Teen Cyberbullying Triples, Emotional Impact Grows

By on Jun 05, 2014

cyberbullying_2014 Study

School has been out for about two weeks. That’s 14 days, 336 hours, 20,160 minutes. In that short time, Amanda, who is 15, has been on her mobile phone far more than usual, a habit that will continue through the summer if left unchecked. Amanda spends most of her time on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (in that order), feels more accepted online than she does in her real life, and would likely change at least a few of her riskier online behaviors if she felt her parents were keeping an eye on her, according to a new McAfee survey, Teens and the Screen.

Then there’s the cyberbullying side, that unaware, Amanda will walk straight into every time she powers up her phone this summer.

According to the study, as her screen time continues to climb, so too will Amanda’s exposure to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is growing at an eye-popping rate—tripling in fact—with 87% of teens surveyed citing they witnessed cyberbullying this year versus 27% last year.

Also unsettling are the reasons kids are being bullied online. Of those who responded to being bullied, 72% stated it was over appearance, 26% answered bullying was due to race or religion, and 22% stated their sexuality prompted the bullying.

The survey highlighted a much larger issue for teens and families and that is that online conflict is following kids offline with 52% of teens admitting to fights offline because of something posted on social media, a number that up 19% from last year.

How are kids handling the bullying? Not well, the survey reveals.

Of those who were bullied, 53% said they became angry or defensive, 47% deleted their social media account, 43% became less social, 16% sought professional help or therapy, and 14% harmed themselves. Nearly a fourth of teens surveyed, (23%) admitted they would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.

So where do we begin to assess our own households in light of this unsettling new survey?

According to Michelle Dennedy, McAfee chief privacy officer, it begins with carving out the time to talk seriously to your kids. “Parents must discuss online activity with their children to better ensure their safety and security online,” says Dennedy. “Whether a child is a victim or an instigator of cruel behavior such as cyberbullying, the negative impact can deeply affect their identity and reputation.”

3 Ways to Avoid Bullying Online

  1. Make profiles and photos private. By refusing to use privacy settings (and some kids do refuse), a child’s profile is open to anyone and everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated. We often recommend on this blog that parents require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private—without exception. This limits online circles to known friends and reduces the possibility of cyberbullying.
  2. Avoid risky apps. Apps like Ask.fm that allow outsiders to ask a user any question anonymously should be off limits to kids. Kik Messenger is also a bad idea. Users have a degree of anonymity with these kinds of apps because they have usernames instead of real names and they can easily connect with profiles that could be (and often are) fake. Both apps have been connected to multiple cyberbullying and suicide cases.
  3. Don’t asking peers for a “rank” or a “like.” Believe it or not, the online culture for teens is such that often kids will be straightforward in asking people to “like” or “rank” a photo of them and attach the hashtag #TBH (to be honest) in hopes of getting an affirmation fix. Talk to your kids about the risk in doing this and the negative comments that may follow. Affirm them and remind them often of how much they mean to you and the people who truly know them and love them.

3 Things to Do if Bullied Online

  1. Tell someone. Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult. Many teens keep quiet when being bullied which often leads to more bullying and communicates to others that she is fair game for bullying. Encourage your child to come to you at the first sign of bullying or conflict online. Monitor her online circles and assess the tone of her online conversations. She will not be able to discern some sarcasm and cruelty the way you will. Being the object of a cyberbully creates fear, humiliation, and often leads to isolation so your child will rarely be the first to speak up about it. Until they have the skills, parents need to monitor and coach kids online. Start early and be consistent and they will gain their communication chops sooner than later.
  2. Save the evidence. Print copies of messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages and take screen shots of posts or comments on social networks.
  3. Report to online platform, to school and/or police. Report the cyberbully to the social network in the Help section. If the perpetrator is another student, share evidence with the school counselor. Report the cyberbullying to the police or cyber crime unit in your area if the cyberbullying contains threats, intimidation or sexual exploitation.



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong began her career as a reporter in Los Angeles and later became a writer for Walt Disney Imagineering. Her passion for digital safety started 10 years ago as a way to gain the survival skills she needed to parent her own connected teenagers. Her goal with each post is to give busy parents ...

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Categories: Family Safety

  1. As a young woman who has directly been effected by cyberbullying, I can attest to the impact and also the temptations that it presents. I have see both sides of bullying and have grasped a well informed opinion on how and why the numbers of cyberbullying continue to rise. The more we make our social media our lives, the more cyberbullying will thrive. People with extreme insecurities are able to hide behind social media and technology to directly abuse it's purpose and reach out to those who may appear or behave differently. Technology has given cyberbullys and insecure individuals in general, the ability to make themselves feel better by avoiding direct confrontation and putting down others. In most of these cyberbully cases, the bully would never confront the victim in person or in front of others. Unfortunately, as I've seen time and time again, reporting cyberbullys does not generally end the ugliness. Intact, often times it actually makes it worse. The 3 ways provided above, to "avoid" cyberbullying are not enough, if you want to avoid it all together DON'T be on social media. Period. Yes, as a high school or even college young woman, this may seem like social suicide, but trust me, it will be the best choice you've ever made. You will reap the benefits from staying away from social media and connecting with friends in person. You will see less drama, your relationships will thrive, you will have more time, you will feel more confident , and you will not be allowing yourself to be bullied! Not only will you benefit from all of these things, you will also have more quiet time to enjoy the person that you were made to be. You will learn to love yourself more, by realizing that the people on social media who rate, like and bully your profile- DO NOT MATTER. The only opinion that matters is Gods. After all, in His eyes, you are perfectly beautiful. Leviticus 19:18 says, “You are not to seek vengeance or hold a grudge against the descendants of your people. Instead, love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Realize that those who are bullying others are screaming for attention, it is their cry for help and what we should understand is that they are the ones who are hurting.

  2. With the increase of cyber bullying from 27% to 87% in just one year it is only common that parents become increasingly cautious about their child’s online well-being. I am not a father but I hope to be someday. I am however a protective older brother. My younger sister is 18-years-old and just started college this past week. She is in the process of meeting new people and building new relationships. With that comes adding new people to her social media and thus increasing her chances of being a victim to cyber-bullying. Emily, my younger sister, suffered from anxiety attacks in high school following cyber-bullying attacks. She yearns for more friends but also is extremely worried to open up on social media to more people. My words of advice: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

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