July 5th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

With cyberbullying, there's no safe place, study finds

It used to be that the bully in the schoolyard taunted victims face to face. Today, attacks of name calling or being the target of rumors can come via e-mails and text messages, sometimes anonymously, from a teenage cyberbully sitting at a computer or texting on a cell phone long after the school bell has rung and the halls have gone dark. Now, new research is painting a worrisome portrait of those attackers and their victims.

A study published in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry examined the social and psychological risk factors associated with cyberbullying. Researchers in Finland surveyed more than 2,200 teens in the seventh and ninth grades. The study found the majority of victims who were repeatedly attacked in cyberspace perceived a definite or severe amount of difficulty in their lives. They reported having headaches, ongoing physical pains and trouble sleeping. One in four felt unsafe.

"The feeling of being unsafe is probably worse in cyberbullying compared with traditional bullying," says study author Andre Sourander, a professor at Turku University, in the report. "Traditional bullying typically occurs on schoolgrounds, so victims are safe at least within their homes. With cyberbullying, victims are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no time when messages cannot be left on mobile telephones or sent via e-mail."

The study found that cyberbullies also perceived their lives to be rife with difficulty. They reported emotional problems and trouble concentrating. The said they felt hyperactive and struggled to get along with other people. The bullies also reported being drunk frequently.

"Cyberbullying and cybervictimization are associated with psychiatric and psychosomatic problems," Sourander says in his study. "The most troubled are those who are both cyberbullies and cybervictims."

The rate of cyberbullying in the United States and the United Kingdom is as high as 20 percent, according to some surveys. In his study, Sourander warns parents that cyberbullying is potentially traumatizing and calls for more research into ways to effectively reduce it.

The Cyberbullying Research Center and U.S Department of Health Resources and Services Administration have advice for parents about cyberbullying.

soundoff (165 Responses)
  1. illegalalienreport

    As an online service provider of various automated database driven user generated content (UGC) sites I have had to deal with a number of cyber bully users. I kick them off and on one of my sites if their behavior meets the basic definition of cyber terrorism I publish all the information I have about them on a page called the "Evil Doers Cyber Terrorist Watch List". I believe that this has led to a decline in cyber bullying activities on that site.

    July 6, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. VegasRage

    Yeah because I fear the meany people in my computer, scary they are, scary

    July 6, 2010 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jangocat

    The problem is parents that are ignorant in computers and the internet. They have no idea what their kids are getting into. There's no good reason for children to be doing social networking spilling their life's details for all to see and they don't belong on the internet unsupervised. There is some nasty stuff on the internet and there will always be flamers. This is why the computer should be in the living room and not the kids bedroom and it should have monitoring/filtering software on it to keep the kid honest. There is NO possible way to censor the billions of people around the world that use the internet. The person hassling you may be on the other side of the world and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Therefor it's fully the parents responsibility to protect their own children. Of course it's much easier to just paint their kids as victims then it is to actually supervise them.

    July 6, 2010 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CTC

      OK, first off, no need to have children on social networking sites. Email OK, but the rest is unnecessary. If you insist, deal with the ramifications. If those ramifications deal with cyber bullying, solve it the old fashioned way. Physically embarrass the bully. Whether you beat the pulp out of him/her in front of those in the school or organization, or challenge the bully to a physical confrontation without actually attacking. I guarantee, a majority of the time, the bully will back down. In the end, almost all bullies are pussies. THEN, the bully is the one mortified, embarrassed, and fearful. It's the only permanent way. And boy, does it feel good. Deep down, these bullies are just flat out pussies who back down when challenged. Bank on it.

      July 6, 2010 at 03:47 | Report abuse |
    • JLR

      You know, I've been using the Internet unsupervised since I was eight or ten years old. Somehow I managed to make it to adulthood without being destroyed by the evils of the World Wide Web. You're conflating the use of social networking and the like with the misuse of said services. Just because one has, say, a Facebook account doesn't obligate them to share information that doesn't belong in a public space. The real problem is that many people, both adults and children, fail to comprehend that most social websites are, indeed, public places.

