The advent of the internet and social media has caused a shift in the way people communicate with each other.
Sadly, that has given rise to a new form of bullying that is far less visible or talked about — cyberbullying. But what is cyberbullying exactly?
Defined as the use of an electronic device, like a smartphone or computer, to threaten, tease, or harass another person online, cyberbullying is one of the leading causes of anxiety and depression among young people.
To give you an insight into how the UK is tackling cyberbullying, we looked into the latest cyberbullying statistics for the UK and found some alarming numbers.
According to a survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a UK-based anti-bullying charity, up to 27% of surveyed students in schools and colleges across the UK reported having experienced some form of cyberbullying.
Check out more of our findings below.
Top 10 Cyberbullying Statistics UK
- One in five children between the age of 10 and 15 in England and Wales experienced at least one form of cyberbullying.
- Asian or Asian British children were the least likely to experience cyberbullying, while White children were the most likely.
- Out of 13,387 UK students aged 12–18, 27% identified their bullying experience as cyberbullying.
- Name-calling, swearing, and insults were the most common type of cyberbullying experienced by children in England and Wales.
- An estimated one in four children did not report the online bullying experienced.
- Over half, or 52% of the children who experienced cyberbullying, said they would not describe their experience as bullying.
- Up to 70% of children who experienced cyberbullying said that the perpetrator(s) were people from their school.
- 58% of them said they were very satisfied with how their school was handling online bullying.
- Up to 57% of young people aged 12–25 had experienced bullying behaviour when playing video games online.
- 22% of the survey respondents said they stopped playing an online game as a result of the abuse.
General Cyberbullying Statistics UK
Cyberbullying is a growing problem in the UK, and most recent studies show it is on the rise. The root cause of that is the increasing amount of time young people are spending online and the greater use of smartphones and social media sites.
Between March 2019 and March 2020, 19% or one in five children between the age of 10 and 15 in England and Wales experienced at least one form of cyberbullying
That equals around 764,000 children. By comparison, twice as many children, or 38%, reported having experienced bullying behaviour in person. Only 4% of children experienced bullying behaviour by a phone call.
The same study showed that up to 26% of cyberbullying victims had a long-term disability or illness
That percentage is much higher than the prevalence of online bullying among children without an illness or disability, which stood at 18%.
The proportion of girls and boys who experienced cyberbullying was almost equal, with 20% of girls and 17% of boys being victims
That tells us that cyberbullying behaviour is typically not based on gender, with other variables, such as appearance, race, or sexual orientation, being more frequent targets.
Asian or Asian British children were the least likely to experience cyberbullying, with only 6% reporting any form of online bullying, while the highest percentage of cyberbullying was recorded among White children — 21%
In addition, the percentage of Black or Black British children who experienced online bullying behaviour stood at 18%, while Mixed Ethnic group children were slightly more likely to be bullied online, with the percentage reaching 19%.
According to a 2019 Statista survey, Black respondents were the most frequent target of abusive online behaviour, with up to 41% of them claiming to have received hateful emails
In contrast, only 8% of White respondents reported the same.
Out of 13,387 UK students aged 12–18, 27% identified their bullying experience as cyberbullying
The survey was conducted by Ditch the Label, a UK-based anti-bullying charity, and took place from September 2019 to March 2020.
It found that out of all types of bullying experienced by surveyed students, social exclusion was the most common type (89%), followed by verbal bullying (86%) and rumour spreading (54%).
Another anti-bullying report released by Ditch the Label in 2021 casts more light on how young people are affected by cyberbullying. The report draws on the experiences of over 13,000 respondents aged 13 to 25 and found that:
5% of young people in the UK aged 13 to 25 had something mean posted about them online by someone who they don’t know
Furthermore, 8% of the respondents revealed the same thing was happening to them, but by someone they knew online, while the same number had experienced it from an anonymous source.
Up to 18% said that they had something mean posted about them online by someone they knew offline. Finally, over half of the respondents (59%) answered that no such thing has ever happened to them.
The same study revealed that 29% of the participants agreed that the internet should be more tightly moderated to reduce cyberbullying
However, 15% of them were against that move, while up to 41% expressed that they weren’t sure.
A cyber survey conducted by Youthworks Consulting found that up to 20% of 11–17 years old in the UK reported having been cyberbullied
The survey was conducted between November 2020 and February 2021 and suggested that cyberbullying has remained stable compared to the year before, with no significant increase or decrease in the number of reports.
However, the same study suggested that one-third of all people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic had experienced some form of abusive online behaviour or online harassment.
This number is worrying, as it suggests that the pandemic has contributed to an increase in cyberbullying behaviour.
Types of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can take many different forms, from name-calling and insults to spreading rumours and making threats.
It can also include posting mean comments or sending hurtful messages on social media sites, excluding someone from a group chat or activity, setting up fake social media accounts to humiliate someone, and sharing private photos or videos without consent.
Of the cyberbullying behaviours reported, name-calling, swearing, and insults were the most common, experienced by over 10% of students aged 10–15 in England and Wales
That is followed by receiving messages with nasty content and being purposefully excluded or left out from a certain group or activity.
Here are the top cyberbullying behaviours reported from the most to the least frequent.
|Any online bullying behaviour||18.7%|
|Name-calling, swearing and insults||10.5%|
|Messages with nasty content||10.1%|
|Nasty messages passed around or posted publicly||3.3%|
|Extortion of money or other things||0.4%|
The Focus on Bullying report released by the Anti-Bullying Alliance of the UK reported that out of all cyber aggressions, insults about appearance are the most common, at 25%
That is followed by homophobic insults (17%), sexist insults (16%), racist insults (14%), threats (12%), and insults about religion (3%).
