As the scope of bullying expands beyond the playground to the Internet, school leaders are using new tactics to protect students – and their districts. Cyberbullying can have serious ramifications for school districts, and schools must to be proactive in addressing this issue. Some school districts have been sued regarding their students’ webpages. Others have preempted student cyberbullying by suspending those who cyberbully.

What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as: “When children or teens bully each other using the Internet, mobile phones or other cyber technology.” (1) It can happen at any time through electronic media – not just during the school day – and includes text messaging and social media like Facebook.

Did you know?
Cyberbullying can happen in a number of ways and it can have a negative impact on a wide scope of people in the school community. Some facts about cyberbullying include:

  • Girls are more likely than boys to be cyberbullied, but all students and even teachers and administrators are at risk of being a target;
  • Children can send and receive bullying messages both at school and at home – via e-mail, text messaging and other electronic modes of communication; and
  • A forwarded message that is intended for one person can be easily shared with many others.(2)
  • Sexting is a form of cyberbullying.

Whereas playground bullying is face-to-face, cyberbullies often do not witness how their message affects the bullied, making the act easier to commit.(3) According to a 2009 survey of middle school students, over 17% say they have ever been a victim of cyberbullying.(4)

What can a school district do?

Districts can combat cyberbullying in your districts by implementing policy changes and offering educational opportunities for staff and students, including:

  • Changing your district’s bullying policy to include ramifications for cyberbullying;
  • Running anti-cyberbullying public service announcements at a school assembly or on the morning announcements; and/or
  • Including educational classroom activities for children about cyberbullying.

What is your district’s position?
Having policies and procedures in place in school districts can help when an issue arises. While many districts ban use of Facebook, Twitter or other social media websites on campus, there are other opportunities for cyberbullying on the school grounds.

School administrators and school board members must decide on the components of a policy, including appropriate punishment measures, which websites to block from school servers, whether to limit students’ time with cell phones or when computers are available for non-academic use throughout the school day. In addition, how a school handles threats made by a student to other students or school staff also must be addressed. Some students have been expelled for threats made on Facebook.(5)

Resources and Information

  • Steps to Address Bullying at Your School: Tips for School Administrators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Stop Bullying Now! campaign.
  • Guide for Educators from the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. Includes discussion on legal issues and policy issues on using the internet at school.
  • NetSmartz is a website from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that has tips and information for educators on dealing with cyberbullying.
  • bNetS@vvy is a website from the National Education Association Health Information Network that provides tools for adults to help kids connect safely to the Internet and other mobile communication.

Public Awareness Campaigns:

Additional Resources:


  • Preventing Sexting in Your District, featuring Laurie Nathan, manager of outreach for the NetSmartz Workshop, an educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

(1)So What is Bullying?
(2)So What is Bullying?
(3)She Used to Be Pretty
(4) Cyberbullying Research Center
(5)Expulsion feeds debate on online rights,” USA Today, February 2, 2010.