Cyberbullying Statistics 2018: All the Facts and Numbers

by - Last Updated on August 2, 2018

Having fast and reliable internet access has many benefits for kids and teens. With the ability to get information for homework or self-study, to endless entertainment possibilities, having an internet connection is seen by many young adults as a must. But alongside all the positives do come some negatives. Cyberbullying is far from a new trend, and it’s one that’s rapidly growing. And the numbers are pretty frightening…

What is Cyberbullying?

In the past, bullying was something that happened on the playground or in the streets. Nowadays that bullying culture has moved more and more towards the online sphere. Cyberbullying is basically bullying that takes place online, and contains many facets, for example:

  • Sending threatening or intimidating messages
  • Posting negative or harmful information or pictures about someone
  • Sharing private information designed to embarrass or humiliate

Cyberbullying can happen anywhere online, though it mostly takes place over social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, bullies also lurk in online forums, or simply directly message their victims using email, SMS or other messaging services.

Why Should Cyberbullying Be a Concern?

There are many reasons that cyberbullying is something that you should worry about if you have children or teens in your home, such as:

  • The consequences of bullying on teens that can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide
  • The effect being bullied has on academic work, impacting a teen’s later life
  • The possibility of real harm being done if threats are followed through
  • The permanence of information that’s posted online, the internet does not “forget” anything, even if posts are removed
  • The persistence of the problem, since many teens are constantly on social media it may feel like there’s no escape from the bullying
  • The difficulty of determining whether a child is being bullied online, since many parents and teachers do not belong to the forums, group chats, and social media services that kids do, finding out about bullying in the first place can be tough.

Cyberbullying by Numbers: How Prevalent is the Problem?

We’re not overstating matters when we say that cyberbullying is a very big problem indeed. It can be difficult to get reliable statistics on cyberbullying, or bullying in general, simply because many victims don’t come forward. But there’s still plenty of research out there that indicates cyberbullying is a big issue for teens.

According to the NSPCC, one in three internet users is a child, and three-quarters of 12 to 15 year old have some kind of social media account. A quarter of those under 18 on social media have experienced something upsetting online. Further, a study from OFCOM done in 2017 suggests that around 1 in 8 young adults have been bullied online. But the National Crime Prevention Council says those numbers are far higher, suggesting that a massive 43% of children have experienced online bullying.

Ditchthelabel.org, an international anti-bullying charity, estimates that around 5.43 million young people in the UK have been the victims of cyberbullying, with 1.26 million people suffering extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis. These huge numbers are backed up by the fact that Childline has seen an 87% increase in calls concerning cyberbullying in the last three years.

What and Where: The Numbers

And there’s a wide range of horrifying statistics showing what is happening and where it is happening. A 2016 study from the Cyberbullying Research Center states:

  • 5% of children have experienced mean or hurtful comments online
  • 1% have been affected by online rumours
  • 7% have been affected by sexual comments online
  • 2% have been physically threatened online
  • 1% have had spiteful or inappropriate pictures of themselves posted
  • 1% have suffered hurtful comments about race or colour

The same study finds that teen girls are more likely to be affected than boys (36.7% versus 30.5%), though around a third of all teens reported some kind of online harassment. And Public Health England has found that social status impacts bullying, with teens from more affluent families more likely to be cyberbullied. As for where cyberbullying happens, an American study from the American Journal of Public Health suggests that the majority of cyberbullying occurs over Facebook and via text message.

Consequences of Cyberbullying: The Numbers

The consequences of being bullied are wide-ranging and vary from temporary effects down to long-term, or even fatal, endpoints. Nobullying.com released a report in 2017 that states:

  • 70% of bullied children felt cyberbullying affected their social lives
  • 23% of bullied children turned to self harming behaviours such as cutting
  • 24% of bullied children have suicidal thoughts
  • 10% of bullied children have attempted to take their own lives

Additionally, another study suggests that 64% of bullied children believe that being bullied has harmed their academic records and ability to focus in school. There is also research that suggests that youths that have suffered cyberbullying are nine times more likely to be the victims of identity fraud than those who have not.

What Do Teens Do?

Being young adults, teens often turn to their own ways of dealing with problems, and cyberbullying is no different. The National Crime Prevention Council has found that teens respond to cyberbullying in the following ways:

  • 36% ask the bully to stop
  • 34% block communication
  • 34% talk to friends about the situation
  • 29% do nothing
  • 28% go offline completely

But the most worrying of all these statistics is that only 11% of teens troubled by cyberbullying spoke to their parents about the problem.

How Can We Prevent Cyberbullying?

