4 cyberbullying facts to help stop toxic behavior in your district

Now that students are back to in-person learning, school administrators should be on the lookout for an uptick in bullying behavior when the school year begins. Why? Because it happened before, and it can happen again.

According to research from Boston University and shared by Edweek, search activity around bullying decreased during the pandemic. But when schools returned to the classroom in 2021, searches related to online harassment shot back up faster than those related to traditional bullying. And now that more staff members and teenagers are leaning on digital technology and cloud applications than ever before, it’s likely that cyberbullying cases will continue to rise in 2022.

For this reason, it’s best you come to terms with the reality of online harassment. To help you prevent cyberbullying, let’s highlight the key cyberbullying facts, figures, and trends you’ll need to know in the upcoming school year.

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Cyberbullying vs. other forms of bullying

Whether it be a middle school, high school, or elementary school, there’s virtually no K-12 district that hasn’t encountered bullying in one way or another. Bullying prevention is an obstacle that every school faces on a daily basis, but it’s even more challenging if you’re the victim.

That’s why it’s important for school officials to stop toxic behavior in all of its shapes and sizes. And to do that, you’ll need to understand where they overlap and diverge. Let’s put them under the microscope and examine bullying behavior in every form.

Traditional bullying

Traditional bullying is commonly understood as any aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Kids and teenagers use this power — whether it be physical strength, embarrassing information, or popularity — to control, harm, or humiliate another student.

This type of behavior might include verbal, social, physical, or even sexual harassment. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, at least 20% of students report being bullied. Nearly half of those students believe that it’ll happen again. Common tactics used by a traditional bully include:

  • Name-calling, taunting and teasing
  • Spreading rumors about a fellow student
  • Threatening a student with physical harm
  • Pushing, shoving, tripping, or spitting on their victim
  • Excluding others from social activities

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Also known as online bullying or online harassment, this type of behavior occurs digitally (hence the use of “cyber” in its name). Cyber bullies target their victims over the internet, such as through social networks, rather than in person.

Online bullying may include any of the four types of harassment outlined above, including physical. How? Because even digitally, a child or teen could be threatened with physical violence or instructed to harm themselves. Comparatively, online bullying is often much more prevalent today than traditional bullying.

According to Pew Research Center, nearly 60% of U.S. teenagers have been a victim of online harassment, and nearly 90% think it’s a serious problem. In fact, cyberbullying is so prevalent that teachers rank it the number one online safety issue in their classrooms.

Where cyberbullying and harassment take place

If you want to prevent cyberbullying, you need to know where it’s happening. And if you look at the latest cyberbullying statistics, it’s plain to see that schools have their work cut out for them.

Common sense says that most cyberbullying takes place on social media — and the data backs that up. Research shows that social networks are the most commonly cited form of cyberbullying, accounting for over one-fifth of all bullying cases. According to another study, the rates of cyberbullying are much higher for kids and teenagers who use social media. In fact, here’s how each social media platform ranks in terms of its cyberbullying rate:

  • YouTube: 79%
  • Snapchat: 69%
  • TikTok: 64%
  • Instagram 61%
  • Facebook: 49%
  • Twitter: 28%
  • Whatsapp: 26%

That said, online bullying can also take place in other digital channels, such as:

  • Text messaging: Roughly 95% of U.S. teenagers are accessing the internet through a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, thus exposing them to cyber bullies.
  • Online forums: Message boards and websites like Reddit are increasingly popular among kids, thus raising the risk for a young person to encounter online bullying.
  • Gaming: Online gaming platforms like Discord are loved by nearly every child, but can also be used to bully fellow gamers. According to one study, there was a 40% leap in toxicity on Discord during the pandemic when more kids were at home playing games.

However, K-12 students are increasingly being targeted by cyber bullies over school-provided technologies. Cloud services, like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, are becoming a new digital stomping ground for online harassment. And because they’re technically school property, they’re also the school’s responsibility.

Although research in this area is lacking, our own experiences indicate that students are using cloud applications to bully their peers. Take Google, for instance. In some cases, a child might use Workspace’s chat room to directly harass a fellow student. Or, they could create a mean-spirited slide deck of their victim using Google Slides. Customers using the ManagedMethods platform have even found students sharing sexually graphic or embarassing photos of underage teenagers.

The rise of cyberbullying and harassment

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is on the rise. People around the world, including kids, have been spending at least 20% more time on social media since the start of the pandemic. Alongside this increased screen time, there’s also been a 20% jump in online hate speech, as reported by the BBC.

In the first month of COVID-19 alone, one study witnessed a 70% leap in bullying and hate speech among teens and children. That’s in addition to an astounding 900% increase in hate speech on Twitter directed towards China and the Chinese.

Simply put, toxicity is spreading with the help of digital technology. Simultaneously, schools are experiencing a sudden rush to the cloud. Necessitated by the pandemic, over 90% of school districts now operate using cloud services.

Combined with the rise in screen time, young people have increased their exposure to cyber bullies exponentially. Consequently, more teenagers are falling victim to online toxicity.

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4 Cyberbullying facts: The impact of online bullying and harassment

If left unchecked, toxic bullying behavior has substantial implications on student mental health and wellbeing. Let’s walk through the essential information you need to know about online harassment.

1. Susceptibility
According to DoSomething.org, 15% of girls have been the target of at least four kinds of abusive online behaviors, compared with 6% of boys. Their data suggests that girls are twice as likely as boys to be both victims and perpetrators of online bullying.

Additionally, over half of LGBTQ+ students have experienced cyberbullying, a rate much greater than those not part of that community. Per the CDC, reports of cyberbullying overall are highest among middle school students, followed by high school and then primary school.

2. Impact on mental health
A study by the Cyberbullying Research Center reveals that almost 70% of cyberbullying victims say online harassment has negatively affected their self-image, indicating a strong impact on student mental health. This implication is further supported by research that correlates cyberbullying with the development of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of suicide

3. Impact on physical health
Kids who are targeted by cyber bullies are at increased risk for many negative physical conditions, including:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Disordered eating
  • Sleep disorders
  • Substance abuse

4. Bullying and violence
Research from the Department of Homeland Security found that cyberbullying and school violence are closely related. Out of 67 school violence plots, 21% of the cases were caused by bullying. In plots motivated by suicide, bullying was also a substantial contributing motivator.

Cyberbullying prevention: How to stop cyber harassment

With these cyberbullying facts in mind, you should be able to kick off the school year on the right foot. To help you out, here are some strategies you can use to prevent cyberbullying in 2022:

  • Foster a culture of openness, positivity and inclusivity in your schools
  • Teach digital citizenship at an early age
  • Identify the warning signs of cyberbullying and intervene wherever possible
  • Monitor your cloud apps for signs of cyberbullying and online harassment

Online bullying may be taking place on digital channels that don’t fall under your school’s jurisdiction, but school-provided cloud apps are still school property. Through a cloud monitoring solution like ManagedMethods, you can automate bullying prevention and detect signs of toxic behavior in the cloud.

With cyberbullying cases on the rise, keeping tabs on your cloud services is the least you can do to help the cause. ManagedMethods allows you to identify incidents, investigate them immediately and initiate your anti-bullying policies as quickly as possible.

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