Police Tips: Identifying Cyber Bullies

Police describe the various types of bullies that target youth.


This story originally appeared on our sister site from the East Bay, Newark Patch.

Around the schoolyard it’s easy to spot a bully, but when harassment takes place online, "cyber bullies" often torment their victims behind the mask of anonymity, making it difficult to hold them accountable.

Just who are these cyber bullies? Are they vengeful youth lurking in online chatrooms, or are they "friends" on Facebook? What’s the profile of a cyber bully? 

While research suggests that anyone is just as likely to be a bully or a victim as anyone else, below are a few common profiles of youth-tormenting cyber bullies, courtesy of the Newark Police Department in the East Bay.

The Peer Predator 

It’s not surprising that most cyber bullies are the same age as their victims and equally as likely to be a boy or girl. These peer predators are more apt to be the Facebook "friends" of their victims.

According to a 2004 study by the Journal of Adolescence, 68 percent of these offenders - typically ages 9 to 14 - use the Internet for four or more days per week, while those whose use the Internet most often for chatrooms are three times more likely to harass others online than those who don’t. As the peer predator passes age 15, bullying becomes more violent and often evolves into sexual harassment. 

The Pedophile 

On Facebook, he is the 17-year-old boy or girl everyone has a crush on; but in real life, he is a middle-aged man, logging into Facebook from his garage to seek out shy, withdrawn, or handicapped children who are vulnerable to his advances.

Most often men - though women can be offenders as well - these perverts gain the trust of their victims and convince them to take pornographic photos of themselves, which the pedophiles often promptly share online with the victim’s peers. In one tragic example, a teenager killed herself after a string of harassment emanating from an incident where a mystery man posted a photo exposing the teen’s chest. 

The Parent/Impersonator 

It’s probably a teen’s worst nightmare to be "friended" online by their parent or a friend’s parent on Facebook or other social media. But when parents impersonate teenagers online in an attempt to take justice into their own hands, or "investigate" activity in their child’s social network, it can get really nasty, quick.

In 2007 in Missouri, a mom posed as a foreign 16-year-old boy to feign interest in a teenage girl - a former friend of her daughter’s - to investigate what she was saying about her daughter online. After online manipulation and harassment, the girl committed suicide at the Missouri mom’s urging. 

Holding Cyber Bullies Accountable 

Too often these faceless bullies torment their victims without facing consequences for their actions. For youth victims, however, their tormentors aren't faceless - the profile of a cyber bully is often the kid sitting next to them in class; perhaps a soccer teammate, or a Facebook friend. In other words, the bully can be someone they know but are too embarrassed to report.

Stopping the peer predator, the pedophile, the parent/impersonator and other online tormentors is possible by encouraging victims to speak out. Identify and report cyber bullies to school administrators and law enforcement when necessary.

And, talk to your children today about these threats.


Crimes can be reported to the Redwood City Police Department by calling 650-780-7100.


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Dana Collins January 07, 2013 at 02:50 PM
I use PG guard service - www.PGguard.com. A simple online service with no installations so it doesn't matter what devices your kids use to access Facebook...
Aaron January 07, 2013 at 04:25 PM
are there particular reasons that you install spyware/malware on your own computers in order to spy on your children? you just scared? or have your children demostrated a lack of responsibilty and untrustworthiness? Did you bother to read PCGuard's terms of service? I find thier site untrustworthy and distasteful. You really believe that 30% of teenage girls are taking pictures of themselves in only a bra and panties and mailing it across the internet? so far, the only teenage girl I saw in a bra today was at pcguard.com
Enquiring Mind January 07, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Your children are not your 'friends', they are your children. You are not their friend, you are the parent. Know who your children's friends are. Teach them to have respect for themselves and tbeir bodies. Put the computer in the family room, not in their bedrooms. Maintain good communication. If you find it necessary to monitor their activities you've fallen down on your responsibilities.
Aaron January 07, 2013 at 08:52 PM
I agree with Enquiring Mind. Parenting means that by the time your children are old enough to use Internet technologies, you have already given them the tools they need to do so in a trustworthy and respectable manner. If you suspect that your child is doing rotten things on the computer, you have already failed as a parent. Also, keep in mind that children are more tech savvy than adults and, as such, know more about the software processes that occur on their computers. When your child discovers that you have installed keylogging software on their computer without telling them... promise you ... there WILL be love lost and it will affect your parent/child relationship well in to their thirties. How about it Dana? How about it Dan? Ever hear of a keylogger? bet $5 your children have. Matter of fact ... privacy, respect, and trust works both ways... maybe your children have installed keyloggers on YOUR computers. Why don't you google search "keystroke logging" ... since you seem to want to be probation officers instead of parents you may find this information useful. Don't forget, Dad, your kids are smarter than you when it comes to computers.
Aaron January 07, 2013 at 09:03 PM
and how do you monitor their non-facebook activity?


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