Cyberbullying & Online Safety 101

Our Margaret’s Place counselor Ms. Fenten has created a great resource for online safety and cyberbullying awareness.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

Why Do Kids Bully?

Bullies don’t need a reason to hurt others. When asked, some replied:

  • Because it makes me feel stronger, smarter, or better than the person I’m bullying
  • Because I’m bullied at school or home
  • Because I see others doing it
  • Because I’m jealous of the other person
  • Because it’s one of the best ways to keep others from bullying me.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when a child, tween or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, stalked, or otherwise targeted by another child, tween or teen through email, texts, Instant Messages, websites, blogs, apps, videos or gaming. It is done deliberately and repeatedly. Cyberbullies might send mean comments, post embarrassing photos, or share private information about someone to humiliate or mock them online. Cyberbullying can happen with any type of technology including but not limited to computers, cell phones, tablets (iPad), or gaming systems (Xbox Live, Playstation Network, etc.).

Cyberbullying vs. Bullying


  • Can be anonymous.
  • Can occur in your own home.
  • Can happen 24/7.
  • May seem inescapable.
  • Difficult for parents and teachers to monitor.
  • Can be viewed by an entire class, friendship group or community instantly.

Examples Of Cyberbullying

  • Starting rumors through instant messaging
  • Name calling in chat rooms (Ex. Video games)
  • Forwarding private messages to others
  • Insults through social media websites
  • Posting demeaning pictures of someone else
  • Making fake profiles on websites such as Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook

Did You Know… Teens spend an average of 26.8 hours a week online and 43% of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying

The Impact of Bullying & Cyberbullying

Youth who are bullied:

  • Have higher risk of depression and anxiety including these symptoms that may persist into adulthood:
    • Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness.
    • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
    • Loss of interest in activities.
  • May have increased thoughts about suicide.
  • Are more likely to have health complaints.
  • Are more likely to retaliate through extreme violent measures.

Recognizing the Signs of a Cyberbullying or Bullying Victim

  • Quickly switches screens or closes programs when someone walks by.
  • Uses the computer or phone until all hours of the night.
  • Gets unusually upset if she/he/they cannot use the computer or phone or after using the computer.
  • Suddenly stops and avoids using the internet.
  • Appears nervous, stressed or jumpy when a message appears or after looking at their computer or cell phone.
  • Avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer.
  • Becomes withdrawn from friends and family.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Increased signs of low self-esteem (depression, anxiety).
  • Resists attending school or social events.

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Cyberbullied

  • Do not respond to cyberbully.
  • Save the evidence (print out or take a screenshot).
  • Block or delete bully.
  • Report it to website or app.
  • Meet with school and administrators to discuss a plan of action.
  • If your child has been threatened online, report to police.

Cyber Safety Tips

  • You need to explain that it’s your job to keep them safe and be clear about your goals and expectations.
  • Set limitations and boundaries upfront.
    • Create a contract! For example, no phones overnight, no downloading apps without approval, etc.
    • What are the consequences if they break the rules? Have them in writing!
  • Talk about cyber-safety and ask questions on what they use the internet for and how.
  • Research apps before allowing a child to download one, and adjust privacy settings within apps accordingly.
  • Password protect phones, tablets, etc.
  • Look into safety apps (OurPact, Bark, Net Nanny).
  • Teach your children what is and is not okay online, and what to do if something happens.
  • Monitoring is mandatory – keep tabs on what they do and have conversations on their activities.
  • Lead by example:
    • Talk to them about how you use the internet/social media.
    • Give your teen your full attention.
    • Designate phone-free times and increase family activities that don’t involve social media (board games, card games, reading together, going for walks, watching a movie, etc.).

Additional Resources

Here is a downloadable PDF of Ms. Fenten’s tips!


Spring Campaigns at our New York City schools

Each season, Safe At Home’s peer leaders decide on an issue that is negatively impacting their communities and create a campaign to raise awareness and provide resources on this topic. This spring, they chose mental health awareness to focus on, especially in the difficult time of COVID-19. The peer leaders, a small group of students from each school, were trained in-depth on advocacy, leadership, and mentorship. With support from their Margaret’s Place counselors and teachers, the peer leaders were able to create campaigns at each school focusing on helping students with their mental health by creating virtual workshops, resources, and “drop in” classrooms.

