Editorial: cyberbullying and mental health: an interdisciplinary perspective.

\nClaudio Longobardi

  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy
  • 2 Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  • 3 Faculty of Communication, Cultural and Society, Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland

Editorial on the Research Topic Cyberbullying and Mental Health: An Interdisciplinary Perspective


Adolescents are at risk of various forms of peer victimization, particularly in the school context. However, in the last decade, with the development of new technologies and the proliferation of social media among adolescents, the phenomenon of cyberbullying has attracted the attention of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, considering the impact of cyberbullying victimization on the psychological adjustment and psychophysical integrity of minors.

Knowledge of the phenomenon of cyberbullying is not only a scientific and theoretical curiosity, but also allows appropriate prevention and intervention strategies to be more effective. Although scientific research has identified cyberbullying as a risk factor for adolescent mental health, little is known about the possible mechanisms and mediating factors involved in this relationship. Theoretical models of the relationship between cybervictimization and mental health are underdeveloped, particularly in the emerging field of social neuroscience.

The goal of this Research Topic is to advance current knowledge of the relationship between cybervictimization and mental health, promote an interdisciplinary view of the phenomenon, and identify opportunities for prevention and intervention.

For the Research Topic, 13 contributions with different cultural backgrounds were compiled, including two literature reviews and 11 empirical studies, two of which applied a qualitative approach.

Literature Review and Theoretical Contributions

In their mini review, McLoughin et al. point out that there is a gap in the literature on how cyberbullying affects brain development. According to the authors, this is an important limitation, as developmental cognitive neuroscience could help us to understand which factors increase the likelihood of an adolescent becoming involved in cyberbullying, as either a victim or an aggressor, and to develop tailored interventions. In particular, the authors emphasize the importance of encouraging longitudinal studies using brain imaging techniques to understand how cyberbullying may affect brain development according to gender and age. The importance of interdisciplinary approaches is also emphasized by Auriemma et al. who propose a theoretical model for understanding the cyberbullying phenomenon based on complex and multifaceted constructs of empathy such as emotional contagion, theory of mind, compassion, prosocial behavior, egocentric bias, and individual traits.

Empirical Findings: Quantitative Data on Cyberbullying and Developmental Outcomes

Empirical articles have examined the relationship between cyberbullying and mental health in adolescents, pointing to possible mediating mechanisms. Wachs et al. found that high levels of alexithymia tended to mediate the relationship between cyberbullying victimization and measures of self-esteem and Internet addiction in three different countries: Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The paper by Yu et al. from China attempts to expand knowledge of possible mechanisms to explain the relationship between cybervictimization and non-suicidal self-injury. Based on social control theory and the organism-environment interaction model, the authors report that school engagement is a possible mediating factor between cybervictimization and non-suicidal self-injury among adolescents with high sensation seeking.

In a large sample of Chinese adolescents, Chen et al. found that cybervictimization may increase the risk of deviant peer affiliation, which may help to explain the association between cybervictimization and increased drinking behavior among adolescents. In addition, the authors note that the personal growth initiative plays a mediating role. Consistent with the person-environment interaction model, the authors posit that personal growth initiative is a potential protective factor for the indirect effects of cybervictimization on adolescent drinking.

In a large sample of Chinese adolescents, Wang et al. confirm a significant correlation between cybervictimization and Internet addiction, identifying depression as a possible mediating factor. Interestingly, the authors note that positive peer affiliation does not appear to protect adolescents from negative outcomes when they experience high levels of cybervictimization. This suggests the need for further studies on the relationship between cybervictimization and mental health, and on the mediating role of peer relationships, particularly prosocial peer affiliation.

The pandemic situation and lockdowns around the world have created a context in which forms of cybervictimization can proliferate. The paper by Han et al. addresses the relationship between cyberbullying and mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and specifically targets a rural population of Chinese youth. In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the authors examined the associations between involvement in cyberbullying, resilient coping, and loneliness. They show that resilient coping strategies can reduce the association between cyberbullying and loneliness. Moreover, bullying victims tend to exhibit higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of resilient coping than perpetrators who engage in bullying alone or victims who engage in bullying alone.

