What Cyberbullying Is and How Common It Is

The Cyberbullying Research Center describes cyberbullying as, “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” It is usually discussed in the context of minors bullying each other. Cyberbullying can take many forms, from a vengeful ex hacking into your Facebook account to constant texts and phone calls from a threatening stranger.

One of the most tragic victims of cyberbullying was Tyler Clementi. An undergraduate student at Rutgers University, Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate and other students watched footage of Clementi being intimate with another male. His roommate posted about the webcam footage he secretly shot on his Twitter account.

Not all incidents of cyberbullying are so extreme. Bullies find some surprisingly creative ways to target victims. Instagram, for instance, hardly seems like a hotbed of bullying, but the Cyberbullying Research Center has posted several stories of bullying through the site. In one case, a cyberbully created a fake Instagram account in a young female’s name and then posted pictures from her real account with demeaning captions. In another case, a bully posted photos of a high school student’s bad parking job in the school lot, along with a rude comment about her. The photo spread, and resulted in all the students parking crookedly the next day just to mock her.

The Cyberbullying Research Center is the primary organization dedicated to investigating and fighting cyberbullying. Based on their surveys from 2004 to 2011, an average of 24% of adolescents reported being victims of cyberbullying. On the flip side, a full 17 percent confessed to being the perpetrators—and those are just the ones willing to admit it. A 2010 survey found that “mean or hurtful comments” and “rumors spread” were the most prevalent forms of cyberbullying. According to the CRC research, females are more likely to bully via rumors, while males are more likely to post hurtful photos or videos.

--Liz Soltan