At Brooklyn Academy of Science & the Environment (BASE), the peer leaders decided to focus the campaign on Mental Health Awareness. As a form of virtual tabling, tip cards with information on 24-hour resources were created by our alumni intern Roxy and emailed out to all the students. In the same email a little blurb was included about the importance of talking about mental health issues and informing everyone to stop by the Margaret’s Place virtual classroom for more resources, future workshops, and music hour. During our peer leadership meetings, we held a music hour where we discussed the impact of current affairs on individual and collective mental health, the importance of breaking the taboo of talking about mental health issues, and how this makes its way to music.

At the College Academy, peer leaders participated in workshops and developed materials for other classmates on the importance of talking about mental health and breaking the stigma. This message was further supported in Margaret’s Place newsletters to staff, students, and parents, which highlighted how stigma about mental health impacts all individuals. The campaign explained how, like physical health, mental health exists on a spectrum and seeking care for one’s mental health should not be seen by society as a weakness. Our counselor, alumni intern, and peer leaders created 5 Instagram posts shared throughout the week of campaign, which highlighted the campaign slogan #NowUseeMe. Posts included information about mental health, understanding anger and how emotions impact mental health, myths and facts about mental health, impacts of long term stress, and positive affirmations and stress relief activities.


At JHS143, our counselor and alumni intern developed a campaign activity guide that was emailed to Peer Leaders and students to raise awareness on Mental Health. This topic was also highlighted in student, parent and staff newsletters with information on mental health, how to break the stigma, and ways to relieve stress and increase positive coping skills. The campaign highlighted the important message that mental health and physical health both exist on spectrums and deserve the same important attention. The need for mental health to be destigmatized in order to help all people was the core message of the campaign. The campaign activity guide included information on specific mental health diagnoses that students often express either having symptoms of or interests in knowing more about, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The guide also gave comprehensive tools to destress, including breathing exercises, grounding activities, and positive coping skills.

The Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science campaign, “It’s All About Health!” focused on 3 different aspects of health, including mental health, social-emotional health, and physical health. Throughout the campaign, parents, students, and staff were sent newsletters, activities, art prompts, and information across these areas. Newsletters provided information on self-care, staying connected despite social distancing, boundaries, and more.

At JHS217, the Margaret’s Place spring campaign focused on spreading awareness against domestic violence in the age of COVID-19. While shifting to a virtual campaign came with challenges, the team of peer leaders and counselors were able to expand the reach of the campaign to hopefully impact the JHS217 larger community. Students received information on how to help a friend or neighbor who may be experiencing domestic violence. They hosted a call to action, asking students to create posters with information on domestic violence that they can share in a safe way. Students hung posters in their apartment buildings, shared information on social media, and with their friends and family. Teachers also received information about how to talk to their students about domestic violence. As part of the spring campaign, they facilitated 16 in-class workshops about domestic violence and how the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges.

Even in such unprecedented times, the peer leaders and Margaret’s Place counselors worked hard on their campaigns, making them accessible online as well as providing resources and help regardless of the difficulties they may have faced. The Mental Health Awareness campaigns this spring were incredibly successful, and both the peer leaders and counselors worked hard to create beneficial resources for their fellow students.

Celebrating Holidays During Social Distancing

As we are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, we are not able to gather with family and community to mark the passing of time, holidays, celebrations as we typically do.

The ways we connect this year may look different than they have in the past – and that’s okay. It is still possible to connect and celebrate/commemorate holidays.

Here are some ideas to help you find ways to celebrate upcoming holidays while stay at home guidelines remain in effect. These ideas may not work for everyone, but they might get your creativity flowing to find a safe, healthy solution that works for you:

  • Adapt family traditions to be able to continue them virtually. For example, if someone you celebrate with is known for picking the music for the day, ask them to make a shared music playlist so everyone can jam out while you’re apart. If your gatherings typically include a potluck-style meal, exchange recipes so you can eat some of the same foods that you would typically share. Designate a time for a moment of silence together to commemorate more solemn occasions.
  • This is a great time to start new traditions! What works for you and your household/community? For example, you could learn to play a new game – in-person if living together or virtually if not. You could look at photos from the past and exchange your favorites, have a dance party, or even do a virtual visit of a destination by checking out museums and attractions that have added an online visit function.
  • Find some places online that can offer support/community. Reach out for support or to offer support where possible. Stay connected to others, and remember: you are not alone.