*This list of cyberbullying statistics from 2018-2021 is regularly updated with the latest facts, figures, and trends.
All technology these days produces both good results and notable consequences. The internet is increasingly a perfect case study for this idea. While better connecting the world and democratizing information, the internet has also allowed individuals to hide behind masks of anonymity.
This “faceless evil” of the internet is a growing threat for teens, specifically when it comes to cyberbullying. Despite a recent ramping up of awareness campaigns, the following cyberbullying facts and statistics indicate the problem is not going away anytime soon. In fact, recent studies have revealed that during the pandemic the problem may even have deteriorated.
Cyberbullying around the world
We analyzed the results of an Ipsos international survey of adults in 28 countries which reveals an increasing number of parents who have children who have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
In total 20,793 interviews were conducted between March 23 – April 6, 2018, among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries.
Of particular interest are Russia and Japan. In both countries, parents expressed extremely high levels of confidence that their children did not experience cyberbullying of any kind.
Meanwhile, Indian parents remained among the highest to express confidence that their children were cyberbullied at least sometimes, a number that only grew from 2011 to 2018. Across Europe and the Americas, it also appears more parents are either becoming aware of their children’s negative experiences with cyberbullying, or their children are increasingly experiencing such attacks online.
Global perspectives on cyberbullying
The following chart includes additional perspectives and insight into cyberbullying from a global scale, including:
- Percent of respondents aware of cyberbullying as a concept
- Number of countries responding where specific anti-bullying laws exist
- Respondents who believe current laws are enough to handle cyberbullying cases.
Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2018-2021
1. 60 percent of parents with children aged 14 to 18 reported them being bullied
More parents than ever report that their children are getting bullied both at school or online. Comparitech conducted a survey of over 1,000 parents of children over the age of 5.
- 47.7% of parents with children ages 6-10 reported their children were bullied
- 56.4% of parents with children ages 11-13 reported their children were bullied
- 59.9% of parents with children ages 14-18 reported their children were bullied
- 54.3% of parents with children ages 19 and older reported their children were bullied
Although the vast majority of parents reported the bullying occurring in school, 19.2% stated that bullying occurred through social media sites and apps. A further 11% indicated bullying occurred through text messages, while 7.9% identified video games as a source. Meanwhile, 6.8% reported bullying occurred on non-social media websites, while 3.3% indicated the bullying occurred through email.
Some parents even witnessed cyberbullying occur, with 10.5% of parents indicating they observed the cyberbullying themselves.
3. Attitudes regarding the pandemic and lockdowns directly contributed to cyberbullying
A study written by scholars working at the Universities of Florida and Denver revealed that the global pandemic had a marked effect on cyberbullying levels on Twitter. According to that study, the analysis of 454,046 publicly available tweets related to cyberbullying revealed a direct correlation between the pandemic and cyberbullying incidents.
According to another study by L1GHT, a company that specializes in AI that is designed to detect and filter toxic content to protect children, online toxicity and cyberbullying on social media sites and video conferencing apps increased by up to 70% (pdf) due to the pandemic. This included a sharp rise in toxicity and bullying directed at Asians.
The study also revealed an increase in hate speech among children and teens that correlated directly with an increase of COVID-19 infections within the populace.
According to Verywell and Statista that increase was due in part to the extra leisure time and online presence that children had due to lockdown and online schooling. Statista research shows that children spent around 20% more time on social media sites due to the pandemic.
Psychological reasons, including self-preserving and self-defense behaviors have also been cited (by Verywell) as a possible causes for the sudden rise in cyberbullying and online toxicity during the pandemic.
4. Most parents respond proactively after their children are cyberbullied
There are a large number of ways parents can respond to cyberbullying, but it appears the most common response is to talk to children about online safety.
Comparitech found 59.4% of parents talked to their children about internet safety and safe practices after cyberbullying occurred. Parents may need to take more steps to intervene, however, as only 43.4% identified adjusting parental controls to block offenders, only 33% implemented new rules for technology use, and only 40.6% saved the evidence for investigators.
Very few parents (just 34.9%) notified their child’s school about cyberbullying. And a small number (10.4%) took the nuclear option and completely took away their child’s technology in response.
5. Most teens have now experienced cyberbullying in some way
A 2018 Pew Research study found that a majority of teens (59%) experienced some form of cyberbullying. A more comprehensive study from 2020 shows that this isn’t unique to teens, with around two-thirds of adults under 30 having experienced online harassment; with 50% identifying politics as the reason behind the incident.
The most common specific types of cyberbullying include:
- Offensive name-calling (42%)
- Spreading of false rumors (32%)
- Receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for (25%)
- Constant asking of who they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with by someone other than a parent (21%)
- Physical threats (16%)
- Having explicit images shared without their consent (7%)
Additionally, a 2019 study from the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 36% of 12–17 years olds in the US had been cyberbullied in the last 30 days. Of these, 22% of incidents involved someone spreading rumors online. However, this could actually be a significant underreporting, since a decade-long Florida Atlantic University study of 20,000 middle and high school students found that this occurred in 70% of cases.
