Internet harassment (Cyberbullying) and OHS

Internet harassment (Cyberbullying) and OHS

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Internet harassment (Cyberbullying) and OHS


Cyberbullying is the act of bullying others using digital technologies. It is possible to propagate cyberbullying through various platforms, such as mobile phones, gaming devices, messaging avenues, and social media, among other avenues connected to the Internet. Cyberbullying or Internet harassment is repeated conduct, aimed at shaming, angering, or scaring targeted individuals. Common examples of cyberbullying, including spreading false information about someone or posting humiliating photos of the target person on social media platforms. Sending destructive or harmful threats or messages through messaging avenues, and impersonating others and sending them uncomfortable messages with the intention of provoking them. However, the team in charge of occupational health safety (OHS) must consider the possible impact of cyberbullying on health and safety at the workplace and enact suitable measures to mitigate any adverse effects. Nevertheless, failing to respond quickly enough and effectively can cause adverse effects that may affect the entire organisation’s target person.

Why the Topic is of Interest

Cyberbullying is a significant threat the organization must address with the urgency it deserves because any reluctance could have severe implication on OHS. Such attacks cause fear, thereby tampering with how workers feel safe, which could also affect their health. Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) inform that when bullying happens through online platforms, the affected person and the firm feel like they are being attacked from all sides, and affected people feel like there is no way out. Such uncomfortable feelings can have a long-lasting negative impact on the targeted worker or a significant portion of the workforce, especially if the harassment is on a broader scale (Muhonen, Jonsson, & Backstrom 2017). Such workers often start to exhibit mental problems such that they always feel angry, stupid, embarrassed, and upset. The other reason why the team in charge of OHS should pay much attention to cyberbullying is that the act interferes with the workers’ emotional stability such as the targeted persons feel ashamed, or tend to lose interest with the things they value or like, including work duties (Muhonen, Jonsson, & Backstrom 2017). Cyberbullying affects OHS because it causes physical effects that may be difficult to deal with, affecting business practices. For instance, employees may become tired or may encounter symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. Furthermore, the feeling of being harassed or laughed at by others can bar people from expressing their feelings to trying to address the problem, thereby causing possible adverse effects on health and safety at the place of work (Muhonen, Jonsson, & Backstrom 2017). In extreme cases, cyberbullying can cause adverse health effects on employees such that it results in death, such as when a worker takes their own life because of increased stress and unbearable pressure.

The topic is of interest because communication through digital apparatus in work life is becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace, which escalates the risks for cyberbullying behaviors. Therefore, businesses have to create occupational health and safety regulations regarding social media and digital communication to avert cyberbullying behaviors and potential adverse effects. Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) inform that through the escalating use of digital medial platforms such as text messages, social networks, and emails, new ways of harassing conduct have surfaced.

Besides, organizational leaders are increasingly increasing their attention towards the potential effects of OHS because they now know that the infringement affects the victims and his her collogues and corporate leaders. Kruse, Frederick, Jacobson, and Monticone (2016) assert that Internet bullying has adverse effects on employers, not just the victims and their co-employees who witness the violation. Employers increase their focus on this area while enacting more measures to avoid online attacks because they now acknowledge that in addition to interfering with the work environment and influencing employee morale, such violations contribute towards reduced productivity, the formation of a hostile working environment, increased compensation claims, and embarrassing legal battles, which all impact on occupational health and safety (Kruse, Frederick, Jacobson & Monticone 2016). Other costly consequences of Internet harassment on employers, which could significantly influence OHS, include withdrawal of worker commitment and loyalty, negative publicity and taunting public image, and escalated sick leave and health care claims (Kruse, Frederick, Jacobson & Monticone 2016). The revelations call for increased focus on how to address the issue.

Research and Policies Relevant to Internet Harassment

Various scholars have conducted researches to help people understand the possible effects of cyberbullying on occupational health and safety. For instance, Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) perform qualitative research to explore health and work-connected outcomes of cyberbullying behaviors and the possible mediating roles of social support from business leaders and colleagues and social organization climate. The study that incorporates 3,370 participants and acquires data using questionnaires reveals that social, and organizational environment can have an intervening function in connecting Internet harassment, intention to leave, work engagement, well-being, and health. Contrary to the earlier findings on face-to-face bullying, the study by Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) find that cyberbullying behaviors have immense indirect rather than direct connections with an intention to leave, work participation, well-being, and health. The study’s practical implications are that communication through digital avenues in work life is becoming more dominant, which in turn escalates the risks of Internet harassment. Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) recommend that businesses create occupational health and safety regulations regarding the utilization of social media and digital communication to avert cyberbullying behavior and its adverse implications. Muhonen, Jonsson, and Backstrom (2017) further urge that because Internet harassment among employees is a relatively unexplored area, it is necessary to increase research in the area to develop more valuable findings.

Additional research by Privitera and Campbell (2009) reveals that Internet harassment varies in nature. The practice affects health, job performance, and may result in defensive mechanisms that concern occupational health and safety. The qualitative study reveals that Internet harassment could manifest in criticizing others, excluding others, submitting sarcastic remarks, making threats, and providing inappropriate and damaging criticism. The study showed that the effects of cyberbullying do not end when one leaves the office. Such effects can result in psychological and physical health complications, such as ulcers, problem sleeping (insomnia), panic attacks, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Internet harassment affects OHS in the way such infringement tamper with job performance. Privitera and Campbell (2009) discover from the research that bullied employees cannot conduct their duties and obligations to the best of their capacity and are likely to report performance problems, such as loss of self-esteem, poor decision-making, decreased productivity, and inability to concentrate. The study further showed that bullied employees become insecure; they also lose interest and motivation and may be tempted to adopt defensive mechanisms, which heightens the level of insecurity. The systematic literature review by Privitera and Campbell (2009) indicates that targets of Internet harassment may cause a feeling of isolation. Victims feel traumatized, helpless, disorganized, confused, and defenceless, affecting health and safety outcomes. Many end up getting prescriptions for psychotropic medication, such as sleeping pills, tranquillizers, and antidepressants, to ease the mental pain.

