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Causes of Cyberbullying: Study Traces Online Bullying to In-Person Contact

The prevalence of cyberbullying has exploded in recent years. With new mediums and modes of communication come new opportunities for people to suffer through mistreatment. People can make use of social media, texting, message boards and video sharing among other things to humiliate and harm others. To date, most people who have looked at cyberbullying have focused on how and why it happens, warning signs of cyberbullying, parental awareness and many other issues. One aspect of this problem that has not yet been analyzed on a deep level involves the causes of cyberbullying. Are more people being bullied because there are more ways to do it? Does cyberbullying identify new victims that would not be bullied otherwise? Researchers recently published a study that looked at the causes of cyberbullying, and its findings are somewhat surprising.

Authors of Another Recent Study Say the Cyber Bully Problem Remains Prevalent

Chances are that nearly every child has a cyber bully in his or her life, whether that child knows it or not. Until relatively recently, society had not learned very much about the nature of the cyber bully, as this form of bullying only became prevalent with the growth of the Internet. More and more professionals are digging into this problem. They appear to be learning valuable lessons. One of those lessons identified by several studies involves the depth and scope of this serious issue. A recent study that focused on young people in New York showed just how many people had run into at least one cyber bully while online. Perhaps as more people learn about how every child is at risk for this type of suffering, more people will take steps to protect their own children.

About the Cyberbullying Study

Researchers from Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation collaborated on the study. Those interested in reading a description of the research can find it here. The researchers conducted 1,255 online interviews with students between grades 6 and 12 across Western and Upstate New York. They also interviewed 1,048 parents of students from schools that were participating in the survey.

The researchers found the following:

  • 26 percent of the student respondents from Upstate New York had been cyberbullied.
  • 55 percent of teens in Western New York had witnessed cyberbullying.
  • More than half of the parents in Western New York had witnessed cyberbullying.
  • More than 20 percent of Western New York teens witness cyberbullying at least a few times per month.

The study found the following with regards to teens who had run into at least one cyber bully:

  • Nearly 33 percent of teens ‘laughed it off’ when they saw something negative posted about them online.
  • 9 percent of teens cried when they saw something negative online about them or someone close to them.
  • 41 percent of teens who had dealt with a cyber bully told a friend about it afterward.
  • 48 percent of cyberbullied teens spoke to their parents.
  • One-third of those teens targeted ultimately confronted the alleged cyber bully.
  • 20 percent of bullied teens told school officials about it.

Cyberbullying Defined

For purposes of this study, the researchers defined cyberbullying as posting any or all of the following online:

  • Insulting comments
  • Threatening comments
  • Pictures meant to embarrass
  • Revealing videos
  • Rumors
  • Allegations regarding sexual activity identifies cyberbullying as, “bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.” The same organization defines bullying as, “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. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

About the Cyber Bully

The study also looked closely at the nature of the cyber bully. Those who responded to the survey and admitted to acting as a cyber bully in the past gave the following reasons for acting in this manner:

  • They wanted to get back at someone.
  • They were angry at someone or about something.
  • The cyber bullies simply thought that what they posted was funny.

In addition to the motivation for cyberbullying, those who engaged in this conduct listed the following reasons that they attacked another person online:

  • 39 percent attacked physical appearance.
  • 27 percent made fun of the target’s social awkwardness.
  • 28 percent cyberbullied because they thought their target was gay.
  • 25 percent attacked another person because of the clothes they wear.
  • 25 percent of cyber bullies attacked others for having some sort of disability.
  • 22 percent of cyber bullies attacked others for lack of athletic ability.
  • 14 percent of online bullies attacked others for being sexually active.

The study also revealed that a cyber bully is not necessarily unaware of the harm that he or she inflicts on others with this conduct. According to the survey:

  • 12 percent of teens posted something online that they regret.
  • 6 percent of cyber bullies had posted something that eventually hurt someone.
  • 2 percent of teens posted something they were ashamed of that was still available online.

How Teens Become Targets

Additionally, the study reveals just how vulnerable teens may be to any cyber bully based simply on the amount of time that an average teen spends online. According to the researchers:

  • 91 percent of the teens stated that they spend more than an hour online every day playing videos or video games.
  • 79 percent of the respondents spend at least an hour every day online socializing with their friends.
  • 82 percent of teens have their own smartphones.
  • Nearly one-third of the teens had shared their name and gender to someone they only knew online.
  • 5 percent had agreed to meet someone they had met only on the Internet.

Cyberbullying and Parents

The study also reveals that the parents who were interviewed as part of this process seem to be more aware of and involved with preventing cyberbullying than what others studies have shown. We discussed one such study here that showed a surprisingly low number of parents who thought that cyberbullying was a concern of theirs. In this study, parents stated the following:

  • Nearly all parents had spoken to their children about cyberbullying.
  • 97 percent of parents stated that they have taught their children not to reveal personal information online.
  • 40 percent of the parents have technology-related rules that they strictly enforce.
  • 47 percent have rules in place but do not enforce them.
  • 13 percent of parents allow their children to make their own decisions regarding online behavior.

