When most adults picture bullying we think about something that might go on during recess or during lunch. Maybe one student pushes another in the hallway, or a group of kids tease a perceived “outsider”. Whatever form it took, the bullying of our youth was usually easy to spot. Young people today are increasingly dealing with a different kind of bullying that isn’t so easy to see. The amount of time teens are spending on digital devices has given rise to cyberbullying.
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What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the term for bullying that happens through digital devices such as phones or computers. It happens often over social media, text, email, instant messages and gaming. Cyberbullying often takes the form of sending or sharing harmful or mean content about someone in order to embarrass them. Sometimes this content is shared anonymously, making cyberbullying feel even more threatening.
Numbers around cyberbullying can vary since there are different interpretations on exactly what it is, and studies rely on self-reporting. For a better understanding of the problem cyberbullying is for young people today, consider the following statistics:
Increased screen time
US teens spend an average of over 7 hours per day on screen media for entertainment, and “tweens” spend nearly 5 not including school work1.
The median age for when young people first start using social media is 141.
More than half of teens (54%) say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and 41% say they overdo it on social media2.
42% of teens report feeling anxious when they do not have access to their cell phone3.
Prevalence of Cyberbullying
37% of middle and high school students report having been cyberbullied during their lifetime4.
Offensive name calling and the spreading of false rumours are the most common forms of cyberbullying5.
25% of teens and 35% of girls ages 15-17 say they have been sent explicit images they did not ask for5.
15% of young people surveyed admit to having cyberbullied someone else during their lifetime6.
Cyberbullying happens more frequently on Instagram than on any other social media platform7.
Teachers report that cyberbullying is their #1 safety concern in their classrooms8.
Teens from lower-income families are more likely than those from higher-income families to encounter certain forms of online bullying5.
Those who spend more time online are more likely to face online harassment5.
Girls are more likely than boys to be victims of cyberbullying, especially spreading of false rumours and receiving explicit images9.
About 50% of LGBTQ students experience online harrassment9.
Kids who are bullied are more likely than those who aren’t to experience depression and anxiety, health complaints, and decreased academic achievement10.
Young people who bully others are more likely to abuse alcohol, have criminal convictions as adults, and be abusive toward future partners10.
Only 11% of teens talked to their parents about cyberbullying incidents11.
90% of teens say online harassment is a problem, but less than half of them think it is being properly addressed by law enforcement (44%), teachers (42%), social media sites (33%) and elected officials (20%)5.
Over 70 percent of teens said that being able to block cyberbullies was the most effective method of prevention11.
As teens and young adults spend more of their time online, cyberbullying has become a major issue. The fact that perpetrators hide behind screens does not make the effects of cyberbullying any less damaging to those involved. Teens themselves agree that cyberbullying is a major problem but do not feel like those in charge are doing enough to address it. Anti-bullying organizations and campaigns aim to educate and empower people to prevent and handle cyberbullying, but the overall feeling from today’s youth is that more should be done by the social media companies and our elected officials.