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CyberBullying (Family Safety)

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Family safety

Cyberbullying is a very dangerous and concerning problem. Because of the anonymity that accompanies online personas, it is easy for people to get carried away and say hurtful things through technological means that they would most likely never say in person.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyber bullying is becoming a problem on the Internet. defines it as follows: “Cyberbullying involves 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”[1]. Normally, the term Cyber Bully refers to young children harassing each other, but the phenomenon is not limited to our children. When similar things happen to adults, it is usually referred to as Cyber Harassment rather than cyber bullying, but it has the same hurtful and dangerous effects in the end: using technology — Internet, email, cell phones, etc. — to harass or embarrass an individual on a repeated basis.


Since this is a relatively new problem, not much research has been conducted on this topic. However, reports the following statics from the few studies that have been done[2]:

  • 18% of students in grades 6-8 said they had been cyberbullied at least once in the last couple of months; and 6% said it had happened to them 2 or more times (Kowalski et al., 2005).
  • 11% of students in grades 6-8 said they had cyberbullied another person at least once in the last couple of months, and 2% said they had done it two or more times (Kowalski et al., 2005).
  • 19% of regular Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 reported being involved in online aggression; 15% had been aggressors, and 7% had been targets (3% were both aggressors and targets) (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004).
  • 17% of 6-11 year-olds and 36% of 12-17-year-olds reported that someone said threatening or embarrassing things about them through e-mail, instant messages, web sites, chat rooms, or text messages (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2006).
  • Cyber bullying has increased in recent years. In nationally representative surveys of 10-17 year-olds, twice as many children and youth indicated that they had been victims and perpetrators of online harassment in 2005 compared with 1999/2000 (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2006).

Other research shows that most youth who are victims of cyber bullying tend to keep it to themselves, although pre-teens are more apt to inform someone that teenagers are. The StopBullyingNow website reports[3]:

  • 51% of preteens but only 35% of teens who had been cyber bullied had told their parents about their experience;
  • 27% of preteens and only 9% of teens who had been cyber bullied had told a teacher;
  • 44% of preteens and 72% of teens who had been cyber bullied had told a friend;
  • 31% of preteens and 35% of teens who had been cyber bullied had told a brother or sister;
  • 16% of preteens and teens who had been cyber bullied had told no one.

Advice from Church Leaders

  • Robert E. Wells said: "Alma makes it very clear when he says, 'For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will also condemn us' (Alma 12:14). King Benjamin warns us in rather frightening terms, 'I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if you do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, … even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish' (Mosiah 4:29–30; emphasis added) [1]
  • Dallin H. Oaks taught: "The words we speak are important. The Savior taught that men will be held to account for 'every idle word' in the day of judgment. 'For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.' (Matt. 12:36–37.) He also said, 'That which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.' (Matt. 15:11.) Truly, as the Apostle James taught, 'The tongue is a fire, … an unruly evil' that can defile the whole body. (James 3:6, 8.) [2]

Tips & Suggestions

Here are a few suggestions regarding how parents can uncover cyberbullying.

  1. Keep watch over your children’s online instant messages and email conversations, as well as their cell phone text messages. Children will be hesitant to bring these to the attention of their parents, but adults can usually tell if something is not right in the tone of a conversation. While this may seem like an invasion of privacy, the computers and cell phones are yours, and you have the right and responsibility to ensure your children’s safety while using them. Inform your children that you will periodically check these communications so they don’t feel betrayed when you come to them about something you saw there.
  2. Talk to your children about their online friends. Ask them often about their conversations, and how they feel about their online relationships. Watch for sudden changes in these relationships.
  3. Since children tend to tell their friends before they would tell an adult, talk to your children about “bystander” rules that is, if they know of someone who is being bullied online, tell them to bring it up to an adult, and to encourage their friend to do so as well.
  4. Periodically search your children’s names to see what is being posted about them online. You can do this on Google, or Yahoo! or any other common search engine. Also, check their social networks for posts about them, using their name or nicknames.
  5. Watch for the warning signs: if they become angry after spending time online, or if they withdraw, or their grades suddenly decline. If they suddenly change their attitude about school, or get sick more often and remain home from school or change their habits regarding their friends. All of these are possible warning signs of online cyberbullying.

Be watchful and keep an interest in your children’s online interactions, and cyberbullying can be detected and resolved very quickly, before any long-term harm is done.

Additional resources


  1. Robert E. Wells, The Message: Control, New Era, Sep 1987, 4
  2. Dallin H. Oaks, Reverent and Clean, Ensign, May 1986, 49