      July 6, 2010 at 05:07 | Report abuse |
  4. Bill W

    Did anyone notice how fast the Govt' passed the cyber law it would make your head spin. And it is one F^*Ked up law
    A parent has to spend alot of money and time for a kid to out themselves over the internet. One F)(&*^ked up law

    July 6, 2010 at 04:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jake

    There will always be bullies in a free country, but there is always ways to also protect yourself. We don't need laws and scare mongering telling the public how we should live, and what we should not do. There are many laws already in place for these kinds of things.

    This is the new age of the hyper sensitive, and a dawn of the coming socialism.

    People in our country have forgotten the priorities of life, and what it means to live in a free country. There is good and bad too it. And some things just come with the territory.

    People now days think its ok to be intolerant.
    People now days think they don't have to put up with other people.
    People now days think they have a right to live in a box, and excersize that legal right even when out in public.
    People now days think they can force others to follow the rules of thier own lives.

    The Nazi's, the bolsheviks, Red China, all think the same way. They want to control whats inside your hearts and minds. The America of the past saw differntly, and was willing to fight for freedoms, that those countries frowned upon.

    How sad now that we've won, to see we are slowly becoming like what we've fought against all those years.

    We are becoming intolerant, and trying to force our own beliefs unwillfully upon others.

    How sad that without a WAR agasint socialsim, will America turn into what it has fought for so long against?

    July 6, 2010 at 04:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bill W

    I GOT 'IT' have a name for it now "Wire tap at the drop of a hat"
    The Cyberbullying Research Center and U.S Department of Health Resources and Services Administration have advice for parents about cyberbullying

    July 6, 2010 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jake

    In short we are becoming a country of "Spineless Trolls" who think we can go around telling everybody what they can, and cannot say.

    July 6, 2010 at 04:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. F117


    Very simple, do not go to online chat rooms, online social networking sites, online forums, and do not play online games. Generally speaking, the people you find at these places are far more immoral and mentally ill than those you meet in person in real life. Generally speaking, the thinking and social skills of those you meet online are far lower than those you meet in real-life say outdoors. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out what kind of people go to these places. They go there for a reason and that is because they can hide behind a computer screen. Like the study above showed, those who are cyberbullying have mental illnesses and have lack of self-respect and esteem issues. As the study shows, they are usually anti-social and that is why they result to cyberbullying because the internet is a place that they can retreat to. They are hiding in the shadows so no one can see them.

    So boys and girls (and shamefully some of you immature adults) avoid going to places like online social networking sites, chat rooms, and online game chat sessions and you will live much happier, healthier, and more successful lives.

    July 6, 2010 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JLR

      Wow, you really must suck at the Internet if this is your real opinion of social networking and Internet gaming. The vast majority of Internet users are, in fact, absolutely normal people.

      July 6, 2010 at 05:05 | Report abuse |
  9. jake

    Better yet, stay home and hide in your closet, since many of you obviously can't handle life with other human beings who live free.

    The same victims of cyber bullying are the same folks in the workplace who think they don't have to hear that offhand joke they hear when walking by, that crude comment, or your your boss giving you a much needed throttling.

    They are the same victims out in public who spend thier day gawking at what others wear and how they act, and continually judging everyone they meet. Who spend countless hours dwelliing on what others are doing and how other people are so bad.

    The same people that think they live on another planet and everything is alll warm and fuzzy, and if they meet anybody who doesn't fit thier profile of a good person then that person will throw thier entire universe off.

    You know those people?

    July 6, 2010 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kane

      bet you were the school bully, huh, jake?

      July 6, 2010 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
    • jake

      School bullies reply in 1 sentence, quick banter. They don't put thought into their comments because they are afraid of seeming smart.

      July 6, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse |
  10. MoeSzyslak


    Who the hell is scared of a bunch of net nerds?! "Cyber-bullying"?! And I thought the term "cyber-sex" was hilarious!

    Look. The bottom line is that people allow themselves to be bullied. Scared of the big bad internet boogeyman? Grow a pair. Study a martial art or two to get confidence back if you need to. But for the love of GOD, don't be a f*&^ing pansy and scream about "cyber-bullying".

    Because then people WILL pick on you. And honestly, I gotta say I'd side with 'em.

