At least one in five teens has been the victim of cyberbullying,
according to the Cyberbullying Research
Center. This form of harassment uses computers, cell phones, or other
electronic devices instead of fists, but it can make a young person’s life just
Yet many people still don’t take online bullying as seriously
as the offline kind. Below are some surprising facts about this often-misunderstood
Cyberbullyng has been linked to depression, anxiety, falling
grades, and school absences. Anecdotally, it has also been implicated in a string of high-profile
In one case that garnered a lot of attention, 18-year-old Rutgers freshman
Tyler Clementi jumped from a bridge to his death. Days before, his roommate had
used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man and then sent out Twitter and
text messages urging others to watch. In March 2012, a jury found the roommate guilty of a hate crime.
Cyberbullies Are Different from Face-to-Face Ones
Think of the schoolyard punk roughing up smaller kids or the
mean girl picking on less popular classmates. These are classic examples of
in-person bullying. But this power imbalance doesn’t necessarily apply to
cyberbullying, according to researcher Jennifer Shapka, an education professor at the
University of British Columbia.
The boundary between roles—bully, victim, or
witness—is also more fluid. The same person who is the target of hurtful
comments on Facebook might post embarrassing photos of someone else.
On the surface, cyberbullying seems to have more in common with an insult than a bloody nose, and research bears that out. A study of high school students in Lithuania showed that being
the victim of physical bullying didn’t affect the risk for cyberbullying. But
being singled out for in-person verbal and social abuse increased the risk.
Students Often Downplay the Impact of Cyberbullying
The evidence is clear: Cyberbullying can be harmful to a
young person’s emotional and academic well-being. Yet in Shapka’s research, presented
at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, young
people often underestimated the harm that could be done. Many were quick to dismiss
cyberbullying as “just joking.”
Teachers Sometimes Brush
off Cyberbullying as Well
Perhaps more surprisingly, some teachers also minimize the seriousness
of cyberbullying. In a new study in Psychology in the Schools,
researchers from Brigham Young University asked 66 high school teachers about
their attitudes toward this type of behavior. One-fourth did not believe that
cyberbullying had long-lasting negative effects. The same number indicated that
it might prepare students for life.
Both Victims and Bullies May Suffer Consequences
Studies suggest that cyberbullying shouldn’t be taken so
lightly. It has been linked with a number of negative outcomes. And victims aren’t
the only ones who suffer; bullies may be at risk, too.
of middle school students showed that both parties had lower
self-esteem than those whose lives hadn’t been touched by cyberbullying.