Online Security

Cyberbullying: Causes, Types, Consequences & Prevention

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Girl sad leaning up against wallCyberbullying takes place online and is a form of violence, often against kids. It can cause lasting damage to victims, and should not be tolerated by anyone. It’s important to speak to children about cyberbullying and provide them a safe space to discuss any concerns openly.

Article Overview

15 Cyberbullying Statistics

Below are several shocking stats on cyberbullying. All data that has been noted with a 1 is based on a nationally-representative sample of 2,546 U.S. middle and high school students (ages 13-17) between April and May of 2021. Cyberbullying has increased dramatically since 2019, due mostly to the rise in online usage for teens during the global pandemic.

  1. Cyberbullying is most common among adolescents and teens
  2. In 2021, adolescent girls were more likely to have experienced cyberbullying compared to adolescent boys (51% vs. 38%)1
  3. In 2021, girls were more likely to have someone spread rumors and were more likely to say that someone threatened to hurt them online1
  4. 15.3% of females said they had cyberbullied others while 13.4% of males have1
  5. Approximately 45.5% of students have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes1
  6. In the previous 30 days, cyberbullying experiences were the following types:1
    1. 33.2% rumors spread online
    2. 28.7% mean or hurtful comments online
    3. 22.5% threatened to harm someone through a cell phone text
    4. 22.1% threatened to hurt me online
    5. 20.7% posted mean names or comments online with a sexual meaning
    6. 18.6% posted mean names or comments online about someone’s race or color
    7. 17.8% pretended to be me online
    8. 17.4% posted a mean or hurtful photo online of me
    9. 14.6% posted mean names or comments online about my religion
  7. 14.4% of students have cyberbullied others
  8. In the previous 30 days, cyberbullying offenses were the following types:1
    1. 5.2% posted mean or hurtful comments about someone online
    2. 3.3% pretended to be someone else online and acted in a way that was mean or hurtful to them
    3. 3.5% threatened to hurt someone through a cell phone text message
    4. 3.6% threatened to hurt someone while online
  9. 1 in 5 students experiences bullying in real life, and at least 37% are bullied online2
  10. 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person2
  11. 90% of teens who have seen social media bullying say they have ignored it2
  12. 9 in 10 victims will NOT inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse2
  13. Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide2
  14. About 75% of students have visited a website bashing another student2

Want more statistics? We’ve got a dedicated article that covers cyberbullying statistics by state, including the friendliest and meanest for cyberbullying, 5 must-know stats for parents, and more.

5 Primary Causes Of Cyberbullying

1. Bullying Causes More Bullying

It doesn’t matter what type of bullying we’re talking about, if a child has been bullied, they are more likely to respond by bullying another person. In these cases, the child feels that their actions are justified because they’ve gone through it themselves. The child may go after their bully or another child who they see as weak.

2. The Victim “Deserves” It

Cyberbullies target students based on the school’s social hierarchy. Examples may include a jock cyberbullying a student who excels academically because they are jealous of the student’s success. Another example may be a student who is envious of another student because of who they’re dating. Cyberbullies feel the student deserves to be treated this way, so they don’t feel guilty.

3. Cyberbullies Are Bored

Cyberbullies target others to add some entertainment to their lives. They may also be seeking out attention from their parents. Instead of being entertained through a positive outlet (school activities, spending time outside, finding a hobby, etc.), the cyberbully turns to the internet to stir up some drama.

4. Cyberbullies Experience Peer Pressure Too

Cyberbullies want to fit in just like any other child. They want to fit in with a group of friends or clique. They may think that there won’t be consequences since there is “strength in numbers,” but this is not true.

5. Cyberbullies Feel Invincible

Cyberbullies think that since it is over the internet, they are safe from consequences. The cyberbully doesn’t see the child’s reaction to their actions, which makes it easier for the cyberbully to continue this behavior. It is easier for a child to cyberbully than bully face-to-face because of the anonymity.

11 Types Of Cyberbullying

  1. Catfishing is when someone steals your child’s identity and creates an online profile to be deceptive.
  2. Creating a fake profile to hide their identity. In these instances, the person probably knows the cyberbully.
  3. Cyberstalking, which can include threats being made toward someone or the attempt to meet with young people for sexual reasons.
  4. Dissing is when someone posts mean information online to hurt someone’s reputation or relationships. This includes posting photos, videos, etc. and the cyberbully is typically someone who knows the victim.
  5. Excluding someone with the intent of leaving them out of a conversation, activity, etc.
  6. Flaming, or fighting with someone online using aggressive language or images.
  7. Harassing someone repeatedly, which causes low self-esteem to the victim. The constant messaging shows the cyberbully is not remorseful.
  8. Fraping is impersonating someone online and thinking it’s entertaining or funny.
  9. Outing someone by sharing private information about them without their consent.
  10. Tricking someone to trust them, so they divulge information, which the cyberbully then shares online.
  11. Trolling someone in search of responses by insulting them online. Trolls will personally attack a person in an attempt to bring the victim down to their level.

7 Consequences Of Cyberbullying

Victims of cyberbullying may experience the following consequences:

  1. Abuse alcohol and drugs
  2. Physical and emotional health issues
  3. Lower self-esteem
  4. Poor school grades
  5. Avoiding other kids
  6. Refusing to go to school
  7. Increased thoughts of suicide

Cyberbullies may experience the following consequences:

  • Legal charges (laws vary by state, but lawmakers are attempting to make it a criminal act)
    • Jail
    • Fines
  • School suspension

8 Ways To Prevent Cyberbullying

The best way to prevent cyberbullying is by talking to children about it before it becomes an issue. Below are 9 ways to prevent cyberbullying.

  1. Talk to adolescents and teenagers about cyberbullying. Explain that it is wrong and has consequences that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
  2. Have a “household rule” that states no one is allowed to send mean messages through any media platform or they lose their phone, computer, tablet, etc. privileges.
  3. Encourage them to tell an adult if cyberbullying is taking place.
  4. Remind them to keep their passwords private, and they shouldn’t be shared with anyone except a parent.
  5. Inform them that messages shared electronically may not be secure and if they don’t want the message or photo to be shared publicly, they shouldn’t send it.
  6. Tell your child not to share personal information online and never agree to meet anyone they only know online.
  7. Do not allow internet access in children’s bedrooms, instead, keep the computer in a shared space.
  8. Consider having a “household rule” where kids must turn in electronic devices to a parent at night.

Cyberbullying Tips (Infographic)

Here are some useful tips to keep handy. Feel free to reference and share.

Cyberbullying Infographic

What Should I Do If I’m Being Cyberbullied?

If you are the victim of cyberbullying, find an adult you are comfortable with and open up to them about it. Ask for help, and don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside. Having someone to talk to about it can help you feel less alone and you can create a plan to make it stop.

Parents, if you think your child is a victim of cyberbullying, you may want to consider monitoring their phone and online activity. Have an open discussion with them and learn more about family tracking apps.

Sources: [1] CyberBullying, [2] DoSomething

Kimberly Alt

Kimberly is our home security expert and has been writing about security and safety since 2013, covering everything from security systems and home automation to identity theft protection, home warranties, medical alert systems, and more. She has personally tested hundreds of system components and interfaced with dozens of home security companies to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post. In 2018, she had her first child, which opened up a whole new avenue of security experience with baby gear. She wanted to purchase the safest items for her family. Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing products and services.

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