Sexist insult is the type of cyber aggression that increased the most since 2019, from 12% to 16%
Other cyber aggressions that marked an increase were homophobic insults, racist insults, and insults about appearance. In contrast, there were slight reductions in the rates of cyberbullying involving religion and threats about harming the victims or their families.
The table below gives a full overview of how different types of cyberbullying have increased or decreased from 2019 to 2021 in the UK.
|Cyber Aggression||Change Compared to 2019|
|Sexist insults||Increased from 12% to 16%|
|Homophobic insults||Increased from 15% to 17%|
|Racist insults||Increased from 13% to 14%|
|Insults about appearance||Increased from 23% to 25%|
|Threats to harm the victim or their family||Reduced from 13% to 12%|
|Insults about religion||Reduced from 5% to 3%|
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have a profound effect on its victims, causing them to feel isolated, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal.
Low self-esteem, personality changes, and wanting to spend time alone are only some of the cyberbullying consequences children might experience.
In fact, online bullying data has shown that up to seven out of ten children who were bullied online were emotionally affected by the experience.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 22% of children who experienced cyberbullying said that they were deeply affected by the experience
Furthermore, almost half (47%) of the respondents said that they were only affected a little, while 32% expressed that they were not affected at all. That amounts to seven out of ten children, or 68%, being affected by cyberbullying at least on some level.
But do children report cyberbullying? Cyberbullying can be a difficult thing to deal with, and reports suggest that children are reluctant to tell someone about their experiences.
An estimated one in four children did not report the online bullying experienced
That amounts to 26% of the surveyed children. It is also interesting to note that there is a considerable difference between the number of boys and girls who didn’t tell anyone about their experiences.
Namely, up to 34% of the children who didn’t report being cyberbullied were boys, while only 15% were girls
There are many reasons why children don’t report cyberbullying, including feeling afraid, embarrassed, feeling that it is not important, or not knowing who to report it to.
An estimated 66% of children who didn’t report cyberbullying didn’t think it was important enough
That amounts to two out of three of the children surveyed. The second most common reason for not reporting online bullying behaviour was that the victim thought they would only make it worse, while the third reason was that the victim did not feel comfortable talking about it.
|Reason||Percentage of Children|
|Didn’t think it was important enough||65.9%|
|Thought they would make it worse||12.4%|
|Didn’t feel comfortable talking about it||10.8%|
|Didn’t know who to report it to||3.4%|
On a more positive note, the same study found that three-quarters (74%) of children who were cyberbullied did tell someone about their experiences.
But, who did children confide in the most?
Children most frequently reported their cyberbullying experiences to their parents
In fact, more than half (56%) of children told their parents about having been cyberbullied.
In addition, up to 32%, or one in three children affected by cyberbullying, confided in their teacher. In comparison, 18% confided in another member of staff. Helplines were the least commonplace to turn to, with only 1% of children contacting a helpline for support.
In the table below, you can see who children in the UK turned to for support after being cyberbullied.
|Other family members||19%|
|Another member of staff||18%|
Over half, or 52%, of the children who experienced cyberbullying said that they would not describe their experience as bullying
In addition, 19% of the children who experienced cyberbullying didn’t know if it was bullying, while 29% said that it definitely was bullying.
Perpetrators of Cyberbullying
When it comes to cyberbullying, girls are more likely to be both the victims and the perpetrators. In addition, more often than not, children are bullied by people from their own school, and that extends to cyberbullying as well.
Up to 70% of children aged 10 to 15 from England and Wales who experienced cyberbullying said that the perpetrator(s) were people from their school
That is not surprising, considering that children spend a large part of their day at school, and they are more likely to interact with other children from their school both inside and outside of the classroom.
But where does cyberbullying take place the most?
More than half of the children (52%) also reported that at least some of the cyberbullying incidents happened at school or during school hours
In addition, 19% of cyberbullying victims said that all the incidents occurred at school or during school time. In contrast to that, 28% of children said that none of the cyberbullying took place at school or during school time.
Another important variable to consider when talking about schools and cyberbullying is how well the children think schools are tackling online bullying.
From the research, it appears that most children are reasonably happy with how their school is dealing with cyberbullying.
In fact, 58% of children surveyed said they were very satisfied with how their school was handling online bullying
A quarter (25%) of the survey participants said that they were not satisfied with how their school was dealing with cyberbullying, while only a very small percentage (8%) said that their school doesn’t have a bullying problem.
Cyberbullying in Online Gaming
When talking about cyberbullying, most people think about social media bullying, but that is not the only place where children are bullied online. In fact, a 2017 Ditch the Label survey suggests that children are also bullied while playing online video games.
The survey took into account the answers of over 2,500 young people across the UK, aged 12–25 and found that:
Up to 57% of the young people surveyed had experienced bullying behaviour when playing video games online
Respondents reported having been subjected to trolling, hate speech, and receiving death threats, as some of the most common bullying behaviours.
On the flip side, when asked whether they’ve ever bullied anyone in an online game, 80% of the respondents denied it, while only 20% said yes.
22% of the respondents said they stopped playing an online game as a result of the abuse
In contrast, almost half (48%) said that bullying didn’t stop them from playing online video games, while 24% admitted to having considered it.
These cyberbullying statistics for the UK reveal that cyberbullying is one of the most common forms of bullying in the UK. The government and other organisations are doing what they can to prevent and address bullying, but it will take a concerted effort from everyone — individuals, parents, schools, and businesses — to make a real difference.
Have you been affected by cyberbullying? Share your story in the comments below to help raise cyberbullying awareness and start talking about solutions.