How Children’s Rights Lawyers Can Help

This research may focus on young people and their parents in New York, but it’s safe to say that surveys from other parts of the United States would likely lead to somewhat similar results. If you believe that your child is acting as a cyber bully, you need to put a stop to it as soon as possible. You also need to take steps to restore your child’s dignity, pride and sense of safety if your child has been bullied online. If you need specific help that you’re not getting, contact the children’s rights lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys today for a free case evaluation.

Another Study on the Causes of Cyberbullying

Researchers in the United Kingdom completed a study. Those who would like to read it can find it here. The researchers, from the University of Warwick, worked with 2,745 students between the ages of 11 and 16 who were attending secondary schools in the UK at the time. The students answered questions presented in an electronic survey. These questions centered on bullying involvement, self-esteem and behavioral problems. Different types of bullying and other terms were given different monikers and abbreviations, including:

  • DV—Direct victimization or direct, in-person bullying
  • RV—Relational victimization or relational bullying
  • CV—Cyber victimization or cyberbullying
  • CI—Confidence intervals

The researchers identified the following data, based on the responses provided:

  • 29.3 percent of the respondents were bullied in one way or another.
  • 28 percent of respondents had experienced DV, or direct victimization
  • Pure DV, pure RV and DV & RV combined accounted for nearly three-quarters of all bullying.
  • Approximately 4 percent of students had experienced only cyberbullying.
  • CV occurred within a context of ‘traditional’ bullying more than 85 percent of the time.

Cyberbullying and Subsequent Psychological Challenges


We have discussed the potential harm inflicted by bullying in general. It seems clear that many children who endures bullying are going to suffer for it later in life. The researchers for this study also looked at the potential long-term consequences of bullying. Specifically, they attempted to measure the following three factors for students who had been bullied:

  • Behavioral difficulties
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Self-esteem problems

The researchers found that those who had only been cyberbullied experienced roughly the same sort of difficulties as those students who had only dealt with more traditional forms of bullying. Those subjects who had endured multiple forms of bullying suffered through more severe behavioral, emotional and self-esteem-related problems as a result of their mistreatment. An example of long term consequences would also be the study in regards to increased risk of being overweight due to bullying.

The Challenge to Conventional Thinking

This study represents a challenge to what was developing into conventional thinking with regards to cyberbullying. That thinking basically stated that the introduction of all of these different forms of technology created more opportunity for bullying and, as a result, more bullying victims. Instead, this study seems to indicate that these technological outlets are basically another outlet for bullying that would occur anyway. In essence, cyberbullying is a symptom of a larger disease and not the root cause of a separate problem. The causes of cyberbullying are, for the most part, traced back to more ‘traditional’ forms of bullying that occurs at school. The researchers do not feel that cyberbullying alone is an epidemic per se.

Of course, there are important differences between cyberbullying and other types of bullying, and the authors touch on those differences. First and foremost, cyberbullying extends well beyond school property. In essence, cyberbullying perpetuates bullying at home or wherever the target of that bullying may be at the time. More traditional bullying required a target to be present. Cyberbullying requires only an internet connection. In addition, cyberbullying can create a larger audience than more traditional bullying depending on how it occurs.

Cyberbullying Statistics

Despite the apparent lack of cyberbullying that occurs on its own as put forth by this study, it is generally not in dispute that cyberbullying is extremely common. According to, the following data relate to cyberbullying:

  1. More than half of adolescents and teens have experienced cyberbullying.
  2. Roughly the same percentage of adolescents and teens admit to engaging in cyberbullying.
  3. More than one-third of people under the age of 18 have been threatened online.
  4. More than 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been cyberbullied repeatedly.
  5. The vast majority of teens do not tell their parents when they have been cyberbullied.

Those interested in a full breakdown of these statistics can find it here. These statistics and the findings in this study are not mutually exclusive. If anything, they indicate that bullying in all forms is something that every parent and every adult who works with young people need to watch for closely.

How Children’s Rights Lawyers Can Help

It can be difficult at times to know when a child is being bullied. It can be even more difficult to know when a child is being cyberbullied. We have discussed warning signs of bullying recently as well, and people should be familiar with them. Those who even suspect that something is wrong should trust their instincts, as bullying can quickly lead to grave consequences. Every day is an opportunity to step in and put a stop to this damaging conduct.

If you suspect bullying and act by contacting those in a position to deal with it appropriately, you still may not have done enough. You need to make sure that those responsible for handling this problem do so quickly. In some cases, following through may require taking the next step if no action or not enough action is taken by those in a position to do so. If you find yourself facing this difficult situation, you need to seek the help of children’s rights lawyers who understand what it takes to stand up for the rights of those who are being bullied. Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today either by phone at (619) 237-3490 or online for a free case evaluation.

Posted in: Children's Rights
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