6. Self-reported data gives mixed results
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which has been collecting data on the subject since 2007, an average of 27.8% of teens report being cyberbullied.
The differences in the reported number of victims between the Pew Research Center and Cyberbullying Research Center are stark, but present an inherent problem with self-reported data related to cyberbullying. Because of the difficulty of gathering data and the inconsistencies in how respondents will answer questions (as well as differences in how and in what format questions are asked), it’s hard to pin down the exact number of young adults who have been cyberbullied at some point in their lives.
The problem could be worse, or less serious than either research center identifies.
7. Google Trends data shows increasing concern over cyberbullying
Google Trends data indicates much more attention is focused on cyberbullying than ever before. The volume of worldwide searches for “cyberbullying” increased threefold since 2004:
There’s an interesting pattern in the search data too. There are steep dropoffs in the number of people searching for “cyberbullying” during the summer and over the Christmas break. This could indicate that cyberbullies are actually at their worst during the school term, and perhaps don’t try to continue their harassment throughout the holidays.
Despite this pattern continuing for several years, there was a notable reduction in searches for “cyberbullying” in Fall 2020. This may be due to the large amounts of upheaval in student’s lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and switch to online learning, but without further data, it’s difficult to say for certain. All we know is that since this initial dip, search traffic seems to have returned to its usual pattern.
8. Cyberbullying may be contributing to the increase in youth suicides
There has been a troubling rise in teen suicide rates in the past decade. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that in 2020, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among US residents aged 10 to 34.
Although the NCHS report, which was released in April 2020, does not suggest a reason for the increase in suicides, cyberbullying may indeed be part of the equation. One 2018 study found that young adults under the age of 25 who were victimized by cyberbullying were twice as likely to commit suicide or self-harm in other ways.
Additionally, research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting revealed the number of children admitted to hospitals for attempted suicide or expressing suicidal thoughts doubled between 2008 and 2015. Much of the rise is linked to an increase in cyberbullying.
More teen suicides are also now attributed in some way to cyberbullying (1, 2, 3) than ever before. Furthermore, young males are most likely to commit suicide than females, although teen suicides overall were up between 2000 and 2017.
9. Bullying has surprising impacts on identity fraud
It appears bullying has effects beyond self-harm. Javelin Research finds that children who are bullied are 9 times more likely to be the victims of identity fraud as well.
Data from numerous studies indicate that social media is now the favored medium for cyberbullies. Other formats are still in use as well, however, including text messaging and internet forums such as Reddit. Nevertheless, it appears that Instagram is possibly the worst.
A 2017 study from the UK anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label found that 42% of surveyed young adults experienced cyberbullying on Instagram (PDF). That was compared to 37% on Facebook and 31% on Snapchat. Perhaps surprisingly, only 9% reported having experienced cyberbullying on Twitter.
Most respondents also believe that social media networks do not do enough to prevent cyberbullying from occurring on their platforms. Nearly three-fourths (71%) stated that they believe these platforms don’t do enough to protect users from negative interactions. A more recent report from the same organization found that cyberbullying was highly variable, reported by 27% of victims, down from 74% the previous year.
11. Most young adults believe cyberbullying is not normal or acceptable behavior
The same survey which found that Instagram to be a bullying minefield for young adults also revealed young adults’ perceptions on the acceptability of bullying in general.
The Ditch the Label survey found 77% of young adults do not consider bullying to be simply “part of growing up”. Most (62%) also believe hurtful online comments are just as bad as those made offline. And in a nod to the idea that celebrities are still human, 70% strongly disagree with the idea that its ok to send nasty tweets to famous personalities.
All the same, personal perspectives on how to treat others don’t always result in positive behavior. Hypocrisy tends to rule the day, as the Ditch the Label survey also found that 69% of its respondents admitted to doing something abusive to another person online. One study found that adolescents who engaged in cyberbullying were more likely to be perceived as “popular” by their peers.
12. Cyberbullying extends to online gaming, as well
Social media tends to eat up most of the attention related to cyberbullying, but it can occur across any online medium, including online gaming. In one survey, 79% of gamers reported that they had been cyberbullied while playing online.
Meanwhile, a survey of over 2,000 adolescents found that over one-third experienced bullying in mobile games. And a 2017 Ditch the Label survey of over 2,500 young adults found 53% reported to be victims of bullying in online gaming environments, while over 70% believe bullying in online games should be taken more seriously. Unfortunately, Ditch the Label’s 2019 survey found that the number of respondents who had been bullied in an online game had risen to 76% (although confusingly, this figure dropped to just 11% in 2020 — the reasons why are unclear but should hopefully come to light with further research).
Online gaming bullying can extend beyond just hurtful words. It can also include the dangerous activity known as swatting, in perpetrators locate the home address of the victim and make a false criminal complaint to the victim’s local police, who then “send in the SWAT team” as a response. Swatting has resulted in the shooting death of innocent victims, making it a particularly troubling practice more commonly associated with the gaming community.
