing views of the effects of cyber bullying has on adolescents. It will give statistical data and talk about how cyber bullying has changed over the past decade. It also gives different views on how cyber bullying can be reduced or stopped.

Cyber Bullying Literature Review

Today, many adolescents have been harassed online by the use of social media. With the easy access to the internet technology gives young people these days, created another way for bullies to harass their victims. Cyber bullying is a form of bullying that has evolved due to the available technology. There have been many cases where kids have committed suicide that was related to a cyber bullying incident. Is it possible that cyber bullying is becoming a big enough concern among the nation, or even the world, to where schools and even the government have to step in? In order for a better understanding of the cyber bullying and the differing views on the topic, the following questions must be addressed

  1. What is cyber bullying and how does it occur?

  2. How have adolescents been affected by cyber bullying?

  3. What sources of social media are used the most by cyber bullies and are there ways to help prevent or reduce these acts?

  4. What organizations have stepped in to help address the issue, and have their actions been helpful?

These questions will help assess certain areas of the topic and with give vital information about cyber bullying and the effects it has on young people.

What is cyber bullying and how is it done?

There are plenty of ways of cyber bullying someone and it is very easily done. First of all, what is cyber bullying? Cyber bullying is the act of harassing someone using social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc. Bullying occurs when the affliction of discomfort is put upon another person. Bullying has evolved from a few hurtful remarks communicated in person to multimedia interaction that can be communicated via multiple electronic sources. "The evolution of electronic communication is the foundation of cyber bullying". (Hendricks, Lumadue, Waller, 2012, pp. 1-2) The quote is basically saying that cyber bullying is when one continuing harassment by an individual to another individual by the use of the technology such as phone or by computer and that it has evolved due to the increase of technology. This can be done via text message or a regular phone call. People can be bullied by abusive or threatening phone calls or texts. It could be a few to hundreds or texts from one person, or a group of people. These people can send hateful text messages as well as offensive and nasty pictures. "The girl’s parents, wild with outrage and fear, showed the principal the text messages: a dozen shocking, sexually explicit threats, sent to their daughter the previous Saturday night from the cellphone of a 12-year-old boy. Both children were sixth graders at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J. " (Hoffman, J 2010) This quote from the New York Times gives the situation of a 12 year old girl being sexually harassed by text messages sent from a 12 year old boy that went to the same school. This is a prime example of how someone can be harassed by someone over text messages or phone calls. Although the harassment over the phone is bad, it does not compare to the many options of online harassment

Online harassment is also another way of harassing someone. This consists of posting degrading pictures/videos, sending hateful instant messages/emails, or posting harmful comments about someone. For example, an embarrassing video taken at a house party when someone was drunk and posting it on someone's Facebook profile without their consent could be a form of this kind of harassment. A survey taken at the University of Texas at El Paso about cyber bullying was issued. Out of 10 people, 60% of those thought gender plays an important role when it comes to cyber bullying. Figure 1 shows the results from a survey:

"During a video chat with several of them, an anonymous user asked Amanda to flash in front of the webcam and, in a moment of teen naivety, she revealed her breasts. The anonymous user tried to blackmail her and asked her to put on a “show” for him, and if she refused, he would send the video of her breasts to everyone she knew. Soon the police were knocking on Amanda’s door with the news that the video of her exposing herself had been distributed over the Internet." (Elam, J 2012) This quote from the Washington Times explains the situation a girl name Amanda Todd was in. She exposed herself on a webcam chat to an anonymous person. This anonymous person pursued Todd and threatened her that if she didn’t give into his demands, he would post pictures of her on all social networking sites. After she didn’t give into his demands, the unknown man posted the exposed Amanda Todd on her Facebook page. After her picture was posted, she was ridiculed ruthlessly by her “friends” and kids from her school. She had to change schools three times during the whole ordeal so she wouldn’t have to deal with the bullying. The moving didn’t stop the bullying, it only got worse, and Amanda became suicidal. She ended up hanging herself in her room due to all of the bullying/cyber bullying. This is a prime example of how someone can be harassed using the internet because the unknown man hacked Amanda Todd’s Facebook account and posted the nude photo he took of her. Her peers then started harassing her as well on Facebook, unfortunately ending in her successful suicide attempt.

