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

Causes of Cyberbullying

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.

About the Causes of Cyberbullying Study

Researchers in the United Kingdom completed the 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.

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 for a free case evaluation.


Posted in: Children's Rights
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