Cyberbullying effects on teenagers

What Is Cyberbullying |

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

Special Concerns

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Laws and Sanctions

All states have laws requiring schools to respond to bullying. As cyberbullying has become more prevalent with the use of technology, many states now include cyberbullying, or mention cyberbullying offenses, under these laws. Schools may take action either as required by law, or with local or school policies that allow them to discipline or take other action. Some states also have provisions to address bullying if it affects school performance. You can learn about the laws and policies in each state, including if they cover cyberbullying.

Frequency of Cyberbullying

There are two sources of federally collected data on youth bullying:

  • The 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicates that, nationwide, about 16 percent of students in grades 9–12 experienced cyberbullying.
  • The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that an estimated 15.7% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.

See also "Frequency of Bullying."

What Is Bullying |

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

  • Types of Bullying
  • Where and When Bullying Happens
  • Frequency of Bullying

Types of Bullying

There are three types of bullying:

  • Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
    • Teasing
    • Name-calling
    • Inappropriate sexual comments
    • Taunting
    • Threatening to cause harm
  • Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
    • Leaving someone out on purpose
    • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
    • Spreading rumors about someone
    • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
    • Hitting/kicking/pinching
    • Spitting
    • Tripping/pushing
    • Taking or breaking someone’s things
    • Making mean or rude hand gestures

Where and When Bullying Happens

Bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or the bus. It can also happen travelling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the Internet.

Frequency of Bullying

There are two sources of federally collected data on youth bullying:

  • The 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicates that, nationwide, about 22% of students ages 12–18 experienced bullying.
  • The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that, nationwide, 19. 5% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey.

See also "Frequency of Cyberbullying."

Cyberbullying and its impact on human rights

©Sierra McKenna/2011-2016 Mouseleaf

About the Author

Liam Hackett

Liam Hackett is the founder and director of the anti-bullying and equality charity Ditch the Label, United Kingdom.

Most medical professionals share the opinion that the main factor in mortality in today's society is stress. Left untreated, stress can be extremely detrimental to both physical and mental health and can lead to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, insomnia and depression. However, if you think about the enormous number of stimuli our consciousness is forced to respond to on a daily basis, not to mention the increase in time costs and the instability of political and economic systems, it is not surprising that stress is already comparable in scale to an epidemic.

At the level of society, stress is considered to be a problem that only adults face, and the opinion of young people on this issue is often not taken into account. However, the need to excel in school becomes a source of enormous stress for young people: exams have to be taken more and more often, and their complexity is constantly increasing. Other factors that are increasing the psychological pressure on young people to strive for success and compete directly with their peers include the growth in the number of highly qualified professionals around the world and economic uncertainty.

In addition to the academic load, young people face even more serious problems, such as hormonal changes, the search for their own identity and the publicity of life, due to the presence on the Internet.

The concept of digital identity is relatively new, and therefore we have no real experience with integrating technology into our daily lives and ways to distinguish between our personalities in real life and online. The Internet is a powerful tool that can be used to bring like-minded people and entire communities together, but it is often used as a platform to vilify, harass and insult people within their own homes.

According to research, an average of 7 young people out of 10 have been bullied online at some point in their lives 1 . The concept of "cyberbullying" is often considered as a separate phenomenon, but, in fact, it is a kind of such an age-old problem as bullying. Bullying is fueled by a society's predisposition to prejudice and discrimination, and it often affects people with protected characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation and disability most of all.

Traditionally, bullying was considered a problem that existed only in the educational environment, and one could hide from it in the safety of one's own home. Today, young people can be bullied not only at school, but also at home, in their family car, in their room, and even in front of their own parents and guardians, without adults suspecting anything. Telecommunications technology has become such an integral part of our modern lives that it is almost impossible for some young people to escape abuse, and many find themselves in a state of constant stress and anxiety because of it. One in three victims of bullying ended up self-harming, and one in ten attempted suicide 2 .

Research consistently shows that about one in two adolescents who have experienced bullying do not tell anyone about it out of fear, embarrassment or disbelief in the effectiveness of support systems. Any kind of violence, whether online or in real life, causes enormous damage to the mental and physical health of young people and provokes more bouts of stress.

After analyzing 19 million tweets over a four-year period, a joint report by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label and social media monitoring company Brandwatch estimated nearly 5 million cases of misogyny on Twitter alone. ". Fifty-two percent of the misogynistic comments were made by women themselves, who usually commented on the appearance, intelligence, and sexual preferences of other women. The report refers to 7.7 million incidents of racism, 390,296 homophobic and 19,348 transphobic statements found on Twitter 3 . Since the authors of the report analyzed only publicly available data, when extrapolating the findings to the entire Internet, taking into account both public and private communication channels, the amount of hate speech on the network is staggering.