    July 6, 2010 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bubba

      OK, everyone start picking on Moe. For a start, click REPORT ABUSE on all his posts. Bwa ha ha?

      July 6, 2010 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
  11. Me

    Get rid of the phones to receive text messages and get a new email address that you don't distribute. Kids don't NEED mobile phones.

    July 6, 2010 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jan

      You either dont have any children, or you live in a home-schooled bubble. When was the last time you saw a phone booth, ME? ANd, Im sorry, as a working single mom whose child is active in school sports – outside , you know, withOUT phone booths – my chld needs a phone so I can access her for pick ups, delays, cancellations, etc. ANd no, she cant go inside the school office to call as they are closed after 4:30 and sports can go anywhere up until 6:00. This also applies to weather delays and early dismissals – how do I keep in touch for follow up on that? Please.
      SHUT UP.

      July 6, 2010 at 09:17 | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    I'll tell you how we boys stopped it when I was a kid. Walk up to the bully, punch them in the nose as hard as you can. It worked for me every time. No whining about it, no angst and nashing of teeth about it for years on end.

    July 6, 2010 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ruthann

    I think that even though this study was done with high schoolers it applies to adults as well; I've witnessed and experienced it first-hand on a social network.

    July 6, 2010 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ken

    Cyberbullying is not just limited to teens. Within USENET there are numerous individuals who are self-proclaimed conservatives who are constantly engating in cyberbulling of liberals. I know of three that disguise their identities by names such as "Atlanta Ranger", "PaulMofATL" and "Face" on the atl.general newsgroup who attempt to suppress the liberals on the newsgroup by means of intimidation, coarse language, sexually innappropriate comments and other forms of disparagement. Because these individuals are allowed to post anonymously and because ISPs will not enforce their own TOS and IUP policies.

    July 6, 2010 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. MarylandMom

    Yes, there IS a safe place. It's called "under the watchful eye of involved parents". Parents who are in tune with what their children are doing online are on the front lines of stopping this sort of abuse. It would be documented, printed and reported if I were the parent. My children don't have cell phones...they're CHILDREN. When my children are old enough and responsible enough to purchase their own cell phone and contract, more power to them. Until then, they are children. I don't care if "everyone else" has one either. Try parenting! It works.

    July 6, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. DJ

    kids are so spoiled today little lazy punks teach them how to fight

    July 6, 2010 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mister Gone

    This just in 99.9% of Ethiopian village teens report they don't know what cyberbubbying is, hungry.

    July 6, 2010 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Random Thoughts

    The parents/guardians of bullies should be held accountable too. No sense in dealing with a bully, if their immediate environment isn't teaching them that free speech doesn't equal bad manners.

    Making fun of someone is NEVER the right thing to do.

    Also realizing that some bullies become bullies in spite of parent/guardian, and not because of.

    Again, free speech does not equal bad manners.

    'Nuff said.

    Thank you.

    July 6, 2010 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. jrc903

    I think it comes down to a combination of LOW expectations- and even LOWER self esteem on the parts of these "predator" types. In the days when people were taught to respect others as themselves- there was no worry about government passing laws that restricted personal freedom. But now- we have entered into a new era- a time when it is possible to attack someone without ever leaving the comfort of ones' own personal space. Suddenly, all of the "would be cowards" come out of the woodwork to do to others from "afar" what they could never muster the courage to do in person. The internet makes a great "standoff weapon" if you will. So- now we are faced either allowing these RATS to run free– or to curtail personal freedoms of expression for all. If I had to guess I would say that a new class of laws similar to "hate crimes" will take root because of these people. The short term result will be to make the utterance of such speech a crime... the longer term result will be to give the "professional victims" something else to whine about. In sociological terms– for every reaction their is also an equal but opposite reaction. Someday- people will undoubtedly use these laws as cover for their idiotic and/or hateful rants against no one in general–i.e. governments. But when someone protests, they will then be accused under anti-bullying laws.. So-- the founders of the county clearly understood that allowing "FREEDOM" required two things of the population.. (1) they be educated, (2) a majority of them knowing RIGHT from WRONG. Unfortunately, we are losing on both counts.

