Cyberbullying and Online Teens (page 3)

By — Pew Internet and American Life Project
Updated on Feb 25, 2009

Intense internet users are bullied more

Online teens who have created content for the internet - for instance, by authoring blogs, uploading photos, sharing artwork or helping others build websites - are more likely to report cyberbullying and harassment than their peers. Content creators are also more likely to use social networks - places to create and display and receive feedback on content creations, and social network users are also more likely to be cyberbullied.

So Social Networks Facilitate Cyber-Bullying?
Have you, personally, ever experienced any fo the following things online? Yes No
Someone taking a private email, IM, or text message you sent them and forwarding it to someone else or posting is where others could see it. 15% 85%
Someone spreading a rumor about you online. 13% 87%
Someone sending you a threatening or aggressive email, IM, or text message. 13% 87%
Someone posting an embarrassing picture of you online without your permission. 6% 94%

Answered "yes" to any of th four previous questions.

32% 68%


Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Parents and Teens Survey, Oct- Nov. 2006. Based on online teens [n=886]. Margin of error for the overall sample is ±4%.

Bullying happens more often offline

Two-thirds of all teens (67%) said that bullying and harassment happens more offline than online. Fewer than one in three teens (29%) said that they thought that bullying was more likely to happen online, and 3% said they thought it happened both online and offline equally.

Girls are a bit more likely than boys to say that bullying happens more online (33% of girls vs. 25% of boys), though overall, both boys and girls say that kids their age are more likely to be harassed offline. White teens are bit more likely than African-American teens to think that bullying is more of a problem online - 32% of white teens said bullying happens more often online, while 18% of African-American teens said the same. Teens who have online profiles are just as likely as those who do not to say that bullying happens more often offline.

Teen who have been cyberbullied are more likely than their peers who have not been bullied to say that they believe bullying happens online more than offline. However, the majority of bullied teens say that bullying is more likely to happen offline than online. More than 7 in 10 (71%) of teens who have not experienced bullying believe it happens more often offline, while 57% of teens who have been cyberbullied themselves say bullying happens more offline.

Why do teens bully online?

In our focus groups, we asked teens about online experiences they had with bullying and harassment. In some cases what we heard was that adolescent cruelty had simply moved from the school yard, the locker room, the bathroom wall and the phone onto the internet. The simplicity of being able to replicate and quickly transmit digital content makes bullying quite easy. "Just copy and paste whatever somebody says," a middle school girl explains as she describes online bullying tactics. "You have to watch what you say…" counsels another middle school girl. "If that person's at their house and if you say something about them and you don't know they're there or if you think that person's your friend and you trust them and you're like, 'Oh, well, she's really being annoying,' she could copy and paste and send it to [anyone]…" Another middle school girl describes how the manipulation of digital materials can be used to hurt someone. "Like I was in a fight with a girl and she printed out our conversation, changed some things that I said, and brought it into school, so I looked like a terrible person."

Some teens suggested that it is the mediated nature of the communication that contributes to bullying, insulating teens from the consequences of their actions. One high school boy responded to the question whether he had heard of cyberbullying: "I've heard of it and experienced it. People think they are a million times stronger because they can hide behind their computer monitor. Also known as 'e-thugs.' Basically I just ignored the person and went along with my own civilized business." A middle school girl described "stuff starting online for no reason."

Intolerance also sparks online bullying incidents, as a middle school girl related in a focus group. "I have this one friend and he's gay and his account got hacked and someone put all these really homophobic stuff on there and posted like a mass bulletin of like some guy with his head smashed open like run over by a car. It was really gruesome and disgusting."

Bullying has entered the digital age. The impulses behind it are the same, but the effect is magnified. In the past, the materials of bullying would have been whispered, shouted or passed around. Now, with a few clicks, a photo, video or a conversation can be shared with hundreds via email or millions through a website, online profile or blog posting.

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