The Italian paper by Saladino et al. adds to our knowledge of adolescents' personal cognitions and perceptions of cyberbullying and its consequences. In addition, the authors explain how these data can support cyberbullying prevention and intervention efforts in the school context.

Cyberbullying prevention cannot focus exclusively on victims and aggressors and must consider the entire social scene involved in the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying. With this in mind, Jungert et al. experimental study addresses potential bystander figures and helps us to better understand when and why youth are motivated to help bullying victims. Research has only recently focused on the bystander figure, but we believe that understanding the factors involved in the predisposition and decision to help a victim of bullying or cyberbullying could have important implications for preventing and counteracting the phenomenon.

Research on the relationship between psychological well-being and cyberbullying has focused predominantly on adolescents, with little evidence on younger students. With this in mind, the brief report by Sidera et al. seeks to expand our knowledge on the relationship between cyberbullying victimization and psychological adjustment in elementary school. The authors report that 14% of the students surveyed had been victims of cyberbullying at least once in the past 2 months, and many of them reported having been victims of traditional bullying as well. The data show that males are at greater risk of being victims of cyberbullying than females, and that the impact of cyberbullying is greater on children who have not also experienced traditional bullying. It is possible that cyberbullying in childhood has different risk factors added to social exclusion ( Morese and Longobardi, 2020 ) and impacts on developmental processes than in adolescence, and future research in this area should be encouraged.

Another stage of the life cycle that appears to be under-researched is adulthood. There is limited research on the relationship between cyberbullying and psychological well-being in adults. In relation to this, Schodt et al. conducted two studies on the relationship between psychological symptoms and involvement in cyberbullying among American adults. In doing so, they attempted to fill a gap in the literature by finding an association between mental health measures and increased risk of involvement in cyberbullying as a victim or aggressor, particularly among men who use social media more. These data appear to differ in part from the literature for adolescents. Therefore, further research on the relationship between mental health and cyberbullying at any developmental stage should be encouraged.

Empirical Findings: Qualitative Research on Adolescents' Perceptions and Experiences of Cyberbullying

Two interesting qualitative research articles are found within this Research Topic. Li and Hesketh carried out semi-structured interviews with 41 students (12–16 years old) involved in traditional bullying and cyberbullying. The authors found that traditional bullying is more common than cyberbullying, although there is a great deal of overlap between the two types. They developed a conceptual framework which identified a number of risk factors at the organizational and individual levels, pointing to a lack of support from parents and teachers, even when needed, leading to poorer developmental and academic outcomes.

Mishna et al. have also sought to expand current knowledge about how adults, parents, and teachers perceive traditional bullying and cyberbullying. According to the authors, it is important to examine how adolescents and adults (who represent three critical relationship systems in the ecological context of bullying) conceptualize the nature and impact of peer victimization in online and offline contexts in order to identify more accurate and effective prevention and intervention strategies.


In conclusion, the Research Topic highlights the importance of considering cyberbullying as a risk factor for the psychological adjustment of individuals and adolescents in particular. It is important to increase our knowledge on the relationship between cyberbullying and mental health to understand which areas of individual functioning are affected and which mediating factors are involved. This knowledge will allow us to identify at-risk situations more accurately and implement prevention and intervention strategies more effectively.

The collected contributions point to the need to address and prevent forms of peer victimization, including cyberbullying. Prevention efforts must target all actors involved in the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying—not only the victims and perpetrators of bullying, but also the observers and the adults (teachers and parents) among their peers. In this respect, the collected research contributions emphasize the importance of making individuals aware of the definition of the phenomenon of cyberbullying and its consequences, starting from the knowledge and personal perceptions that individuals—both adults and minors—develop regarding the phenomenon.

In addition, we believe it is important to increase the scientific knowledge on the relationship between cybervictimization and mental health at different developmental stages, including childhood and adulthood. In connection with this, we emphasize the importance of an interdisciplinary approach when studying the relationship between cyberbullying and psychological adjustment, and we believe that social neuroscience can help expand our knowledge and develop theoretical models that can contribute to prevention and intervention.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and have approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Morese, R., and Longobardi, C. (2020). Suicidal ideation in adolescence: a perspective view on the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Front. psycho. 11, 713.