Various provinces in Canada have introduced laws in Canada to regulate cyberbullying at work and other settings. For example, the Province of Manitoba introduced the Cyberbullying Prevention Act, which claims that it is unlawful harassment for someone to repeatedly contact or follow one, or threaten them to make them afraid. Even though the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia struck down the Cyber-Safety Act in 2015, the policy continues to provide valuable guidance on Internet harassment and organizations that apply it record significant growth in averting potential risks (Legalline 2021). Such regulations are important because they give the necessary advice on how to address the problem. 

Future Challenges in the Topic

How employers react to mitigate cyberbullying and maintain an Internet harassment-free environment is likely to be a significant challenge even in the future. A significant challenge is that the mitigation process is costly and may require the management to dedicate many financial resources towards the venture. For example, preventing online attacks requires the administration to train workers on avoiding potential violations while using Internet of Things (IoT) devices (Conteh & Schmick 2016). It is imperative to equip workers with fundamental cybersecurity guidelines, such as identifying and managing security risks, how to implement security controls to minimize security risks, and how to detect and understand cybersecurity issues and events (Conteh & Schmick 2016). Moreover, the training should familiarize workers with other vital tenets of information security such as availability, integrity, and privacy. The empowerment process should introduce employees to suitable ways of performing data audit and setting passwords to protect the systems from possible attacks. However, the main challenge is whether organizations would provide the necessary resources to facilitate the training. It means that businesses would have to allocate more funds to fighting cyberbullying and commit more time to train staff members (Conteh & Schmick 2016). Unless an organization could spare additional financial and time resources to facilitate the training processes, it would be difficult for future operators to address the OHS issues emanating from Internet harassment effectively.

The expertise required to install protective measures and the cost associated with such devices may prove challenging in future. A company effectively safeguards its workforce against potential cyberbullying by ensuring endpoint protection to protect networks that are remotely attached to IoT devices (Conteh & Schmick 2016). Typically, IoT devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile devices connected to organizational networks provide access avenues to security risks, making it necessary to safeguard these paths with suitable endpoint protection programs (Conteh & Schmick 2016). Adequate protection of the system requires the management or IT department to install a firewall. Placing the network behind a firewall is an appropriate technique to safeguard the company from a possible violation. It is also possible to prevent causes of Internet harassment by being keen on Wi-Fi security because some intruders nowadays take advantage of unsecured networks to propagate the activities. Patchin and Hinduja (2006) believe that safeguarding the Wi-Fi networks and obstructing them is one of the safest things a company can do to protect the systems because with more developments happening daily, there is a likelihood that additional devices will be able to connect to the organization’s network and cause considerable compromise. Patchin and Hinduja (2006) think that practising access management is one of the most effective ways for preventing misuse of IoT devices and the possible emergence of cyberbullying. It is essential to practice risk management because one of the risks as an employer and having workers is feeding software on company-owned devices that could create room for Internet harassment. Managing administrator rights and hindering workers from accessing specific data or installing software on the company’s network may reduce the loopholes violators may use to harass others (Patchin & Hinduja 2006). However, all these initiatives to alleviate cyberbullying would require the engagement of IT experts who guide what ought to happen to make everyone feel safe. Besides, some of these options will require an additional financial commitment to achieve a successful installation. Organizations that would not meet these minimum requirements may not address the issue of cyberbullying and how it impacts OHS in the future.  


The study illustrates the significance of embracing mechanisms that would not compromise occupational health and safety due to Internet harassment. Such violations cause fear and panic that amounts to insecurity, and in severe cases, the problem causes health problems and emotional disturbance. The report elaborates how cyberbullying does affect not only the victims and their co-workers but also employers. Organizations that want to take control of cyberbullying must make some sacrifices, including hiring qualified and competent workers, making an adequate financial investment to afford costly software and hardware, and receiving the services of IT experts who will help install the necessary components.


Conteh, N, & Schmick, P. (2016). Cybersecurity: Risks, vulnerabilities, countermeasures to

            prevent social engineering attacks. International Journal of Advanced Computer Research

            6 (23), 31-38. doi: 10.19101/IJACR.2016.623006

Kruse, C., Frederick, B., Jacobson, T., & Monticone, K. (2016). Cybersecurity in healthcare: A

            systematic review of modern threats and trends. Technology and Health Care 25, 1-10.

            doi: 10.3233/THC-161263

Legalline. (2021). Cyberbullying. Retrieved 23 January, 2020, from

Muhonen, T., Jonsson, S., & Backstrom, M. (2017). Consequences of cyberbullying behavior in

            working life. International Journal of Workplace Health Management 10 (5), 376-390.

            doi: 10.1108/IJWHM-10-2016-0075

Patchin, J. & Hinduja, S. (2006). Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at

            cyberbullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 4 (2), 148-169.

Privitera, C., & Campbell, M. (2009). Cyberbullying: The new face of workplace bullying?

            Cyber Psychology and Behavior 12 (4), 395-400. DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0025

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