13. Cell phone bans in school don’t prevent cyberbullying
In early 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released data showing that schools where cell phones were disallowed also had a higher number of principal-reported cases of cyberbullying.
14. Cyberbullying impacts sleeping habits
A 2019 study found teens who were cyberbullied were also more likely to suffer from poor sleep and depression. This finding was echoed in Ditch the Label’s 2020 report, in which 36% of respondents reported feeling depressed.
15. Being connected to peers and family helps reduce cyberbullying
A 2018 study found that parents want to be involved in helping to prevent and solve cyberbullying, but don’t know how. The study also found teens often believe cyberbullying is normal and don’t want parents to intervene.
Other research indicates that forming stronger bonds with their kids could be an effective way to help prevent bullying. An online survey of South Australian teens aged 12-17 found that social connectedness significantly helped reduce the impact of cyberbullying.
And considering roughly 64% of students who claimed to have been cyberbullied explained that it negatively impacted both their feelings of safety and ability to learn at school, an increase in social connectedness could make a significant impact students’ comfort in the classroom.
16. Female and LGTBQ+ cyberbullying victims are common
Data shows that cyberbullying is a prevalent issue among female adolescents and those in the LGTBQ+ community.
Girls are more likely to be victims of cybercrime (except for those bullied within the last 30 days), while boys are more likely to be cyberbullies. There’s also a significant cross-over between in-person and online bullying. Researchers found 83% of students who had been bullied online in the last 30 days had also been bullied at school. Meanwhile, 69% of students who admitted to bullying others online had also recently bullied others at school.
A growing body of research also indicates that those who identify as LGBTQ+ not only face more significant bullying in person but are also more likely to be bullied online compared to those who identify as heterosexual. The consequences of this kind of treatment also lead to an increased rate of suicide among some LGBTQ communities and may result in decreased educational attainment.
- Over 28.1% of LGBTQ teens were cyberbullied in 2019, compared to 14.1% of their heterosexual peers. (Source: CDC)
- A larger number of LGBTQ teens (12.2%) report not attending schools to avoid bullying, compared to 6.5 percent of heterosexual teens, ultimately leading to lower educational attainment. (Source: CDC)
- Almost 1/5 of all teens (19.4%) who report that they are “not sure” of their sexual orientation reported being cyberbullied. (Source: CDC)
- Black LGTBQ youth are more likely to face mental health issues due to cyberbullying and other forms of bullying when compared to non-black LGTBQ youth and youth who identify as heterosexual. An American University study of CDC data found 56% of black LGTBQ youth are at risk for depression. (Source: American University)
- A large number of black LGBTQ youths experience suicidal thoughts. American University found 38% had suicidal thoughts within the past year, compared to heterosexual youth. (Source: American University)
- A 2018 study found that LGBTQ youth experienced cyber victimization as they aged, while heterosexual youth did not experience this increase. (Source: Computers in Human Behavior)
- A study of 1,031 adolescents found that “sexual orientation only demographic factor to strongly correlate with cyberbullying involvement or to correlate with negative mental health symptoms”. (Source: Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma)
See also: Preventing LGBTQ+ cyberbullying
A need for more broad-reaching and open research
One common theme emerged as we researched various aspects of cyberbullying—a stunning lack of data. This is not to say that research on cyberbullying isn’t there. Even a simple search in research databases will reveal thousands of articles covering the topic in some form. However, most research on cyberbullying is either small in scale or lacking in depth. Most research is also based on surveys, resulting in a large variation in the results from survey to survey.
The Florida Atlantic University study represents one of the best sources of information to date. However, more is needed, including a meta-analysis of the data gathered from many other sources. Until then, publically available cyberbullying statistics paint an incomplete picture of the ongoing issue.
Past research still holds value
Despite a lack of consistent publicly or easily-accessible data, a plethora of data from beyond 2015 can still help shed some valuable light on the issue. Past research and statistics reveal where cyberbullying has been and help reflect on why this issue is still a concern today.
Older data on cyberbullying include the following:
- Most teenagers (over 80%) now use a mobile device regularly, opening them up to new avenues for bullying. (Source: Bullying Statistics)
- Half of all young adults have experienced cyberbullying in some form. A further 10-20% reported experiencing it regularly. (Source: Bullying Statistics)
- Cyberbullying and suicide may be linked in some ways. Around 80% of young people who commit suicide have depressive thoughts. Cyberbullying often leads to more suicidal thoughts than traditional bullying. (Source: JAMA Pediatrics)
- Almost 37 percent of kids have been cyberbully victims. Around 30 percent have been victimized more than once. (Source: DoSomething.org)
- 81% of students said they’d be more likely to intervene in cyberbullying if they could do so anonymously. (Source: DoSomething.org)
- A UK survey of more than 10,000 youths discovered that 60% reported witnessing abusive online behavior directed toward another person. (Source: YoungMinds.org)
- The same U.K. survey also discovered that 83% of young adults believe social networks do not do enough to prevent cyberbullying. (Source: DoSomething.org)