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Keywords: cyberbullying, mental health, adjustment (psychology), adolescents, cross cultural

Citation: Longobardi C, Thornberg R and Morese R (2022) Editorial: Cyberbullying and Mental Health: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Front. Psychol. 12:827106. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.827106

Received: 01 December 2021; Accepted: 17 December 2021; Published: 12 January 2022.

Edited and reviewed by: Pablo Fernández-Berrocal , University of Malaga, Spain

Copyright © 2022 Longobardi, Thornberg and Morese. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Claudio Longobardi, claudio.longobardi@unito.it

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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  • Published: 17 January 2018

Cyberbullying a modern form of bullying: let’s talk about this health and social problem

  • Pietro Ferrara   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9449-3464 1 , 2 ,
  • Francesca Ianniello 1 ,
  • Alberto Villani 3 &
  • Giovanni Corsello 4  

Italian Journal of Pediatrics volume  44 , Article number:  14 ( 2018 ) Cite this article

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Cyberbullying or electronic aggression has already been designated as a serious public health threat. Cyberbullying should also be considered as a cause for new onset psychological symptoms, somatic symptoms of unclear etiology or a drop in academic performance. Pediatricians should be trained to play a major role in caring for and supporting the social and developmental well-being of children.

Cyberbullying or electronic aggression has already been designated as a serious public health threat and elicited warnings to the general public from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [ 1 ]. The term appears to have been coined in 2000 in Canada by the owner of a Web site dedicated to preventing traditional (face-to-face) bullying [ 1 ]. Tokunaga defined the phenomenon as “any behavior performed through electronic or digital media by individuals or groups that repeatedly communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others” [ 2 ]. This definition highlights several important cyberbullying features: the technology component, the hostile nature of the act, the intent to cause suffering, considered by most scholars to be crucial to the definition, and repetitiveness [ 1 ].

Common forms of cyberbullying involve mobile phones (bullying by phone calls, text messages, picture/video clip bullying including so-called ‘happy slapping’) or using the internet (bullying by emails, chat room, through instant messaging and via websites, including blogs) [ 3 , 4 ].

Some twenty-first century factors have contributed to making cyberbullying a public health concern: the increasing penetration of networked computers and mobile phones among young people, the advent of social media and the reliance on new connectivity tools to the point where many would rather tolerate negative effects than be disconnected [ 1 ].

Young people today have direct access to the Internet from personal computers and mobile devices, whether at home, schools or in public places. Reports from 2012 indicate that 95% of American teenagers use the Internet and, of those, 81% use social media [ 1 ]. As early as 2009, polls showed that more than half of adolescents were logging on to a social media website more than once per day and that 22% logged on to a preferred website more than 10 times per day [ 5 ]. Computer time accounts for up to 1.5 h per day; half of this is spent in social networking, playing games, or viewing videos [ 6 ].

Adolescents are connected to social media at a time when their levels of social and emotional development leave them vulnerable to peer pressure and when they have a limited capacity to self-regulate [ 5 ].

Cyberbullying victims may underreport, too, for fear their parents will restrict their time on the Internet/cell phones or discover information that the adolescents themselves have posted on the web, for fear of punishment by the bully or for embarrassment about being perceived as weak [ 1 , 7 ].

Cyberbullying have its own identifying characteristics, which include: the possible anonymity of the bully, the larger potential audience for the abuse being carried out, the difficulty of disconnecting oneself from the cyber environment and the absence of the direct face to face contact which is present in many types of traditional bullying [ 4 , 8 ].

Anonymity, by promoting disinhibition, can lead to magnified aggression because the perpetrator may feel out of reach and immune to retribution; moreover the ability to hide behind fake screen names, or using someone else’s screen name, provides bullies with the opportunity to communicate things they would be reticent to say to another’s face, without see the target’s emotional reactions and realize that their comments have been carried too far or misinterpreted [ 1 , 5 , 7 ].

