Only 41% of Teens Who are Cyberbullied Report It To an Adult

A study last month on teen internet use conducted by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has some cyberbullying statistics that are consistent with what we’ve been seeing of late, but also one surprising stat that we want to discuss in more detail.

REPORT-CYBERBULLYINGThe not-so-surprising 2014 statistics:

  • 84% of parents have talked to their children about online safety, up from 25% in 2005
  • 77% of parents have done so in the past year
  • 31% of teens have been a victim of cyberbullying
  • 10% admit to having done some cyberbullying themselves

It makes sense that more teens are victims of cyberbullying than perpetrators. After all, one teen with an internet connection and a messaging app or social media account can wreak havoc on dozens or hundreds of others if so inclined.

What in our experience comes as a surprise to parents is this: of the teens who admit to being victims of cyberbullying, only 41% report the incident(s) to an adult. From what we’ve gathered in talking to parents and teens, the reason why is a combination of three factors:

Embarrassment – Often, cyberbullying incidents are an attack on something personal – appearance, another personal attribute or an embarrassing act. Admitting being injured by such an affront is a sign of weakness, and many teens would rather suffer in silence. Involving an adult increases the risk that the incident gets magnified, and everyone finds out that you had a moment of weakness.

The cost of being where your friends are – In a separate survey of teens last year, 52% reported that they accepted some level of cyberbullying as normal. Teens’ desire to be online is driven in a large part by the fact that all of their friends are there. Some level of cyberbullying is part of the game, and some teens would rather put up with it than refrain from being online.

Fear that parents will shut down accounts – Some parents’ reaction when hearing that their teen is being cyberbullied is to require the teen to shut down the account in question. We don’t recommend that. Whether the cyberbullying is happening on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, those and most other social networks have a mechanism for reporting abusive users. If you teen thinks having accounts shut down by you is a real option, and they view those networks as being important lifelines to their friends, you’re almost ensuring that they will not report the cyberbullying.

Of course, as a parent you would like to think that your teen will report cyberbullying to someone – either you or a teacher – before the bullying gets out of hand. The easiest way to ensure that this happens is to make it as frictionless as possible for your teen to do so, with no unintended consequences.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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