Cyber bullying, which is using electronic media to intimidate or offend someone, can take many forms.  These include:
  • flaming (posting hostile messages which lead to online fights), 
  • harassment through constant messages intended to insult or containing rumours to damage a person's reputation, and 
  • excluding others from online groups (Longwill, 2010).

Breaching the privacy of others is also a form of cyber bullying.  This can take the form of:
  • posting embarrassing videos or photographs of others online or sharing them with others without their permission, 
  • sharing of personal information, such as passwords, phone numbers, email or street addresses, or 
  • sharing information about others through online gossiping (Longwill, 2010)

There are many instances of the privacy of young people being breached by classmates, former girlfriends or boyfriends and even so-called friends.  These include:

  • An overweight high school boy, hot and sweaty after gym class, was getting changed in what he thought was the privacy of the change room at school.  A classmate photographed him with a mobile camera, who then forwarded it on to others in the school.  Within minutes, he was the laughingstock of the whole school.
  • A 16 year old girl recently broke up with her boyfriend.  The ex-boyfriend, who knew all of her contact information, posted them on sex-orientated websites all over the country.  People began driving past her home and texting her explicit text messages. 
Reference: Bullied by the click of a mouse

Cyber Bullying Causes Devastating Consequences
In September 2010, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi from the United States committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate publicly outed him on Twitter and posted a video of him having a sexual encounter with another man - shot by his webcam in their university dormitory.

Two people - the roommate and another classmate - have been charged with 2 counts of invasion of privacy.  Read more about this tragedy in articles from the NYTimes or on CBS News.

This tragedy has sparked debate into cyber bullying and privacy issues.  There are calls for more action to be taken to inform young people of their responsibility to use electronic mediums in an appropriate way.  They are given these powerful tools, but not the information on how to use them responsibly.

Watch the YouTube videos from PBS Newshour to learn more.

A recent opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald discusses how the issue is not the technology itself: it is a behaviour problem that has been around for many previous generations.  As the author says: "Technology is only as malicious as the user who wields it."


Longwill, T. (2010). Cyberbullying: Like any disease, we need to manage it. Teacher, (211), 48-52.