The story of the 12 year old girl harassed by the use of her phone, and the story of Amanda Todd, where she would tormented by a man unknown, are examples of how cyber bullying is done.

How are adolescents affected by cyber bullying?

Over the past couple of years, there have been recent suicides that have been linked to cyber bullying. Going back to the story of Amanda Todd mentioned earlier, she went through some psychological trauma which then led to her depression and suicidal acts. What about those who go through cyber bullying but do not commit suicide? Are there certain symptoms they show? "Kids that are bullied are likely to experience anxiety, depression, loneliness, unhappiness, and poor sleep,” explains Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician and director of Family Medicine at Sinai Hospital, Internal Medicine Division, in Baltimore. Making the issue worse is the fact that such negative effects of bullying often go unnoticed, as many victims feel the need to conceal the fact that they are being bullied because they are embarrassed or afraid of further bullying. More often than not victims respond passively to bullying. They tend to act anxious and appear less confident. They may become quieter in class and, as a result, the bullying can become a hindrance on their academic success. (American Osteopathic Association, n.d.) The quote from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) gives the specific symptoms young people go through when they are being cyber bullied. According to Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. of, Our work has found that many victims of cyber bullying felt depressed , sad, and frustrated. It is interesting to note that a relatively equal percentage of elementary, middle, and high school students felt frustrated and angry, while a notably larger proportion of elementary students felt sad as compared to the other groups… the effects of cyber bullying are not limited to hurt feelings that can be easily disregarded. The consequences can be far-reaching, and can permanently damage the psyche of many adolescents. (Hinduja, Patchin, 2009) This study by both Hinduja and Patch asked cyber bullied victims how they felt by being cyber bullied.

What sources of social media are used the most by cyber bullies and are there ways to help prevent or reduce it?

With the easy access of the internet through technology, kids and adolescents are able to access the internet without their parent's knowledge. Young people are very sophisticated users of technology. Their technological savvy, combined with the ability to be online without much adult supervision, can lead to behaviors that require secrecy. Adolescents have an easy access to anything that is available on the internet, without very much adult supervision. Social networking sites have been created for people to keep in touch with their friends, family, etc. A majority of young people have created profiles on these social networking sites so they too can keep in touch with their friends and family. "Children and adolescents use the Internet to access social networking sites (SNSs). Most (73%) adolescents report ownership of an SNS profile." (Hornbeck, Moreno, 2011, pp. 1) This quote from Hornbeck and Moreno give the statistic that 73% of adolescents have an account on a social networking site such as Facebook. "Facebook's ongoing popularity may be related to its ability to combine functions from other sites such as photo sharing, email communication, games, blogs, and really simple syndication (RSS) feeds." (Hornbeck, Moreno, 2011, pp. 1) According to this quote, Facebook is the most popular choice for most adolescents to access and display their lives. "Although bullying via electronic media offers the perpetrators anonymity, several studies have shown that many victims know who bullied them.2,20 Much of the time, the person doing the bullying was considered a friend… Studies indicate that those most likely to be involved in traditional bullying, both victims and perpetrators, are the same persons that are most likely to be involved in cyber bullying.20 “(Hornbeck, Moreno, 2011, pp. 2) Going back to the survey taken at the University of Texas at El Paso, the following question was asked: At what Ages do you see kid get cyber bullied the most at? Taken from a sample of 10 students from UTEP’s English 1312 class, a majority of them selected 12-14. I believe that students chose this because, kids at the ages of 12-14 tend to be on the immature side and still do not know how to deal with their hormones. Figure 2 shows the results of question taken from the survey:

The least favorite choice was “8-12” ages because I think parents do not allow most of their kids that are this age to even use the internet or social networking websites. “12-14” was the best choice because this is when kids tend to start getting into social networking, and using the internet for school. So it allows them to become more knowledgeable when it comes to the internet. Although these social networking sites have privacy settings, and have certain rules for their users to follow (i.e. required to be a certain age for use, etc.), these options can be easily passed by the adolescents who use it.