    July 6, 2010 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. xHunter

    1. Don't give your phone number to everyone.
    2. Don't give your email addresses to everyone.

    Block phone numbers and email addresses of those who send messages you don't like.

    July 6, 2010 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Morigainne

    Not all cyberbullies are kids. I have been the victim of persistent and malicious harrassment and bullying across the internet for over a decade by my husband's ex wife and her mother. Unfortunately, the laws have been very slow to catch up with the crime and law enforcement's advice to me was to change my screen name, quit using social networking sites, avoid the internet or ignore the "bullies". It cost me my job and it cost my husband his relationship with his children for a span of time. It's still an unresolved issue, but the occurrences are far less frequent now that the kids are over 21.

    July 6, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kh

      I have a friend that is a similar situation right now. She blocks all messages from them, and blocks them from her FB account. So far she hasn't had any problems after that. Don't let them keep you from doing what you want.

      July 6, 2010 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
  22. BrianFraser

    I was bullied off-and-on thru grade school and highschool. If you want to know my response, just Google "kid blows up town" (include the quotes), then select the link to ConsumerExperiences, then scroll to the bottom of the page and read the article.

    Bullying, and the lack of response to it by parents and school officials, can have consequences that reach far beyond the immediate situation!

    July 6, 2010 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Eric

    Wow Moe! Sounds like you've got some anger issues.

    But when some kid swipes his parent's gun and goes to school and blows away a half dozen of his enemies, there'll be this huge outpouring of grief. And everyone will ask who this could happen?

    July 6, 2010 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. John


    Website to help parents deal w/ their child being bullied.

    July 6, 2010 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dan S

    I think a big part of this problem could be solved by not having our youth so connected to the virtual world. Why do our kids have to have these phones and access to Internet so constant? My Children will no be this connected. It bothers me.

    July 6, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Allyanaz

    Parents who give the means to open their children to this, what is wrong with you? Can you not say "no" when your child asks for a FB account or text messaging? Technology has given these kids a means to hide while sending out their cruelty. Take it away from them! Are you dumb, or what?

    July 6, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • that hoe and this hoe!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Are u stupid...?? not all teens do cyber bullying!!!!

      July 6, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
  27. maaaaadisonn

    kelli ur retarted

    July 6, 2010 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. maaaaadisonn

    i seee you;)

    July 6, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. CarbonBrain


    July 6, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Leah (TXanimal)

    I'm a female competitive bodybuilder with a Facebook account. I get nasty comments from haters and crude comments from male, ahem, "admirers". It took me about 2 seconds to disallow comments on my FB wall. And I simply remove people from my friends list if they bother me...and it's done after strike one. Problem solved.

    Most of these brats hide behind their computer screens, but if ignoring them leads to verbal or physical abuse at school, well, the rules are the same. Walk on by when the brats taunt you. It's tough, but it works. If your kids feel physically vulnerable, go talk to a local martial arts/self-defense instructor. Your kids will learn important life skills, get physically fit, and will be able to defend themselves if necessary.

    July 6, 2010 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Justacce

    Easy, catch the bully and bust his head open. When that gets around it will stop!

    July 6, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Cake

    I'm surprised most people responded to this article as adults doing the rational thing: turning off the computer, blocking the numbers. These kids are not rational thinkers and are being bullied by the kids at their school, who they are already afraid of, or fighting with. I was surprised to read "avoid chat rooms" It's not happening by anonymous people in chat rooms- it's by kids in their schools, making fun of (fill in blank) making them feel like crap, because that's what some kids do.
    Yes, it involves the parents taking stands, setting limits. As a teacher it also involves us not allowing the slightest bit of bullying- but to be quite honest I don't know about most of it, it happens on the playground, and now on cell phones during school time. I see students do things that amaze me in regards to their peers, teaming up on each other, attacking each other, stealing, and intentionally hurting each other (I'm an elementary teacher) So I can imagine how students would want to attack each other online or through texting. I've read their notes, I've seen their un-thought out actions towards each other when they are hurt or afraid.
    Bullying shouldn't be tolerated in any form.