Some adolescents mistake cyberbullying as making fun of peers and suddenly realizing the severity of the situation after the effects have already snowballed.

The motivation behind cyberbullying, as reported by both cyberbullies and non-bullies, included a lack of confidence or the desire to feel better about themselves, a desire for control, finding it entertaining and retaliation [ 4 , 5 ].

Research reveals that individuals who are victims of cyberbullying are targets of traditional bullying as well, but in traditional accounts of bullying, the aggressive behaviors generally occur during school hours and cease once victims return home [ 2 ]. Cyberbullying, in contrast, is far more pervasive in the lives of those who are victimized, because they can be reached at any given time of the day, therefore the persistence of the bullying behaviors may result in even stronger negative outcomes than traditional bullying [ 2 , 5 ].

Moreover, cyberbullying has the same risk factors found in traditional bullying but involves others which should not be overlooked, such as the little control exerted over personal information, which may result from ignorance about the risks of sharing personal information on Internet, sharing passwords, communicating with strangers, openly displaying very personal information such as addresses and telephone numbers [ 8 ].

Rather than physically stronger, cyberbullies tend to be more technologically savvy and better able to access victims online, hide their electronic trails, and take advantage of the expanded bullying “repertoire”, which now includes identity theft, account hacking, infecting a victim’s computers, impersonation, or posting embarrassing content [ 1 ].

Relationships have also been discovered between cyberbullying and Internet addiction, the latter being understood as a continuous urge to connect to Internet which restricts forms of entertainment and social relationships, seriously affects an individual’s moods and irritability, induces violent, aggressive behavior that makes it impossible to disconnect and increases the user’s own social isolation and the destruction of their own closest relationships [ 8 ].

All adverse childhood experiences, typically defined as stressful or traumatic life events that occur during the first years of life, are pervasive and notable public health problems [ 9 ]. Cyberbullying should also be considered as a cause for new onset psychological symptoms, somatic symptoms of unclear etiology or a drop in academic performance [ 1 ]. Victims of cyberbullying have lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression, behavioral problems, substance abuse and experience significant life challenges [ 2 , 5 ]. Moreover, bullying victimization may trigger a sequence of events that results in suicidal behavior; Ferrara et al. identified in Italy 55 cases of suicide among children and young adults <18-year-old between January 2011 and December 2013 and 4 (7.3%) were bullying victims [ 10 ]. After several suicides were linked to cyberbullying, media attention to such cases gradually increased, becoming more intense in recent years [ 1 ].

In Italy, ISTAT data published in 2015 shows that, among the mobile and/or Internet users ages 11–17, the 5.9% report being bullied via SMS, email, chat or social networks; Police data report that 235 cases of cyberbullying have been reported in 2016 [ 11 , 12 ].

Recently Law no. 71/17, the so-called “anti-cyberbullying law”, officially entered into force after being approved by the Italian Parliament, intended to tackle online bullying of children after several high-profile cases in which victims have committed suicide [ 13 ]. The legislation provides a specific legal definition of cyberbullying for the first time in Italy, and requires all schools to educate pupils to use the Internet responsibly and to have a member of staff responsible for tackling the problem. It makes it illegal to use the Internet to offend, slander, threaten or steal the identity of a minor, and allows the victim or their parent to demand that websites hosting abusive content remove it within 48 h.

A major practical step is to increase awareness among adults; many adults of the current parental generation are not aware of the varied potential of mobile phones and the internet, to the same extent as young people [ 4 ]. Parents of seventh or eighth graders should be made aware of their child’s potential victimization and ways they can open and maintain communication to prevent or remedy such incidences [ 2 ]. Training should be provided to junior high school teachers, counselors, and school administrators for the detection and remediation of this social problem [ 2 , 4 ].

Pediatricians should be trained to play a major role in caring for and supporting the social and developmental well-being of children raised in variously conditions and in new types of problems [ 9 , 14 , 15 ]. A strong case can be made for introducing screening questions about children’s online lives into the general pediatric visit, including queries about excessive video game use and cyberbullying [ 1 ].

