Cyber Bullying

Cyber Bullying

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes… Mark Twain

“Cyber-bullying” is when a child or adult is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child or adult. Cyber bullying is not limited to time and space like real life bullying – which makes it worse. Real life bullying victims are often the weak and those with low self-esteem who struggle to stand up for themselves. With cyber bullying the victim is anyone.

Cyber bullying can be more malicious than traditional forms of bullying. The reasons for that is that it can be done anonymously, the contents is distributed to a much wider group than just on lookers, the bully can alter images and it is not limited to time and space.

The following methods can be used to cyber bully using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones:

Text messages, Picture /Video clips, Mobile phone calls, E-mail, Chat rooms, Instant messages,Websites and Blogs, Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Internet gaming.

The Bureau of Youth Research at UNISA¹ recently published statistics that indicated a rise  in cyberbullying among school learners in South Africa. The 2016 study reveals that 56.1% of female learners and 56.9% of male learners were victims of bullying in the cyberspace. The platform used most for bullying is WhatsApp.

Top five means of means of cyberbullying in South African schools:

WhatsApp 64.9%
Classmate 23.3%
Facebook 22.0%
SMS 14.2%
Instagram 9.0%

% of learners who experienced  cyberbullying

46,5% of learners experienced false statements made by others.
36.7% of leaners said they received upsetting messages.
22,8% of learners said they received threatening messages.
20,8% of leaners were being socially isolated or pushed away.

Risk factors that increase incidences of  cyber bullying

Shared personal information with known friends online/offline:

• Shared cell phone password (66.1%)
• Shared social network login details (33.9%)
• Shared email login details (16.8%)

Shared personal information with unknown person met online:

• Shared cell phone password (25.5%)
• Shared social network login details (20.7%)
• Shared email login details (8.1%)


Note: You can be sued from the age of 7 in your own name.  -Emma Sadleir


Denigration involves sending or posting malicious gossip or rumours about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships. It also includes posting or sending digitally altered photographs of someone to others, particularly photos that portray the victim in a sexualised or harmful way.


Harassment involves frequently sending a cruel or threatening message to a person’s e-mail account or mobile phone. It is usually persistent and repeated and is directed to a specific person. It may cause alarm, annoyance or substantial emotional stress to the receiver.

The SA Law Reform Commission distinguishes between direct and indirect harassment. Direct harassment includes threats, bullying or intimidating electronic messages send directly to the victim. Indirect harassment includes spreading rumours about the victim to unwanted online services and posting information about the victim on online dating or sex services.

Impersonation or Identity theft:

This occurs when someone breaks into someone else’s e-mail or social networking account and poses as that   person, sending messages or other information or pictures online in a bid to damage the victim’s reputation and friendships, or to get the victim into trouble or danger.


Outing involves sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online with people whom the information was never intended to be shared. In some instances deception is used to trick someone into revealing their secrets or embarrassing information, and these are then shared online with others.

Cyber stalking:

Like traditional stalking, cyber stalking involves threats of harm or intimidation through repeated online harassment and threats. Cyber Harassment is the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to harass, control, manipulate or habitually disparage a child, adult, business or group without a direct or implied threat of physical harm.

Happy slapping:

Happy slapping involves incidents where people walk up to someone and slap them, while another captures the violence using a mobile phone camera.


Flaming is when online fights occur via electronic messages containing angry vulgar language. Messages may include threats and insults.


Tricking someone into revealing personal information then sharing it with others.


Intentionally leaving someone out of a group such as instant messaging, friend sites, or other online group activities.

Information courtesy of: CJCP, Issue paper no. 10. August 2011.

Cyber sexual exploitation is when an adult tries to lure a child into offline meetings. Such an adult is called a sexual predator.

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example a family member, friend or professional.

Direct attacks:

They come from messages send to you directly.

Example: You receive a message which says: ”You are ugly. Please go and kill yourself”

Indirect attacks ( attacks -by-proxy):

Using others to help cyber-bully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge.