We all perceive our own individuality as something sacred, and we are engaged in its formation and development all our lives. Young people are going through a period of rapid development of their own individuality, and for them this is still largely an unexplored area. Protectable characteristics play a significant role in shaping identity, and therefore young people attach great importance to their religious and cultural affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. These signs are often used to organize bullying of a person on the Internet. Insults often lead to the fact that a person has an internal rejection of himself. When faced with racism online, young people may decide that their skin color is the problem and want to change that aspect of their personality to avoid being offended.

The same report states that the most frequently abused people on social media are those who discuss politics and sports online, reflecting a culture of intolerance and disrespect for diversity of opinion. Rhetoric such as that used in the United States of America throughout the 2016 presidential campaign to some extent elevated abusive behavior to the level of the norm and sent a clear signal that it is acceptable to attack people with a different point of view or position online. This undermines the right to freedom of expression, which should be inherent in all of us without exception, and creates conditions for the suppression of the expression of other people - often members of marginalized groups.

Physical bullying is one of the most common types of bullying both online and in real life. In our overpopulated world with its unhealthy interest in the life of celebrities, the media, various authority figures and materials that impose certain behaviors and appearances are a source of tremendous psychological pressure for young people. From early childhood, people are constantly told about the importance of physical attractiveness, and as a result, more and more young people develop diseases such as body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders. A recent survey by Ditch the Label shows that one in two young people today want to change their appearance through means such as plastic surgery 4 . Many young people are looking for confirmation of their innocence from their peers on social networks. This trend is worrisome, as it results in self-confidence and self-esteem becoming characteristics that are highly dependent on the opinions of others. This leaves young people vulnerable to offensive language about their appearance and creates a superficial culture of values ​​based on appearance. There are a growing number of subcultures among online communities that distribute images of people, evaluating their attractiveness on a certain scale. Many young people volunteer to subscribe to these communities in the hope of gaining recognition, at the risk of self-esteem. Unfortunately, a person's appearance often becomes the object of public insulting statements on the Internet, including without his knowledge.

Internet abuse is a particularly difficult problem. So, for example, now you can be a member of any community and interact with anyone without any geographical restrictions; today a person may be insulted by people who are not part of his usual circle of contacts in real life. Cyberbullying is often a public humiliation of its recipients, whereby other users are able to support and participate in mockery by 'likes', replying to messages and spreading offensive posts.

Cyberbullying is not always provoked by people who know the target; these messages are often sent anonymously, which can further justify offending in real life. Anonymous bullying can greatly damage the self-esteem of its victims and deprive them of their security, since without the intervention of the authorities it is very difficult to identify the source of bullying. This can contribute to the development of paranoia in its victims and have a more destructive effect than bullying from acquaintances.

In particularly serious cases of cyberbullying, which involves the unauthorized dissemination of recipients' personal information, including their address, telephone number, and family details, their physical security and privacy are at risk. "Revenge porn" is a term used to describe the act of distributing pornographic materials involving a certain person without their consent in order to defame and humiliate him in the eyes of both the general public and a narrow circle of friends and relatives. A number of measures have been taken to tighten the legal sanctions for “revenge porn”, as such actions can have a devastating impact on the lives of victims of such abuse. On a societal level, revenge porn victims are often told that they themselves are to blame for what happened, because they should not have sent a nude image of themselves or an intimate video of themselves. Such actions further exacerbate the problem and actually justify the behavior of the aggressor. They dishonor the exploration of one's own sexuality, which is normally a healthy part of modern relationships. The Internet is eroding historical socio-economic barriers that have previously limited interaction between people, and makes it possible to connect with anyone on the network - from friends and family members to celebrities and world leaders. Open channels of communication generally contribute to the progress of mankind by encouraging cooperation and the exchange of knowledge among people. However, any user of the social network can become a victim of cyberbullying and abuse on the Internet. Due to its transparent and “viral” nature, the Internet is capable of changing a person’s temperament and even his future fate in a matter of seconds, regardless of his status and life experience. For people who are role models in society, the question is not so much how to learn how to prevent online bullying, but how to find the best and most effective methods to solve this problem, and at the same time not allow factual or proactive insults had an overwhelming effect on their own thoughts and behavior. Everyone has the right to civil liberties and a decent life on an equal basis with everyone else. It is necessary to rethink this problem and understand that a person is never insulted because of his race, sexuality, religion or, for example, disability. Bullying another person is the result of a negative attitude or life circumstances of the aggressor. The main difference is that attitudes and life circumstances can change with the right level of support and education. A person's personality cannot be changed or influenced by insults, and no one should attempt to do so.

Young people should be encouraged to freely express their thoughts and exercise their rights in all areas, whether on the Internet or in the real world. They need to be empowered so that they can contribute to the formation of a democratic and global community by sharing their own ideas and opinions without attacking those who hold different points of view.

