The 4 types of cyberbullies


About a year ago, a young family member opened-up to me about her experience being cyberbullied.

The details of the situation escape me, but I remember racking my brain over what could have led to this. I mean, this is a young person who is smart, sweet, and an all-around great kid. Why someone would want to bring harm was a total mystery.

Then I came across an article by Parry Aftab about cyberbullies that shed a bit of light on the situation. It described the different types of cyberbullies (who knew that there were different types?) based on the instigator's motive for cyberbullying. So here is what I learned.

There are four types of cyberbullies, including:

  • 1. Vengeful Angel - Vengeful Angels aim to protect themselves or others from cyberbullies by righting wrongs with more bullying. They don't really think of themselves as cyberbullies (but they really are).
  • 2. Power-Hungry - Power-Hungry cyberbullies seek to manipulate others with fear. They want attention and to see their targets react with fear. Some students who were once victims of traditional bullying find themselves as aggressors online because social media has leveled the playing field for them (Aftab speaks to the Revenge-of the Nerds subtype). The approach involves social-exclusion of targets to demonstrate the social clout of the instigator.
  • 3. Mean Girls- Although Mean Girls cyberbullies rarely threaten victims, they engage others to pass along messages filled with rumors, vote at cyberbashing sites, or other tactics to help spread humiliation. (In case you're wondering, cyberbashing sites allow kids to create humiliating categories, like school's fattest, dumbest, ugliest etc. kid, and vote).
  • 4. Inadvertent Cyberbully – The Inadvertent Cyberbully is interested in online role-playing and may pretend to be tough. They may react to controversial messages or send cyberbullying communications without thinking about the consequences.

Reading these categories made me realize that my family member probably didn't do anything to trigger online attacks. It's just that the one doing the cyberbullying has some personal issues to work through.

This said, this list might help provide insight on your kid's situation if he or she is getting cyberbullied. But it's also something to think about if your kid is the one engaged in cyberbully activities.

Check-out Aftab's full piece to learn more about the four different types of cyberbullies and for tips on how to deal with them.


Cynthia Overton is Senior Research Analyst in the Education Program at American Institutes for Research.  She has written and spoken internationally on the role of technology in advancing learning outcomes for students with disabilities.