10 Forms of Online Harassment

A man holds a smartphone displaying Facebook logo in front of a poster at the International Cyberbullying Congress in Berlin, Germany, in 2013. © Hannibal Hanschke/dpa/Corbis

Cyberbullying is the granddaddy of online harassment, if only because it can include so many of the components we've discussed all in one ugly package. Roughly 2.2 million high school students (9 percent of high school students) reported experiencing some level of cyberbullying in 2011 [source: Megan Meier Foundation]. Possibly the worst characteristic of cyberbullying is that there is little to no reprieve for the people who endure it, typically kids and teens.

The bullies of yesteryear could only wreak havoc at school or otherwise in person, but cyberbullies can strike any time of the day or night, thanks to modern technology. This sad truth means that even home isn't a safe space for their victims. Cyberbullies use all manner of electronic communication to harass their subjects. Instant message, text message, email, websites, social media are all fair game to start rumors, distribute humiliating images and otherwise be vicious. It is often extremely difficult for non-law-enforcement officials to pinpoint the perpetrator, leaving the victim disillusioned, depressed and even suicidal. As a result, many victims detest or avoid going to school, causing their grades to drop; they also experiment more freely with alcohol and drugs [source: Stop Bullying.gov].

Cyberbullying-motivated suicides are also making the headlines, with police cracking down on perpetrators like the teen who, among other harassing statements, messaged the victim to "drink bleach and die" [source: Newcomb]. A Canadian man even went in online chat rooms and offered advice to his targets on how should end their lives [source: Associated Press].