Analyze This: Most teens have been cyberbullied | Science News for Students

Analyze This: Most teens have been cyberbullied

Survey tallies the types of bullying kids deal with online and on their phones
Mar 12, 2019 — 6:30 am EST
a teen sits on the bed with her head on her knees and her arms wrapped around herself, she is holding a phone

Most teens report being cyberbullied. This kind of bullying can feel inescapable.

AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Today’s teens, like most people, connect digitally. And they tend to stay connected to one another 24/7 through their phones, computers and tablets. But that constant connection isn’t always likes and hearts.

More than half of U.S. teens in a recent survey reported being cyberbullied. The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., conducted the survey. This Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank,” or group that collects data and attempts to avoid political bias when explaining the data it assembles. The Pew center’s new survey asked teens about how they were bullied online and on their phones.

The survey looked at six types of cyberbullying. Two types involved explicit images — pictures that most teens would not want to show their parent or guardian (like a photo of a naked person). The most common type of cyberbullying reported was offensive name-calling.

table showing data from the Pew Research Center report on cyberbullying in teens
The data in this table come from the Pew Research Center report. Percentages can total more than 100 percent as people could report having experienced more than one type of bullying. Click image to enlarge.
L. Steenblik Hwang

Bullying of any type, cyber or otherwise, can affect health, both immediately and long-term. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because cyberbullies can follow teens wherever they are at any time of day — and can spread quickly through social networks — this type of abuse can give teens the feeling they have no safe place to escape it. 

But there are things teens can do to protect themselves and others from cyberbullying. Here are some good starting guidelines. Don’t share passwords, private information or photos that you wouldn’t want everyone to be able to see. Don’t post impulsively when angry, sad or upset. Don’t participate in bullying you see online.

If cyberbullying happens to you, tell a trusted adult. Make sure to save all emails, messages and screenshots of the bullying. And always report the bullying to the social-media site or app on which the bullying takes place.

Watch these teens talk about how to handle cyberbullying, how to prevent it and how to stand up to it.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center/YouTube

Data Dive: 

1. Which bullying was the second most common type experienced by all teens?

2. Which group experienced the largest number of physical threats online?

3. How much more likely were girls than boys to have experienced the speading of false rumors?

4. How much more likely were Hispanic teens to receive explicit images than white or black teens?

Beyond the Data: 

5. The data breaks groups down into white, black and Hispanic teens. Are there ethnic groups missing from these data? If so, which are they? How might this influence conclusions drawn from the data?

6. The researchers in this survey used three separate categories for race: white, black, and Hispanic. This meant that all Hispanics, white or black, went into the same group. How might this have affected the data?

7. What might happen to the data when someone falls into more than one group?

8. What do you think the limitations of these data are? How would you try to work around that problem?

Analyze This! explores science through data, graphs, visualizations and more. Have a comment or a suggestion for a future post? Send an email to

Power Words

(more about Power Words)

bullying     (v. to bully) A group of repeated behaviors that are mean-spirited. They can include teasing, spreading rumors about someone, saying hurtful things to someone and intentionally leaving someone out of groups or activities. Sometimes bullying can include attacks using violence (such as hitting), threats of violence, yelling at someone or abusing someone with violent language. Much bullying takes place in person. But it also may occur online, through emails or via text messages. Newer examples including making fake profiles of people on websites or posting embarrassing photos or videos on social media.

constant     Continuous or uninterrupted.

cyber     A prefix that refers to computers or to a type of system in which computerized or online communication occurs.

online     (n.) On the internet. (adj.) A term for what can be found or accessed on the internet.

social network     Communities of people (or animals) that are interrelated owing to the way they relate to each other. In humans, this can involve sharing details of their life and interests on Twitter or Facebook, or perhaps belonging to the same sports team, religious group or school.

survey     (v.) To ask questions that glean data on the opinions, practices (such as dining or sleeping habits), knowledge or skills of a broad range of people. Researchers select the number and types of people questioned in hopes that the answers these individuals give will be representative of others who are their age, belong to the same ethnic group or live in the same region. (n.) The list of questions that will be offered to glean those data.

tablets     (in computing) A small, hand-held computer that can connect to the Internet and that users can control using a touch screen. An Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Amazon Kindle Fire are all examples of tablets.

Further Reading

Pacer Center’s Teens Against Bullying, Cyberbullying


Report: M. Anderson, Pew Research Center, A majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. September 2018.

Survey: Pew Research Center, Topline questionnaire: Teen survey. September 2018.

Website:, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Effects of bullying. January 2019.

Report: Gladden, R. et. al. Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements. Version 1.0. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The U.S. Department of Education; 2014.