8 Motives Behind Why Kids Cyberbully

preteen girls dealing with cyberbullying

Every day, cyberbullying impacts kids all over the world. In fact, there is no question that this growing issue must be addressed. But to end online bullying, you must first understand why kids are doing it. Their motives for lashing out in cyberspace can run the gamut from anger and revenge to a longing to fit in.

Cyberbullies Are Out for Revenge

When kids have been bullied, they often seek revenge instead of coping with the situation in healthier ways. The motivation for these victims of bullying is to retaliate for the pain they have experienced. When this happens, these kids are often referred to as bully-victims.

Bully-victims feel justified in their actions because they, too, have been harassed and tormented.

These bully-victims want others to feel what they have felt and feel justified in doing so. By cyberbullying others, they also may feel a sense of relief and vindication for what they experienced. These kids will sometimes even go after their bully directly. Other times, they will target someone whom they perceive to be weaker or more vulnerable than them.

Cyberbullies Blame the Victim

Bullying often revolves around a person’s social status at school. Some kids will cyberbully others based on the school’s perceived social ladder. For instance, a mean girl might get cyberbullied by an anonymous group of girls who are hoping to bring her down a notch or two.

Or, a mean girl might cyberbully a classmate who excels academically because she is jealous of her success. Other times, a teen might cyberbully a peer because they believes the victim stole their romantic partner. Whatever the reason, kids sometimes feel their cyberbullying behaviors are warranted and deserved. Consequently, they usually do not feel remorse or guilt for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullies Are Bored

Kids who are bored and looking for entertainment will sometimes resort to cyberbullying to add some excitement and drama to their lives. They also might choose to cyberbully because they lack attention and supervision from parents. As a result, the Internet becomes their only source of entertainment and an outlet for getting attention.

Instead of finding a positive way to spend their time, cyberbullies entertain themselves by creating digital drama.

Cyberbullies Cave Under Peer Pressure

Sometimes kids will cyberbully to fit in with a group of friends or a clique. As a result, these kids succumb to peer pressure in order to be accepted at school, even if it means going against their better judgment.

These bullies are more concerned with fitting in than they are worried about the consequences of cyberbullying. Other times, groups of friends will cyberbully together because there is a false sense of security in numbers.

Cyberbullies Think Everyone Is Doing It

When teens believe lots of people are bullying online, they are more likely to engage in the behavior themselves. In their minds, it doesn’t seem like a significant problem because their peer group accepts the behavior. What’s more, kids will cyberbully others to fit in with a group that regularly harasses people online.

Cyberbullies Are Power-Hungry

Cyberbullying can be a manifestation of social status. Kids who are popular often make fun of kids who are less popular. Likewise, kids who are attractive might single out others they feel are unattractive. They use the Internet to perpetuate relational aggression and mean behavior.

They also will spread rumors and gossip and may even ostracize others through cyberbullying. Meanwhile, kids who are trying to climb the social ladder at school or gain some social power will resort to cyberbullying to get attention. They also might cyberbully to diminish the social status of another person.

Cyberbullies have a range of different motivations, but the general goal is to increase their own power by reducing the power of someone else.

Cyberbullies Believe They Won't Get Caught

The anonymity of the Internet gives kids a false sense of security. They believe if they post things anonymously that they won’t get caught. What’s more, kids who cyberbully do not necessarily see the reaction of the victim, which makes it extremely easy to say and do things they would not otherwise do. In fact, a significant number of kids who do not bully face-to-face will still engage in cyberbullying.

Cyberbullies Lack Empathy

Most kids who cyberbully believe it isn’t a big deal. Because they do not see the pain that they cause, they feel little or no remorse for their actions. In fact, several studies have found that a large number of students who engaged in online bullying reported not feeling anything for the victims after bullying online. Instead, many kids reported that online bullying made them feel funny, popular, and powerful.

A Word From Verywell

To prevent your kids from cyberbullying others, be sure you talk to them about the consequences of bullying others. Aside from the ramifications for online bullying, make sure they know how cyberbullying makes others feel. By instilling empathy and empowering them to make good choices, you will reduce the likelihood that they will engage in this damaging behavior.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. How does peer pressure impact bullying behavior?.

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  4. Steffgen G, König A, Pfetsch J, Melzer A. Are cyberbullies less empathic? Adolescents' cyberbullying behavior and empathic responsiveness. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011;14(11):643-8. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0445

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.