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Cyberbullying

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Sticks and stones can break my bones, and words will certainly hurt me.
Cyberbullying is a particular type of harassment that is done over digital devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets. Adolescents are often targeted although people of any age can be subjected to it. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website stopbullying.gov, there are three distinct types of issues that distinguish it from other types of bullying: persistence, permanency, and lack of noticeability.
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It is persistent in that the devices, such as a cell phone, used to carry out the bullying are ones that are not easy to disengage from. It is permanent since, as opposed to a verbal taunt, the bullying itself is stored on a digital device forever unless specifically removed. It is hard to notice because other people, such as teachers and parents, may not overhear or see the bullying take place.

Cyberbullying is distinct from Trolling in that the latter is agitating groups of people as opposed to one person specifically. Trolling can easily become cyberbullying, however, should a troll turn attentions on an individual.

Can overlap with New Media Are Evil, when the digital medium itself is blamed for the bullying rather than putting the blame on the bully, as well Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!, when YouTube could be just one way a bully targets a victim. Thanks to the nature of smartphones having built-in cameras and wi-fi capability, the bully could also double as a malicious form of Camera Fiend. This may be one motivation for Catfishing. Eventually can involve Suicide Dare and lead to Driven to Suicide for the victim. See also Social Media Is Bad, when social networks and internet forums are seen as a way to exploit cyberbullying and as tools for cyberbullies.

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This is often the subject for a Lifetime Movie of the Week.

Occasionally, when a series or movie tackles this subject, the writers did not do the research and it can lead to a Clueless Aesop when covering the issue. This falls under the Internet Safety Aesop since cyberbullying is a frequent problem.

Sadly this is Truth in Television, so No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

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    Advertising 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Downplayed in My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected: One of the first cases for the Service Club was about discovering who was cyberbullying Hayato Hayama's three male friends saying bad rumours about them. This case was managed by Hachiman Hikigaya by getting Hayama out of equation so the 3-member workgroup was fulfilled by the three guys so they can meet each other without having Hayato as the center and with this, the rumours are over and all is back to normal.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Otonashi Meru is normally a quiet girl. Give her a cell phone, and she will heap piles of verbal abuse at you.
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    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • Gnome Alone: While trying to get back a MacGuffin necklace from Brittany at the school dance, our heroine Chloe has to make the choice between her Nerd friend Liam and Brittany's approval. When Liam tries to storm off, one of Brittany's groupies trips him with her foot and causes him to Face Plant onto the floor. For further humiliation, she snaps a picture and posts it online with her phone so they can all laugh about it over and over again.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cool Cat Saves the Kids attempts to address this issue. Butch sends mean texts to Maria and mean emails to Cool Cat, but Cool Cat decides to feed the troll on the second instance, and he encouraged Maria to open the unsolicited text.
  • Cucuy The Boogeyman: Kids are being hunted down, seemingly at random, by a monster out of Mexican folklore. The common denominator with all the victims is that they took part in cyberbullying before being targeted.
  • Cyberbully (2011): The plot, as implied by the title, is about protagonist Taylor suffering from severe cyberbullying after insulting an Alpha Bitch online- most of the bullying involves Slut-Shaming and spreading rumors. Because the bullying is online, however, Taylor and her mother struggle to get any proper justice served over it.
  • Cyberbully (2015): The film is about a teenage girl who finds herself accused of cyberbullying by an unknown culprit and how this event devastated her, no matter if she finally could find the culprit with the help of a Playful Hacker.
  • Hackers: The clique at Dade Murphy's new school learn that Federal agent Dick Gill has sworn to track, identify and nullify "internet terrorists." This is the clique's Berserk Button, whereupon they amass as much personal data on Agent Gill as they can, then monkey-wrench his life. Most notably, while dining in an expensive restaurant with his wife and some friends, his credit card gets snipped in two on the spot as though he were some deadbeat.
  • My Spy: During one of her bus rides towards school, two girls sitting in front of Sophie's seat seize the opportunity to take pictures of Sophie's jelly-covered face and post them on "Insta" for giggles.
  • Unfriended: The central characters are gradually revealed to have been the ringleaders of a cyberbullying campaign that drove one of their classmates to suicide, through the filming of an embarrassing video and posting it online for the world to see. Now someone (or something) is seeking revenge. That someone turns out to be the ghost of the classmate, who gets her revenge on all of them come the end of the film.
  • Mentioned in The Social Network:
    Erica Albright: The Internet's not written in pencil, Mark, it's written in ink. And you published that Erica Albright was a bitch, right before you made some ignorant crack about my family's name, my bra size, and then rated women based on their hotness.
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie Social Nightmare, a student's chances of getting into a good college hang in the balance when inappropriate photos of her are posted on the Internet, and eventually she's cyberbullied with Slut-Shaming.
  • The Net has Angela Bennett become marked for murder when she discovers that the Gatekeeper anti-virus software also allows back-door access to any system running it. When a hired hitman fails to kill Angela, the evil Praetorians tamper with Angela's identity, making her into a wanted fugitive with no credit and no finances.

