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. Cyberbullying is not limited to time and space like real-life bullying – which makes it worse. Real-life bullying victims are often weak, and those with low self-esteem struggle to stand up for themselves. With cyberbullying, the victim is anyone.

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

The following methods can be used to cyberbully 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 bullying victims in cyberspace. The platform used most for bullying is WhatsApp.

Top five 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 learners said they received upsetting messages.
22,8% of learners said they received threatening messages.
20,8% of learners were being socially isolated or pushed away.

Risk factors that increase incidences of  cyberbullying

Shared personal information with known friends online/offline:

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

Shared personal information with an unknown person met online:

• Shared cell phone password (25.5%)
• Shared social network log in 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 their 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 with 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.


Like traditional stalking, cyberstalking involves threats of harm or intimidation through repeated online harassment and threats. Cyber Harassment uses 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 than 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 sent 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, What’s app.

Why do people cyberbully?

  • 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 or 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 the 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 cyberbullying?

Depending on the nature of the acts of cyberbullying, the perpetrator may be criminally charged with the following criminal offences:


Crimen injuria

Crimen injuria consists of the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of another person’s person’s dignity or privacy. 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 their bodily integrity is immediately to take place.
  3. Cyberbullying, 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 occur, may 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 seriously injures 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 cyberbullying 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. Concerning cyberbullying, extortion may be committed where a person intentionally and unlawfully threatens to electronically distribute images about another person unless the victim hands 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 with an online facilitator on the LIVE CHAT. The chat is text-based and you may remain anonymous.



You can learn more about cyberbullying by doing a self-test quiz: Cyberbullying 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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