    July 6, 2010 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. MrsMC

    When I was a kid, there were things I simply DID NOT DO. That list included: Use a school rest room, enter the school cafeteria, spend any amount of time on the playground more than 6 or 8 feet from an adult, ride my bicycle down a side street alone, deliberate about leaving an area as soon as other kids showed up. I was skinny, cried easily, and had a well-publicized family history of divorce and mental illness; in my hometown, this made me an automatic pariah. I understood that I risked serious injury merely for giving my peers the opportunity to hurt me. I also understood that any attempt to defend myself would be punished as aggression on my part.

    Bullying– in any form– is inappropriate. It should not be acceptable. There is a line between bullying– which is socially irresponsible behavior– and defamation and harrassment– which is already a crime.

    Bullying is sad, but I don't think it can be stopped. Sadly, I think it's in human beings' nature to harass those who make us uncomfortable in any way.

    It seems, though, that cyberbullying should be relatively easy to stop. It simply requires that the victim have more self-control than the perpetrator. Don't open their emails– opening unsolicited email is a bad idea anyway. Don't answer their phone calls. Ignore their voice mail– I don't know how your cell phone works, but on my ancient LG, you can press "9" to ignore the message and save it in the archives. Don't reply to their text messages– as a matter of fact, don't text. Ask your friends to call you instead– I promise your cell phone is equipped with Caller ID.

    If they are defaming your character– as distinct from annoying or insulting you– or making physical threats, this is already a crime. If they are adults, who should have had the opportunity to learn better, save the messages and call the cops. I tend to suggest giving kids a little more supervision and a little less legal action. They are kids; the majority of kids seem to take leave of their senses during adolescence. They depend on us to teach them right from wrong. Fining them, jailing them, and branding them is just going to make a society of criminals– a place where no one ever learns better, and those who do choose to behave rightly do so out of fear of punishment.

    July 6, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Caitlin K.

    Has no one heard of a block button? Seriously, you know the best way to get rid of unwanted messages on the web? Block the sender and delete the messages.
    If they're making bodily threats, then print out the messages- timestamps and all- and take them to the school or better yet, the police. Threats like that, are not 'just kidding'- kids are stupid and often, due to a multitude of factors, do stupid things.
    If they make up new screen names and emails just to harass you, then that's just as bad as stalking. Crimes are crimes, virtual or not and just like in the real world.

    July 6, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicholas

      Not all cyberbullying is done through social networks. Harrassing webpages can be set up for the victim through anonymous proxies and are pretty much untraceable. It may also be difficult to have the pages removed if they are hosted in another country with different regulations.

      July 7, 2010 at 00:10 | Report abuse |
  35. DLB

    CYBERBULLYING ?!?!? Oh please! Give me a break. Is someone forcing the so-called "bullied" to log on and read the sick stuff people write? I am 99.9% certain that's not the case. It is SOOOO easy to render the so-called cyber-bully powerless: Just don't frickin' read the stuff the bully writes. And for anyone who believes it's not that simple, then you are actually part of the problem. I WISH that had been the extent of bullying when I was a kid, as opposed to the ACTUAL terror & pain of frequent physical & mental beat-downs from ACTUAL bullies many kids had to endure.

    July 6, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. anobody

    And ignoring stupid behaviors works just as well as it always has. DELETE.

    July 6, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Shaz

    Bullying can have a negative impact that lasts well into adulthood. A safe environment is critical for overall wellness.

    HealthCrowd Blog

    July 6, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Nicholas

    I thought I had it rough in school. Imagine Googling your own name and finding vicious attacks and lies along with a photos of yourself...even years after graduation. Its also troublesome that this can be accomplished anonymously and through proxy servers.

    July 7, 2010 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Leila

    This is really sad that cyber-bullying has become such an issue, its almost as bad as texting while driving. i mean come on people its not the cool thing to do. check it out http://www.textkills.com/

    July 12, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Randy

    How about bullying that takes place in the adult world. Not in school and not at work but people that can follow you and go to where you apply for a job after you leave and make sure you don't get the job. Or follow you when you try to leave a state to get away from them and still continue the harassment and bullying. They park next to your car in a shopping center and pretend to talk on phone while watching you.

    July 21, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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    and I thought yoy teabaggers were opposed to government...

    August 8, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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    November 18, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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