Is there any possible way for preventing or reducing cyber bullying? The website gives articles about the subject of cyber bullying, how to prevent it, and how to report it. The article on how to prevent cyber bullying is directed more towards the parents. "Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online. Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of their control whether someone else will forward it. Encourage kids to think about whom they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it. Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise their control over their online identities and activities." (Unknown, para 8-11) This quote gives the specifics to the parents to help them teach their children what to do and how to reduce the risk of being cyber bullied.

What organizations have stepped in to help address the issue, and have their actions been helpful?

Since cyber bullying has become such a growing concern, organizations are starting to be formed and reaching out towards those who are in need. The website "" is a website dedicated to ending cyber bullying. This website gives statistics and information about cyber bullying. “The End of Cyber Bullying (ETCB) Organization is a state certified non-profit organization founded by Samuel Lam and David Zhao on May 1st, 2011 in hopes in creating a social network devoid of cyber bullying. By raising awareness and informing the members of our community and others around the globe, ETCB hopes to help teens, parents, educators, and others identify, prevent, and ultimately stop cyber bullying. Ultimately, we hope to BE THE CHANGE and spread positivity online instead of negativity”. (unknown, para. 2) This quote is directly from the website. The quote is to explain what Then End to Cyber Bullying (ETCB) Organization is and explains the function of this organization. School districts have also been putting their foot down by implementing polices that punish those who cyber bully. “More recently, a new federal antibullying bill called the Safe Schools Improvement Act (2011) has been sponsored to shore up antibullying pro-grams in schools. It is important, however, that schools not simply introduce or use antibullying programs, but assess the “fit” of the program for the student population they are dealing with, as well as assess the program’s effectiveness (Kendall-Tackett & Giacomoni, 2005). The quote given states that a new antibullying bill was implemented to help create anti-bullying programs in schools. Certain organizations have been established to help stop cyber bullying, but are their efforts really making a difference when it comes to cyber bullying?

According to the article "Effectiveness of Cyber bullying Prevention Strategies: A Study on Students’ Perspectives", authors Ellen M. Kraft and Jinchang Wang conducted a survey among students who are offenders, victims, both offenders and victims, and neither offenders nor victims of cyber bullying (Kraft, Wang, 2009, pp 521) In this study, they provided different strategies that can be implemented to take of cyber bullies such as "No computer use in school and home for offender…Parent taking away offender's computers and cell phones." (pp 521-522) The results were that "The data revealed that the specific strategy that offenders’ viewed as effective was the penalty that restricted his or her Internet and technology use. In general, clear rules with enforced penalties and ongoing prevention programs were perceived as effective by the offenders. Secondly, teens perceived the theme of taking away the offender’s access to technology as an effective prevention measure, regardless of their roles in cyber bullying. " (pp 530) They go on to say that there are limitations of the study because not all of the people who are participating are honest and they don’t know who is actually taking part in the study. A limitation of this anonymous online study is that the researchers do not really know who the respondents are or if they are completely honest in their answers. This survey is a convenience survey. It is possible that the responses are not representative of larger population of teenagers or online teenagers, although the study does have value as it provides insights into how teenagers view cyber bullying prevention strategies. (pp 531)


Cyber bullying has become more of an issue not just within the United States but in the world, due to the increase of technological advances. However, organizations have been created to help counter the effects cyber bullying has on young people, and try to get them through this new type of bullying experience. Although most social networking websites and social media have privacy as long as user guidelines, they cannot attain to everyone's problems and cannot do much about cyber bullying. It is up to the parents to maintain their own children and keep a look out for what their child is doing on the internet.


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Cyber-Bullying and its Effect on our Youth. (n.d.). AOA Homepage. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from

Elam, J. (2012, October 17). Bullied to Death: The Tragic Story of Amanda Todd. The Washington Times [Washington]. Retrieved from

Hendricks, L., Lumadue, R., & Waller, R. L. (2012). The Evolution of Bullying to Cyber Bullying: An Overview of the Best Methods for Implementing a Cyber Bullying Prevention Program. NATIONAL FORUM JOURNAL OF COUNSELING AND ADDICTION, 1, 2,3,6. Retrieved from,%20LaVelle%20Cyber%20Bullying%20NFJCA%20V1%20N1%202012.pdf

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Prevent Cyberbullying | (n.d.). Home | Retrieved March 1, 2013, from

Hornbeck, Moreno, 2011, pp. 2 Retrieved from


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