Some of my daughter’s friends can be a bit mean. How to I know if she’s being “bullied” online?

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Some of my daughter’s friends can be a bit mean. How to I know if she’s being “bullied” online? What should I look for? What should I do?

Asked on: 11/28/2016
2 answers

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Answered on: 11/13/2019

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This is a very real concern. Bullying is quite prevalent among girls.

Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online in the past year. 1 in 4 has been bullied more than once. And 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online.
Today most of the research about bullying concentrates on boys. When most people picture a "typical" bully, they imagine a boy who is bigger or older. Girls usually face a different type of bully, one who may not look as scary from the outside but who can cause just as much harm … or more.

Girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be both victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying. There are many reasons behind this, most of them due to the innate differences between boys and girls. In general, boys tend to bully in physical ways while girls use emotional tactics. Girls tend to be sneakier and more covert in their bullying tactics, which may be why hiding behind a computer screen or a cell phone seems so appealing to them.

Girls and Bullying: Subtle, Often Unnoticed

The more overt the bullying (threats, taunts), the clearer the remedies are. Girls are not usually violent when they bully, which is why it quite frequently goes unnoticed by adults. When bullying is subtle, or covert, as it is with girls, it’s harder to detect and to respond to appropriately.

The typical girl who bullies is popular, well-liked by adults, does well in school, and can even be friends with the girls she bullies. She usually isn’t violent and doesn't get into fist fights, although some girls who bully do. Instead, she spreads rumors, gossips, excludes others, shares secrets, and teases girls about their hair, weight, intelligence, and athletic ability. She usually bullies in a group and others join in or pressure her to bully.

Here are some things to look out for if you suspect girl bullying. Girls will frequently use alienation or ostracism. They will do things that make the victim feel alienated or purposely left out of the group – like whispering to each other in front of the victim to intentionally make them feel left out. You’d be surprised at how many forms girls’ bullying can take, so please review the excellent list of things to look for in this article from “”.

It doesn’t stop when they go to college. One (University of Washington Department of Pediatrics) study found college girls who reported being cyberbullied were three times more likely to meet clinical criteria for depression. And cyberbullies suffer too. Girls who bully have a four times higher risk for depression than those who don’t. The study also found they’re also more likely to have drinking problems.

Where it Leads

Ignoring a bully will not make them stop. A bully thrives on getting a reaction out of their victim so the bully will escalate their bullying behaviors until the victim does react. When boys’ bullying escalates, it turns to physical aggression. When girls’ bullying escalates, it turns to online harassment.

Girls’ bullying can have consequences just as serious as physical bullying. It can cause a drop in grades, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, drug use, and poor eating habits in girls who are bullied. This kind of bullying is harder to see. Most of the time adults don't realize when girls are being bullied in this way.

What to do.

One of the best ways to stop bullying is for the girls who see it to speak up and say that it is not okay. But only 15 percent of girls speak up, usually because they're afraid the bully will turn on them next. Parents and other adults can help girls beat bullying by teaching them how to stand up for themselves, and for their friends, and by taking action themselves.

Here are a few final thoughts to keep in mind, from the National Crime Prevention Council. If we all keep the issue in mind and we’re prepared to address it, we might make some progress in mitigating bullying.

2. Aug. 24, 2016 / National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) study of online safety attitudes and behaviors, a U.S.-based survey, Keeping Up with Generation App: NCSA Parent/Teen Online Safety Survey
3. Study: "Cyberbullying, Depression, and Problem Alcohol Use in Female College Students: A Multisite Study” by Dr. Ellen M. Selkie, Kota Rajitha, Chan Ya-Fen, and Moreno Megan. Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of Washington Department of Pediatrics published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. February 2015, Vol. 18, No. 2: 79-86
4. National Crime Prevention Council. (link is external)
5. (link is external) (link is external)

Answered on: 12/08/2016