Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Face of a Cyberbully: Who do you see? by Dr. Katie Crosslin

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Often times in our culture, we are trained to endure pain as if it is a “normal” part of growing up.  What is even worse is that now we have the Internet which makes bullying far too easy. School yard fights that may have occurred 20 years ago can take place on Facebook, permanently imprinted on people’s walls and devastating to the one who is mocked and humiliated. According to research, over 50% of teens reported being cyberbullied by another person, which included inappropriate pictures posted on the Internet and rumors spread to affect one’s reputation (1).

I recently saw a video entitled “how parents can protect their children from cyberbullies.” While that is important, the question popped in my head, “what if your child IS the cyberbully?” No one wants to think like that, I get it. However, we can be so consumed with “protecting” our child that we may not teach them how to be a good digital citizen. In one of my own research studies among college students, cybervictims were 5 times more likely to become a cyberbully as a result of their experiences (2). That really is astounding and confirms the belief that there are no “pure” bullies and vicitms, but a “victim-bully” complex. In other words, relationships are complex and one can easily retaliate and move into a bullying role if one is not careful.  

It is much easier to share hurtful comments online because you don’t have input from facial expressions and body language from the other person.  We must remember there is a person behind the screen and taking a private communication and putting it on Facebook for hundreds of people to see in an effort to humiliate them is unfair, inconsiderate, and is categorized as cyberbullying. 

Check out this video that demonstrates the hurtful and deliberate communication from a teenager who gave into peer pressure: 

I don’t know about you, but this video is upsetting on many levels. Children and teens don’t understand the gravity of their behavior online and parents may not have any indication that these events are taking place. And if you think it is an over-exaggeration, just do a little online research and you will read story after story of teens who have depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts because of their cyberbullying experiences. 

Parents are a great resource for their children and can open the lines of communication to facilitate crucial discussion on cyberbullying. If you need help knowing what questions to ask your child about their online behaviors, here is a list of “icebreakers” to find out more about your son or daughter’s experience regarding cyberbullying, sexting, and other social networking sites. 

The face of a cyberbully….who do you see? Is it the school yard bully? The meanest kid at school? Or someone else? Let’s focus on teaching online etiquette and respect and maybe then we won’t have to protect our kids from cyberbullies.

Dr. Katie Crosslin is an Assistant Professor at Texas Woman's University. She has taught for over 13 years in public schools, universities, and communities. Dr. Crosslin is particularly interested in violence prevention and currently conducts research in this area. You can contact her at kcrosslin @


  1. Cooper RM, Blumenfeld, WJ. Responses to Cyberbullying: A Descriptive Analysis of the Frequency of and Impact on LGBT and Allied Youth. Journal of LGBT Youth 2012; 9:153-177. 
  2. Crosslin, KL, & Crosslin, MB.  Predictive models for cyberbullying among college students: What are the consequences? Submitted to Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Under review as of September 6, 2013.

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