A culture of respect and mutual understanding is a key factor in the development of a truly just and equal world. A world in which everything is interconnected needs standards of interaction that everyone will follow. This is our goal, but there is still a long way to go to achieve it.


1 Ditch the Label, “The annual cyberbullying survey 2013” ​​(Brighton, 2013). Available from

2 Ditch the Label, “The annual bullying survey 2016” (Brighton 2016).

Available from

3 Ditch the Label and Brandwatch, “Cyberbullying and hate speech: What can social data tell us about hate speech online?” (Brighton, 2016). Available from

4 Ditch the Label, “The annual bullying survey 2015” (Brighton, 2015).

Available from

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The Impact of Cyberbullying on a Child's Mental Health

If your child has been or has been exposed to cyberbullying, our professionals are available to give you advice on how you can support them if their mental health has been affected.

311 classes

If your child has been or has been exposed to cyberbullying, our professionals are available to give you advice on how you can support them if their mental health has been affected.

Katie Collette

Senior Anti-Bullying Project Manager Diana Award

Expert website

What are the main signs that parents should look out for if cyberbullying has affected a child's mental health?

Bullying can make young people feel angry, isolated and frustrated, as well as adversely affect their mental health. It can be difficult for parents to know if their child is being bullied, but some signs to look out for include:

- upset or withdrawn, especially after looking at their phone, computer or device.

- Fear of going to school or missing school

- Suddenly stops using the phone or computer

- Fear of missing or being missed online; overuse of devices

- If your child is being cyberbullied, make sure they know they can talk to you at any time. These steps can help you boost their confidence and self-esteem:

- Listen to them and ask how they would like to handle the situation.

- Keep track of their progress - ask them how school was and check with the teacher regularly to see how they are doing during the day which he likes.

- Research the social media platforms your child uses and understand how they can use blocking and reporting tools to combat cyberbullying.

For more information visit Anti-bullyingpro or Young Minds also have a Parent Helpline: 0808 802 5544

Comment on Article

Lauren Seeger-Smith

General Manager, Kidscape

Expert website

If cyberbullying has seriously affected a child's mental health, what immediate steps should parents take?

Go to your therapist. If your child had a broken leg, you would go straight to the emergency room and mental health is no different. Don't be embarrassed and don't be afraid. Bullying can cause anxiety and depression, and the sooner you get help, the better. Let your child know that you love them unconditionally and acknowledge how they felt because of the bullying. Be patient and create opportunities to connect - even if they are quiet and introverted, they need you more than ever.

Encourage them to cut contact with people who hurt them and spend time (whether face-to-face or online) with people who make them feel good. Light exercise every day, like walking, can really help, and any other activity that helps them feel calmer.

Help them think of other people who can be supportive, and encourage them to share their feelings with these people even if they can't talk to you. Discuss together what needs to be done to stop the bullying and whether to seek help from their school or college. Let them know it will pass and together you will get through it.

Commentary on article

Martha Evans

Director, Anti-Bullying Alliance

Expert website

What steps can parents take for children whose well-being is affected by cyberbullying, especially if they are a child with a disability/child with SEN?

We know that bullying (including cyberbullying) can significantly affect a child's self-esteem. Bullying is often targeted at some aspect of someone's life, such as your appearance or disability. This can seriously damage the way young people feel about themselves. When cyberbullying occurs, it is important that you work to support your child and ensure that their well-being is not affected.

Make sure you highlight your child's strengths, reassure them that you love them and that they are not responsible for the cyberbullying. Try not to control and monitor their online behavior too much - this can make it less likely that they will feel able to tell you about their online experience. Instead, have open conversations about online behavior so they know they can talk to you. Check them out and ask if they're okay. If you are concerned about your child's mental health, take them to a doctor's appointment and school.

Commentary on article

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos

Psychologist, writer, broadcaster and internet ambassador

Expert website

If a child is suffering from the mental effects of cyberbullying but is unwilling to talk to their parents, how can parents support their child?

Talking about being bullied is not easy - the child may worry about making the situation worse, upset you, and even worry that you will judge him. So it's important that you send the message as consistently as possible that you're here to listen and support - here are 4 things you can do that will help:

Help kids understand bullying . Especially now that so much of our children's social interactions are taking place digitally, it's important that you educate your children about appropriate and inappropriate online behavior and encourage them to talk about things that make them anxious or uncomfortable.

Check often. Whether it's driving to school, having dinner conversations, or wrapping up the day while they're in bed, it's important to keep communication open, so make sure you connect with each of your kids every single day. Your child may not share vulnerable emotions every time you interact, but if you create enough regular opportunities to be together, it will.

Don't be judgmental One of the things that keeps children from opening up is worrying about being judged.

Learn more