As students become more connected than ever to their devices, parents and educators have become increasingly concerned about the rise of inappropriate online behavior such as cyberbullying and the effects it has on the students in their care. More than a third of young people in 30 countries report being a victim of online bullying.  

One way to protect students from cyberbullying and help prevent it is to use the 4C’s. The 4C’s act as a guide to classifying and understanding the many online harms that students face into 4 memorable categories. Cyberbullying makes up a large part of the 3rd C, conduct.  

This is part 3 of 5 of our ongoing 4C’s of Online Safety series.   

  1. The 4C’s of Online Safety Part 1: Protecting Students from Harmful Content Online  
  2. The 4C’s of Online Safety Part 2: What is Online Contact Risk? 
  3. The 4C’s of Online Safety Part 3: What is Inappropriate Online Behavior?  

What is inappropriate behavior online? 

According to CORE¹, harmful conduct occurs when a “the child witnesses, participates in or is a victim of potentially harmful conduct such as bullying, hateful peer activity, trolling, sexual messages, pressures or harassment, or is exposed to potentially harmful user communities (e.g., self-harm or eating disorders). Typically conduct risks arise from interactions among peers, although not necessarily of equal status.” 

What are some examples of inappropriate and appropriate online behavior? 

Inappropriate online behavior often includes cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can include: 

  • Posting mean or threatening texts/messages 
  • Causing embarrassment to others by posting pictures, creating a website, or revealing personal information 
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name 

Check out our blog post on The Dangers of Social Media for Kids to learn more. 

According to the Media Literacy Council, appropriate online behavior includes: 

  • Keeping personal information private 
  • Don’t be a bystander when someone is being bullied
  • Communicating appropriately (consider who you are speaking to) 
  • Being empathetic while posting, texting, or sharing

What would be inappropriate behavior in social media? 

According to Real Simple, a study done by shows that bullying other people in comments is considered the most inappropriate behavior on social media. Sharing discriminatory content, posting fake news, making passive-aggressive comments, and sharing too much personal information are among some of the most frowned upon behaviors that occurs on these platforms.  

How can you identify inappropriate conduct online? 

onGuard, part of the Netsweeper platform, identifies harmful content in real-time, and works both offline and offline to protect students, wherever they may be learning. onGuard gives educators deep insights into online activity, and can help quickly identify when a student is at-risk.


  1. Livingstone, S., & Stoilova, M. (2021). The 4Cs: Classifying Online Risk to Children. (CO:RE Short Report Series on Key Topics). Hamburg: Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI); CO:RE – Children Online: Research and Evidence.