Written By: Security.org Team | Updated: August 25, 2021

When most adults picture bullying, we think about something that might go on during recess or lunch. Maybe one student pushes another in the hallway, or a group of kids teases a perceived “outsider.” Whatever form it took, the bullying of our youth was usually easy to spot. However, young people today are increasingly dealing with a different kind of bullying that isn’t so easy to see. The time teens are spending on digital devices has given rise to cyberbullying. Especially with national stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as kids spend more time online, they’re more likely to fall victim to cyberbullying.

 

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What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that happens through digital devices such as phones or computers. It often happens over social media, text, email, instant messages, and gaming. Cyberbullying often takes the form of sending or sharing harmful or mean content about someone 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

  • Because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, people around the world, including kids, are spending 20 percent more time on social media than they were pre-pandemic.1
  • 71 percent of U.S. parents with a child age 11 or younger are concerned that their child might spend too much time in front of screens, according to the Pew Research Center.2
  • 70 percent of parents estimated that their kids spend at least four hours a day with screens. Before the pandemic, 60 percent of parents estimated that their kids spent three hours or less in front of screens.3

Prevalence of Cyberbullying

  • According to our cyberbullying research, in which we studied parents of kids between the ages of 10 and 18, 21 percent of children have been cyberbullied.
  • 56 percent of these reports occurred from January to July 2020. We believe this increase correlates with the increased time spent online during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • As of January 2020, 44 percent of all internet users in the U.S. said they have experienced online harassment. The most prevalent type of online harassment was offensive name-calling, making up 37 percent of all instances.4

Higher Risk

  • Of all the social networks, kids on YouTube are the most likely to be cyberbullied at 79 percent, followed by Snapchat at 69 percent, TikTok at 64 percent, and Facebook at 49 percent.
  • We also found that, as a child’s age increased, so did the likelihood of cyberbullying. As the child aged in two-year intervals between the ages of 10 and 18, their likelihood of being cyberbullied increased by 2 percent.
  • Children from households with annual incomes of under $75,000 were twice as likely to be cyberbullied than kids from houses with annual incomes of over $75,000 (22 versus 11 percent).

Cyberbullying Impacts

  • Over half of teens felt angry after being cyberbullied, about a third felt hurt, and nearly 15 percent felt scared.5
  • Two-thirds of tween victims of cyberbullying said that it had a negative impact on how they felt about themselves.
  • Nearly a third of tween cyberbullying victims said the incidents affected their friendships, while 13 percent said it affected their physical health.6

Taking Action

  • The most effective way to prevent cyberbullying, teens say, is to block the bully, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
  • Out of teenage cyberbullying victims:
    • 36 percent asked the bully to stop cyberbullying them.
    • 34 percent blocked all communication with the bully.
    • 29 percent did nothing.
    • 11 percent talked to their parents about the incidents.
  • Almost two-thirds of tweens said that they tried to help someone who was being bullied online, and 30 percent had tried to help multiple times, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

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 social media companies and our elected officials should do more to prevent cyberbullying and protect kids online. For more information on how to prevent and handle cyberbullying, check out our cyberbullying resources.

Sources:

  1. Statista. (2020). Increased time spent on media consumption due to the coronavirus outbreak among internet users worldwide as of March 2020, by country. statista.com/statistics/1106766/media-consumption-growth-coronavirus-worldwide-by-country/
  2. Pew Research Center. (2020). Parenting Children in the Age of Screens. pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/parenting-children-in-the-age-of-screens/
  3. Morning Consult. (2020). YouTube, Netflix and Gaming: A Look at What Kids Are Doing With Their Increased Screen Time. morningconsult.com/2020/08/20/youtube-netflix-and-gaming-a-look-at-what-kids-are-doing-with-their-increased-screen-time/
  4. Statista. (2021). U.S. internet users who have experienced cyber bullying 2020. statista.com/statistics/333942/us-internet-online-harassment-severity/
  5. National Crime Prevention Council. (2021). Stop Cyberbullying Before it Starts. archive.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/bullying/cyberbullying.pdf
  6. Cyberbullying Research Center. (2021). Tween Cyberbullying in 2020. i.cartoonnetwork.com/stop-bullying/pdfs/CN_Stop_Bullying_Cyber_Bullying_Report_9.30.20.pdf