Hey Trish, how common is cyberbullying?
Hello, Ask Trish readers! I hope you’re all well and have had a wonderful February thus far. (Can you believe the month is almost over? Time flies…)
To the person who submitted this week’s question, first and foremost, thank you so much for the great – and super relevant/important – question. It’s possible you’ve heard a lot about cyberbullying, and it begs the question: how prevalent is this issue? Is it common for youth to be bullied or harassed online? It may also raise the question: in what ways does cyberbullying affect different groups? I’m so glad you’re interested in learning more, because, as I often say in my Ask Trish posts, awareness/education is one of the most powerful tools we have to proactively and preventatively address cyberbullying. This question is also super timely, as it was just this past December that Pew, a very reputable polling organization, released some new statistics on the current state of cyberbullying in the US.
In a nutshell, here’s the deal: while cyberbullying doesn’t affect the majority of youth in the US, it is absolutely widespread, and it affects youth (sometimes disproportionately) in different ways. There’s no doubt that it remains an incredibly important issue – one that we desperately need to tackle.
In this post, I briefly break down a few of the major statistics and takeaways from Pew’s report on cyberbullying – which you can read yourself here. I then briefly re-visit some tips and suggestions for all of you as to how you can take on and tackle cyberbullying and online hate. We need you – so thank you in advance for reading and for taking on this important issue. Let’s get into it:
Statistic 1: 46% of US teens aged 13-17 reported experiencing one of the cyberbullying behaviors Pew asked about. Those behaviors included name-calling, sharing false rumors, receiving unwanted explicit images, receiving physical threats, having explicit images shared without consent, or being harassed as to one’s whereabouts or activities. 46% – that’s nearly 1 in every 2. This statistic makes it clear that cyberbullying is not an infrequent, unimportant issue – it is sadly something being experienced by many teens across the US. This statistic reminds, us, then, that we cannot be satisfied with the status quo, and indeed, that, for all of the progress we’ve made, we have a long way to go when it comes to tackling online harassment.
Statistic 2: 17% have been sent explicit images they never asked for. This statistic is a reminder that sexual harassment remains a key subcomponent of online harassment (though not the most prevalent sub-issue – that’s name-calling). Often, this sexual harassment disproportionately affects young women, who are already more likely to be cyberbullied, according to this report. That 7% of teens have also had an image of them shared without their consent – which is certainly not widespread but still horrifying to think about – goes to show that online sexual harassment is going to be a key issue to watch and address in the years to come.
Statistic 3: Black teens are 2x as likely to say that they were targeted online because of their race. It’s a shocking, deeply concerning statistic, as it shows us how online harassment manifests differently for different groups. Keep in mind, though, that it’s sadly not necessarily surprising; this is consistent with other research that’s found that historically marginalized groups, like the LGBTQ+ community, are more likely to be harassed online, sometimes at several times the rate that other youth are targeted. Cyberbullying continues to act as a vehicle for discrimination and exclusion, then, and that’s a dimension we cannot forget.
It’s clear, then, that online bullying remains an important, pressing issue. You might be wondering, then: what can I possibly do about it? How can I contribute to tackling this problem? I’m so glad you asked, because, as I said, we need you! If you’re experiencing cyberbullying, know that you don’t deserve to be harassed that way – and seek the help you need. I know that getting help can feel scary or shameful, but the truth is, you have no idea how a situation can escalate, and you deserve better. Whether it’s talking to a parent, educator, or a trusted adult, I promise – sharing what you’re experiencing is the first step to resolving the issue. If you have a friend being cyberbullied, encourage them to seek help, and, if the situation concerns you, potentially do so yourself. Your friend might not be thrilled in the moment, but it’s the right thing to do. You can also practice being an Upstander, and standing up for your friends (without escalating the situation, of course!). And generally speaking, you’ll want to practice being reflective, thoughtful, and critical when you communicate online. As I always say – rethink your words online. Often, what we might think is funny or “a joke” can be offensive or deeply hurtful to someone else. It’s impossible to be perfect, but a little bit of intentionality can go a very long way.
I hope this post was a helpful, informative “refresher” on cyberbullying and its prevalence in the US – and that you’ve come away with a more nuanced understanding of how online harassment influences different groups. I also hope that this was a good reminder that this issue remains extremely important – and it’s going to take all of us to effectively tackle. Thank you in advance for doing your part to make our Internet kind, safe, and welcoming.
Whether you now have other cyberbullying-related questions (which, I think I’ve made clear, are super important and I’d be happy to answer) or there’s now a completely different issue on your mind (also totally okay!), please don’t hesitate to share your questions, thoughts, or perspectives here. Your query just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post! Not only do you get some helpful advice (and a *personally curated* Ask Trish video), our entire Ask Trish community benefits, too. Your decision to share a question might inspire someone else to do the same! So take 30 seconds (I promise – that’s all it takes!), and fill out the form. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks, y’all, and have a great week,