Cyberbullying: The 24-7 aggressor


Olivia Lafferty

AHS students reveal that they have experienced cyberbullying during their high school careers.

By Destiny Gammon, Editor-In-Chief

“You’re ugly. Why do you even come to school? Nobody likes you. You’re fat and fake.”

It is not unusual for students to come across comments such as these on their news feeds and timelines in various social media apps.

Despite public awareness campaigns and multitudes of studies, cyberbullying is still prevalent and proves to be a struggle to curtail.

In response to the growing levels of cyberbullying in FCPS, the Fairfax Partnership for Youth is hosting a  Bullying and Violence Prevention Symposium to delve deeper in the causes of bullying among groups on Nov. 13.

The event will feature keynote speaker  Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at VCU, and author of Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents Dr. Michael Southam-Gerow, who will present research on emotional regulation difficulties and evidence-based therapies.

 In a recent study, 49,969 FCPS students ranging from grade 6-12 completed the Fairfax Youth Survey. According to the survey, 11.9 percent of students experience cyberbullying between schoolmates. The number of females who have experienced this act doubles that of males.

“I think girls bully more in general, but we do it more sneakily than guys. Girls talk about each other behind each other’s backs,” senior Lailumah Faisal said.

Like many students, Faisal is a frequent user of various social media apps on a daily basis.


Twitter Makes Headlines

Twitter has become a leading candidate in the root of cyberbullying with over 24 percent of teens using this form of social media as their bullying medium according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

“Twitter has furthered cyberbullying, especially with the #LetsMakeItAwkward thing last year, but I feel if you don’t want to be affected you shouldn’t make an account,” Faisal said.

“Sub-tweeting,” a term coined by users, refers to tweets that are about another Twitter account holder without directly mentioning that person’s name. This type of tweet often results in fights between classmates and friends.

“It’s not a good way to talk to people. Everyone is all about social media and Twitter and that’s where all the fights start,” sophomore Maddie Little said. “ has definitely evolved into a way for people to hate on eachother.” Initiates Bullying, a Latvia-based popular new app and website used by teens, is a questionnaire- like account in which users can ask each other questions of all kinds anonymously.

“It’s something people do when they’re bored, whether they want to ask the questions or receive them,” junior Gaby Payne said. “Some people ask pretty weird things and some of it could be seen as hurtful, but I don’t think it’s an outlet for bullying unless you make it one.”

Faisal admits that before she deactivated her account, she recieved questions about who she has “hooked up” with and she considers the app to be “pointless.”

“I don’t have an but some questions I see on my timeline on Twitter are really mean,” senior Kunnica Kou said. “Since they are anonymous, the asker has more courage to ask what they want.”


Cyberbullying Legalities

Cyberbullying is defined as the use of technology to degrade or humiliate another person or group; it must occur during school hours, on the bus, or using school equipment. Under Virginia Law, intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass someone using a computer network or to communicate obscene, vulgar, or indecent language or threaten any immoral or illegal act may be guilty of a Class one misdemeanor. According to FCPS’s Students Rights and Responsibilities handbook, cyberbullying can result in a maximum suspension of 30 days and referral to the school psychologist.

According to school counselor Ilana Reyes, cyber bullying is brought to the attention less often than traditional bullying once was, but cyberbullying as a whole has not taken the place of physical bullying.

“I think the bully is a different person,” Reyes said. “The person who is going to physically bully is still going to do so, but a perpetrator of cyber bullying may have never been a bully before.”

Although the intentions of the website were to allow members to connect with one another, it has become a victim of the growing world of cyberbullying.

“The bad questions I get are ‘You’re so ugly’ or people basically say mean things about me being on,” Little said. “Whenever people ask me that, I either reply ‘OK’ or I don’t reply at all because it doesn’t faze me, especially because they are anonymous.”

Reyes believes that the “terrible part of cyberbullying” is that the reaction of the victim goes unnoticed and students hit ‘send’ without seeing the damage on the other side.

“That’s the terrible part about it,” Reyes said. “That leads to kids doing drastic things because they feel that they cannot escape it.”

Although Little does not let the negativity get to her, nine global users, including two Florida teens, have committed suicide due to cyberbullying instigated by questions that others were asking them. 16-year-old Jessica Laney from Pasco County, Florida, hanged herself after being bullied about her weight on One of her last accounts on the website before her suicide read: “[asker:] “you have pretty eyes but your fat” [Laney:] ‘awesome. but i’m not fat.’”

In response to the deaths, creator Mark Terebin posted a reply on his page:

“Mass media is knocking on wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. Its not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that were devalued lately. is just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network. . .”


AHS Initiative

Next year, Reyes and Resource teacher Hassan Mims are leading  school-wide effort to instill positive values within students. Through a program called Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, or PBIS, the goal of PBIS is to “re-frame how we think.”

“A lot of times people focus on the negative and not enough on the positive, and I think if we focus on the positive, we will receive a little less of the negative,” Reyes said.

Cyberbullying is defined as the use of technology to degrade or humiliate another person or group; it must occur during school hours, on the bus, or using school equipment. Under Virginia Law, intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass someone using a computer network or to communicate obscene, vulgar, or indecent language or threaten any immoral or illegal act may be guilty of a Class One misdemeanor.

Reyes believed that in the traditional form of bullying, students could go home to their families and escape the harassment after experiencing it for 6 hours.

“Now, there’s no freedom; there’s no escape; it’s constant. That’s what becomes overwhelming about it. I have chills when I say that because I can not imagine having that inundation all the time. It is very scary,” Reyes said.

According to, an online campaign attempting to increase awareness of cyberbullying in teenagers and parents, revealed that over 80 percent of teens use cell phones regularly, making these devices the most popular medium for bullying. While 58 percent of teens admit that somebody has said something mean to them online, less than 10 percent admit this to a parent or another trusted adult.

Reyes believes that students who are cyber bullied often feel isolated and alone.

“When you go home with a black eye, there is no way to hide it, so you’re not alone,” Reyes said “But cyberbullying is often so isolating that you feel like you can not turn to anyone, and you feel embarrassed sometime even though you shouldn’t.”

“I think only 10 percent of victims tell parents because they feel it’s a dumb thing to complain about and they think they should be able to handle it themselves,”Faisal said.

According to Reyes, it is important for victims to about reach out and realize they are not alone.

“When you receive an awful text you may forget it for a minute but when it’s night time, that’s when bad thoughts come up and you start feeling awful. So it’s important to take these students out of isolation because it will get better,” Reyes said

While many students feel that there is no escape from the effects of cyberbullying, senior James Barker believes that there is one way to get away from the hateful words of other students.

“Everyone has been cyber bullied at some point and it’s a bad thing,” Barker said. “But if you are bullied, turn off your computer or phone off and ignore those people. If it gets worse somehow tell someone.”

According to Reyes, if a student feels as though they are being cyberbullied, they can always go to teachers, counselor and other adults that they trust to get the help they desire, and deserve.