The first step towards prevention is to communicate. It’s important that your child knows that cyberbullying exists and that it’s unacceptable behaviour. Give your child examples of cyberbullying so that they understand exactly what you’re talking about, include things such as:

  • Posting pictures of you without permission
  • Threatening or teasing via message
  • Pretending to be you on a social media platform
  • Posting comments to forums, group chats or social media that are hurtful
  • Promising rewards or friendship in order to get pictures or passwords

Cyberbullying has many forms, and it’s important that your child knows that anything that makes him or her uncomfortable online has the potential to be cyberbullying. Also be clear that there are things that can be done should bullying occur, and that your child is not alone. Be open to questions and problems so that your child knows that he or she can come and speak to you if necessary.

In addition to communication, the National Crime Prevention Council recommends that you:

  • Tell teens not to respond or seek revenge on cyberbullies
  • Show teens how to block and delete messages on any social media platforms they use
  • Tell teens that cyberbullies can be reported to moderators in forums, to internet providers, and to social media platform helplines (in case they do not feel comfortable coming to you). Encourage them to screenshot incidents that they believe are cyberbullying in order to have proof of what’s happening
  • Remind children that passwords are secret and should not be shared
  • Reassure children that they are not alone, and not at fault. Tell them that they will not be in trouble if they report something to you, and that they will not have their internet privileges taken away (many children report a fear of loss of internet as the main reason why they do not tell appropriate adults about bullying)

The UK Department of Education also recommends communication to help prevent bullying. In addition they suggest placing boundaries on children’s internet use and investigating parental controls where appropriate. This might mean not allowing children to be online after a certain time, or requiring that they share social media passwords with you so that you can oversee what is happening.

How Do I Know if My Child is Being Bullied?

Cyberbullying can be very difficult to keep track of when you combine privacy settings on accounts and the natural embarrassment of the victim. But there are a few things that you can watch out for. In their guide to preventing cyberbullying, the Department of Education recommends looking out for the following signs:

  • Being secretive about online activities or mobile phone use
  • Being upset after being online or on their mobile
  • Spending less time online or gaming
  • New contact information (emails, numbers, social media accounts) showing up on phones and computers
  • Not wanting to go to school or avoiding friends/classmates
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty sleeping

What to Do If You (Or Your Child) Is Being Bullied

If you find that your child is being bullied online then there are several things that you’ll need to do in order to bring things to a stop.

Keep Records

Take screenshots, download messages, take photographs. Keep all the records that you can of incidents of bullying in order to provide proof.

Report Bullying to Online Watchdogs

You can report incidents of bullying to moderators in appropriate forums, to internet service providers, and to social media platforms themselves (generally by going into the help settings of the menu of the app, or by hitting something like “report this post” on a post itself). You will find resources for contacting platforms below this section.

Speak to Teachers/Schools

If classmates are involved then it’s a good idea to bring the school into the loop as well. Schools should have procedures in place for what to do in cyberbullying situations, and they can also keep an eye on what’s happening to your child during the day.

Go to the Police

You can also report cyberbullying to the police. You will NOT be ignored, the police do take online harassment very seriously, though you will need some proof. In the case of physical harm being threatened then a police report should definitely be made.

Contact Information for Major Online Platforms

If you want to report inappropriate conduct to an online platform then procedures do vary. Below you’ll find links to instructions for reporting cyberbullying to most of the major platforms that kids and teens use:

If bullying is happening via mobile phone, you can also report incidents to the mobile providers concerned. Simply go to the website of the operator and hit the “contact” button to get further information on reporting misuse.

The Legalities of Cyberbullying

Currently, the UK does NOT have any laws specifically forbidding cyberbullying. However, there are many current laws that can apply to certain cyberbullying situations. These include things such as the 2013 Defamation Act, the 1988 Malicious Communications Act, the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act, the 1990 Computer Misuse Act, and Breach of the Peace in Scotland. Should you decide to pursue a legal case against an online bully there are avenues open to you, but you’ll need to contact a solicitor for some solid legal advice, or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for further information.

After the Bullying

Many teens and children experience long-term effects after being cyberbullied. These include decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and physical symptoms such as nightmares. Childline has some excellent resources for recovering from bullying, which includes advice such as:

  • Taking a holiday from the cyber world and social media
  • Talking about your problems with friends and family
  • Trying new things to increase confidence

It’s important that parents and carers don’t assume that a child is fine just because bullying has stopped. The effects can be long-lasting.

Cyberbullying: The Bottom Line

For the most part, having internet access is a huge advantage to kids. But there’s a dark side as well. Cyberbullying does happen, and it happens often. Bullying online is often easier to get away with, since it can be anonymous, and doesn’t involve confronting someone in person. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, or is bullying someone else, there are things that you can do. But the first step is being aware of the problem and knowing where you can turn to for help.