How to Recognize Teen Cyberbullying

With virtual interaction becoming even more prevalent during this time of social distancing, teen cyberbullying is on the rise. One out of every three teens has experienced cyberbullying.

Because it causes distress and feelings of rejection and isolation, cyberbullying can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, a 2018 study found that victims of cyberbullying are nearly twice as likely to commit suicide.

Cyberbullying takes place on digital devices, such as cellphones and computers, via online interactions like social media and gaming. Social media cyberbullying is most prevalent on Instagram (42 percent), followed by Facebook (37 percent) and Snapchat (31 percent). This type of bullying also takes place via instant messaging apps or text messages.

Teen Cyberbullying Methods 

There are many different types of cyberbullying. The most common teen cyberbullying tactics include the following:

  • Making comments that are cruel, hurtful, or embarrassing
  • Posting an embarrassing picture or video of a teenager
  • Starting rumors about a teen online that damage their reputation
  • Asking nasty questions that are designed to hurt another person’s feelings
  • Writing hateful slurs or comments about a teen’s race, religion, or ethnicity 
  • Threatening online to hurt someone or encouraging them to do self-harm or to kill themselves
  • Posing as someone else online to solicit personal or false information about a teenager, or impersonating a teenager online
  • Doxing (an abbreviated form of the word “documents”)—online harassment in which a teen’s personal information is made public, including addresses, social security numbers, credit cards, and phone numbers. This can lead to identity theft.

Teenage Cyberbullying Statistics

In 2019, over 20,000 parents participated in a worldwide research study about high-risk online platforms, and 65 percent singled out cyberbullying on social media as their biggest fear.

Here are some important cyberbullying statistics:

  1. 81 percent of teenagers think bullying online is easier to get away with than in person.
  2. 37 percent of US kids have experienced cyberbullying at least once.
  3. 68 percent of victims have experienced mental health issues due to cyberbullying.
  4. 36.7 percent of female students experienced online abuse at least once in their lifetime.
  5. 42 percent of LGBT youth experience cyberbullying, with 35 percent receiving online threats.
  6. 37 percent of teens bullied developed social anxiety, while 36 percent showed symptoms of depression.

What Parents Can Do About Cyberbullying

Teens often try to hide cyberbullying and social media harassment from adults. That’s why it’s vital for parents to maintain open communication and pay attention to their teens’ behaviors and mood.

As with any potentially destructive occurrence in a teen’s life, unconditional love and attention from parents makes a powerful positive difference. A teen is more likely to reveal that cyberbullying is taking place when they feel their parents will support them no matter what, without judging them or punishing them for their social media use.

Once they know what’s going on, adults can coach teens to take steps to prevent future cyberbullying. Here are some cyberbullying prevention strategies.

  • To ensure safety across social media platforms, parents should teach teens to never share their passwords, private photos, or personal data online.
  • Teens should activate all existing safety features across their social media platforms.
  • Parents should encourage teens to think before they post. Help them understand that if they’re upset or angry, it’s wisest to pause and wait. Remind them that when they share something, it might eventually be shared with many other people—not just the person they’re sending it to.
  • If a parent finds out their teen is cyberbullying others, they need to do more than punish them. Talk with them and try to understand the root cause of their behavior. What underlying emotion or challenge is catalyzing their bullying? A mental health expert can help teens who bully examine what drives them to these actions.    

What Teens Can Do About Cyberbullying

Here are some ways that teens can discourage cyberbullying among their peers.

  • Don’t participate in cyberbullying by liking a nasty comment or sharing inappropriate posts.
  • Let adults know what is happening. Such feedback is not “tattling,” but rather preventing damage and distress.
  • Report harassment. Given the growing awareness around teen cyberbullying, most platforms have reporting mechanisms.

Because cyberbullying represents a real threat to teens’ mental health, education and action around this issue needs to be a high priority for parents and educators alike.

Find out more about Newport Academy’s treatment approach for trauma, depression, anxiety, social media and gaming addiction, and other teen mental health challenges.