Cyberbullying Is More Common Than Parents Think, Study Shows

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Dec. 19, 2022 – Nearly half of U.S. teens said they have been cyberbullied, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

The most common type of cyberbullying reported was “offensive name-calling,” which 32% of the teens said happened to them.

An expert on parenting in the digital age said the survey results are not surprising.

“There’s just so much online aggression — aggression because of online disinhibition and the ways that we forget there’s another human being on the other end of the screen,” Devorah Heitner, author of “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World,” told The Washington Post.

Cyberbullying is not high on the list of parents’ concerns about what their teens are doing online. The teens’ parents were also surveyed, and the results showed a disconnect: Only 29% of parents said they were worried their teen was being harassed or bullied by others on social media. Cyberbullying placed sixth out of a list of eight social media concerns parents were surveyed about.

They were much more likely to be worried about what their teens were seeing online or what they should be doing instead. Among the top-reported concerns were “being exposed to explicit content” (46%) and “wasting too much time on these sites” (42%). Trailing the list of parents’ worries was that social media usage would lead to their teens experiencing depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, with just over 1 in 4 parents citing those issues as a concern.

The survey was conducted online among 1,316 U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 from April 14 to May 4, 2022. The teens’ parents were surveyed separately during the same time period.

Teens of different genders, races and ethnicities were all equally likely to report being cyberbullied, but the researchers found differences in the types of bullying they experienced.

“White, Black and Hispanic teens do not statistically differ in having ever been harassed online, but specific types of online attacks are more prevalent among certain groups,” the study authors wrote. “For example, White teens are more likely to report being targeted by false rumors than Black teens. Hispanic teens are more likely than White or Black teens to say they have been asked constantly where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with by someone other than a parent.”

The results also showed that teens from households whose income was less than $30,000 annually were twice as likely as those from higher income households to say they were physically threatened online (16% vs. 8%).

Most of the teens gave their parents good marks for managing online abuse and harassment, but said teachers, law enforcement, social media companies and elected officials were all lacking in addressing the issue.

Most of the parents surveyed (77%) said their kids are dealing with a completely different set of issues and challenges than they themselves dealt with while growing up.