    Literature 
  • The Berenstain Bears broached the topic of cyberbullying in “Computer Trouble,” where one of Sister Bear’s classmates sends her a harassing message on Pawbook (their version of Facebook).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: The episode "Hated in the Nation" involves a lethal cyberbullying campaign in which people wish death on strangers over the Internet and the person with the most wishes against them is horribly killed via tiny bee-like drones. And then turned on its head at the end, when the drones are all sent after every single person who participated in the campaign.
  • Cobra Kai: In Season 1, this was Yasmine's go-to tactic for making fun of Aisha's size (for example, posting: "the buffet table is under attack"). Johnny expresses disgust at cyberbullying, noting that back in his day, bullies at least took ownership and said those mean things to people's faces.
  • The Korean Drama Schoolgirl Detectives is about a Detective School Club in an All Girl School that solve mysteries in their school, since bullying to abortion and suicide. One of the cases was about a case of cyberbullying of a girl who was about to be Driven to Suicide until the Club intervenes to stop it. Having a computing expert in the group certainly helped a lot in this case.
  • House of Anubis: Downplayed in season-two. When Joy is trying to chase Nina out of the school so she can get Fabian, she takes to the internet and chooses to write a nasty, anonymous article about how much Nina sucks. All of it is done with the intention to cause harm, and her being anonymous was intended to keep her free from consequences...until she got busted, and everyone turned on her for it.
  • One episode of CSI had the LVPD investigating the suicide of a young cheerleader — turns out that she was Driven to Suicide by the class' Alpha Bitch who created a webpage in which an edited video of the girl calling herself a slut played and she was harassed 24/7 by mocking texts from people all over the country because the page also had her phone number. As horrifying as it was, it was handled like many other Subculture of the Week episodes.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "URL, Interrupted", Ryan investigates when a cyberbullying victim pledges to exact revenge on her tormentors. Simon is shocked to discover that his son is one of the ringleaders in the cyberbullying.
  • One episode of Joan of Arcadia features an Alpha Bitch taking an embarrassing photo of Joan in her underwear in the locker room after gym class, then threatening to send the photo to everyone in school. When Joan tries to take the mean girl's phone, she inadvertently follows through on the threat and is subjected to relentless teasing. Joan's friends decide to fight fire with fire by stealing the girl's diary and reading all of her humiliating secrets aloud...including the fact that their target's mother has breast cancer. The girl breaks down sobbing, giving Joan a Heel Realization moment.

    Video Games 
  • Life Is Strange: Kate Marsh suffers from this after the Vortex Club records and shares a video of her making out with at least one boy at a party; she was drugged and didn't even remember what most of she did that night. Kate is then bullied severely by her fellow students, her fundamentalist Christian family calls her a "Jezebel", and she will eventually attempt to commit suicide by throwing herself off a rooftop. Max can talk her down, if she's been consistently supportive of Kate throughout the game.
  • High School Story features a quest line called "Hope's Story" about cyberbullying. The Cybersmile Foundation is referenced in the quest.
  • A rare heroic version of this trope occurs in South Park: The Fractured but Whole. The New Kid finds themself surrounded by the Raisins Girls and about to receive a beating—when suddenly, all of the girls' phones began beeping non-stop with rumors, fake tweets, and social media accounts vanishing. It turns out it's the work of Wendy Testaburger, whose superhero persona Call Girl is a Playful Hacker specializing in accessing people's social networks and devastating them. When used in battle, Call Girl's attacks involve hacking into people's phones for damage (and, when that fails, simply beating them with a selfie stick). It's definitely Protagonist-Centered Morality, as Call Girl is undeniably cyberbullying her targets, but it's also made clear that Wendy only goes after jerks and villains, not everyday people (and even then, Wendy is occasionally an Apologetic Attacker: "You're gonna hate me for this!").

    Web Animation 
  • Hector's World animation "You're Not Alone": Ming the clam gets sent a photo of herself with glasses and a moustache drawn on, which sets off an Embarrassment Plot and the word "cyberbullying" is said many times, but it turns out that the two fish who sent it, Bella and Brooke, only meant it as a joke, and not to bully her.

    Webcomics 
  • In Homestuck, John and his friends are harassed by anonymous jerks online, in what is explicitly referred to as trolling (and the trolls turn out to be from an alien race literally called trolls). This is contrasted with later on in the narrative when Jane and her friends are jeered (not trolled) via chat by Caliborn, who is the brother of one of their friends. After an incident where Caliborn calls Jane fat and terrible (while also hitting on her), which causes her to burst into tears, the narrative explicitly refers to this as cyberbullying. In both cases, the harassers have a near-omniscient view of the harassed's lives and actions, which they are able to exploit for their taunts.

    Web Videos 
  • Echo Rose: Upon arriving in town, Echo decides to follow an Instagram account called "Nettlebrook's Fallen Angels", and discovers it to be nothing more than a bunch of spoiled high-school girls targeting, harassing, and Slut-Shaming other students. She is appalled, but unsure of what to do about it, as she works as a janitor at their school, and didn't want to be seen as creepy.
  • A video, incorporating video clips of the Taylor Swift song “White Horse” and the 2011 movie Cyberbully, ends with a gunshot, implying a suicide had taken place because of what’s suggested to be cyberbullying. (Possibly meant as a dark parody of some of Swift’s songs, which had depressing themes.)

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy:
  • The Big City Greens episode "Cyberbullies" focuses on Cricket, Tilly, and their friends getting harassed by a trio of online bullies known as the Cyber Knights, who repeatedly force the kids to bow down to them. Cricket helps the others learn to stand up for themselves and not run away for the rest of their lives so they can take the bullies down.
  • South Park: In the episode "Skank Hunt", Gerald's online persona SkankHunt42 is primarily a troll who harasses random groups of people for fun, but he dedicates extra time to Freja Ollegard, a Danish Olympic medalist and breast cancer survivor who takes down her website and personally denounces the trolling. After giving this statement, the trolls target Freja by sending questions to her on a talk show mocking her breast cancer. This eventually drives Freja to kill herself and kickstarts Denmark's national contempt for trolling.
  • Arthur: In "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh", Arthur already bullies Sue Ellen in real life, but he takes it digitally when he emails her a picture with her head photoshopped on a sheepdog. This is the final straw that makes Sue Ellen want to change classes, just to get away from Arthur.

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