Example: A message or picture is send between other parties concerning you – it can be via email, sms, Facebook, Snap chat, Whats app.

Why do people cyber bully?

  • Anger
  • Revenge
  • Frustration
  • Boredom
  • For fun
  • For power
  • To defend themselves.

Get help

Protection from Harassment Act

The Act that protects you against harassment or bullying online or in the real world and allows for protection orders to be issued is the Protection from Harassment Act from 2013.

In terms of the Act, harassment includes:

  • directly of indirectly
  • engaging in conduct
  • that the alleged perpetrator ( bully) knows or ought to know
  • causes mental, psychological, physical, financial or emotional harm to the complainant (victim) or inspires the reasonable belief that such harm may be caused.

This means if someone is causing harm in ways mentioned above, you can get a protection order against that person, and it goes for online bullying or bullying in real life.

Clean up your digital footprint.

Here’s a checklist with some tips to get you started.

How to stop online bullying:

  • Block the person/s on your cell phone
  • Tell your parents/teacher that you are bullied online and by whom.
  • Start a group to combat online bullying ( other teens that have also been victims/ teachers/parents)
  • If the situation is serious. talk to the police. Online bullying is illegal.
  • Remember – any crime  committed via the internet or  cell phone is traceable.

Can a person be criminally charged for cyber bullying?

Depending on the nature of the acts of cyber bullying the perpetrator maybe criminally charged with the following criminal offences:


Crimen injuria

Crimen injuria consists of the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity or privacy of another person. This crime can also be committed by communicating to somebody else a message containing, expressly or implicitly, an invitation to or a suggestion of sexual immorality or impropriety, or by sending indecent photos.


Assault is defined as any unlawful and intentional act or omission:

  1. which results in another person’s bodily integrity being directly or indirectly impaired, or
  2. which inspires belief or fear in another person that such impairment of his or her bodily integrity is immediately to take place.
  3. Cyber bullying whereby the perpetrator threatens the victim with personal violence and his conduct inspires fear or a belief in the victim that such personal violence is to take place, may therefore fall within the ambit of the definition of assault.

Criminal defamation

Criminal defamation is defined as the unlawful and intentional publication of a matter concerning another, which tends to seriously injure his or her reputation. Criminal defamation includes both verbal and written defamation. It is a requirement the defamatory words must have come to the notice of someone other than the victim. If not, the perpetrator can only be charged with crimen injuria. Defamatory remarks in chat rooms, on social networking sites, e-mails, text messages or instant messages to third parties are some of the methods of committing cyber bullying that will fall within the ambit of this criminal offence.


Extortion is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally obtains some advantage, which may be of either a patrimonial or non-patrimonial nature, from another by subjecting the latter to pressure, which induces him or her to hand over the advantage. With reference to cyber bullying, extortion may be committed where a person intentionally and unlawfully threatens to electronically distribute images about another person unless the victim hand the perpetrator the advantage.

Source:[email protected]/research/Research-Projects/Researching-Childrens-Rights/pdf/Issue-Paper-10—Legal-reponses-to-cyberbullying-and-sexting-in-SA.pdf

A Comprehensive Cyberbullying Guide for Parents



If you have more questions or need help, you may chat to an online facilitator on the LIVE CHAT. The service is free and you may stay anonymous. We are online from Sundays: 18h00-20h00; Mondays – Thursdays 19h00-21h00.



You can learn more about cyber bullying by doing a self-test quiz: Cyber bullying Quiz.



Parents throughout history have faced challenges in raising the next generation. Ours is grappling with the ever advancing technology our kids are using. Parenting today’s tech savvy kids can seem overwhelming. But don’t give up! We’ve broken it down to a few key actionable items. Download and get started today. But you can do it! Take these seven simple, though still challenging steps, to becoming a good digital parent.


  3. Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A teenager’s online survival guide. SADLEIR, EMMA. 2017
  4.[email protected]/research/Research-Projects/Researching-Childrens-Rights/pdf/Issue-Paper-10—Legal-reponses-to-cyberbullying-and-sexting-in-SA.pdf


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