Guidelines can provide a useful framework for all concerned to reduce cyberbullying and its negative effects and are now becoming available in many countries to assist parents, young people and schools to understand the problem and take effective action.

The strategy is to provide information for youth, parents, and school personnel on what is cyberbullying and how to avoid being a victim, trough lessons, interactive computer game, forum, websites, tip sheets and other online resources; interesting programs to decreasing cyberbullying and cyber victimization exist, but much more research is needed to understand the long-term impact of these interventions [ 16 , 17 ].

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Ferrara, P., Ianniello, F., Villani, A. et al. Cyberbullying a modern form of bullying: let’s talk about this health and social problem. Ital J Pediatr 44 , 14 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13052-018-0446-4

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research article on cyberbullying

Cyberbullying Among Adolescents and Children: A Comprehensive Review of the Global Situation, Risk Factors, and Preventive Measures


  • 1 School of Political Science and Public Administration, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China.
  • 2 School of Medicine and Health Management, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
  • 3 College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, United Kingdom.
  • PMID: 33791270
  • PMCID: PMC8006937
  • DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.634909

Background: Cyberbullying is well-recognized as a severe public health issue which affects both adolescents and children. Most extant studies have focused on national and regional effects of cyberbullying, with few examining the global perspective of cyberbullying. This systematic review comprehensively examines the global situation, risk factors, and preventive measures taken worldwide to fight cyberbullying among adolescents and children. Methods: A systematic review of available literature was completed following PRISMA guidelines using the search themes "cyberbullying" and "adolescent or children"; the time frame was from January 1st, 2015 to December 31st, 2019. Eight academic databases pertaining to public health, and communication and psychology were consulted, namely: Web of Science, Science Direct, PubMed, Google Scholar, ProQuest, Communication & Mass Media Complete, CINAHL, and PsycArticles. Additional records identified through other sources included the references of reviews and two websites, Cyberbullying Research Center and United Nations Children's Fund. A total of 63 studies out of 2070 were included in our final review focusing on cyberbullying prevalence and risk factors. Results: The prevalence rates of cyberbullying preparation ranged from 6.0 to 46.3%, while the rates of cyberbullying victimization ranged from 13.99 to 57.5%, based on 63 references. Verbal violence was the most common type of cyberbullying. Fourteen risk factors and three protective factors were revealed in this study. At the personal level, variables associated with cyberbullying including age, gender, online behavior, race, health condition, past experience of victimization, and impulsiveness were reviewed as risk factors. Likewise, at the situational level, parent-child relationship, interpersonal relationships, and geographical location were also reviewed in relation to cyberbullying. As for protective factors, empathy and emotional intelligence, parent-child relationship, and school climate were frequently mentioned. Conclusion: The prevalence rate of cyberbullying has increased significantly in the observed 5-year period, and it is imperative that researchers from low and middle income countries focus sufficient attention on cyberbullying of children and adolescents. Despite a lack of scientific intervention research on cyberbullying, the review also identified several promising strategies for its prevention from the perspectives of youths, parents and schools. More research on cyberbullying is needed, especially on the issue of cross-national cyberbullying. International cooperation, multi-pronged and systematic approaches are highly encouraged to deal with cyberbullying.

Keywords: adolescents; children; cyberbullying; globalization; preventive measures; risk factors.

Copyright © 2021 Zhu, Huang, Evans and Zhang.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Bullying* / prevention & control
  • Crime Victims*
  • Cyberbullying*
  • Risk Factors



Traditional bullying and cyberbullying in the digital age and its associated mental health problems in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis

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  • Published: 31 December 2022

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  • Chao Li 1 , 2   na1 ,
  • Ping Wang 1 , 2   na1 ,
  • Marina Martin-Moratinos 1 , 2 ,
  • Marcos Bella-Fernández 1 , 2 , 3 &
  • Hilario Blasco-Fontecilla 1 , 2 , 4 , 5  

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Bullying is a risk factor for the physical and mental health of adolescents. The advent of new technologies has resulted in a brand-new type of bullying, cyberbullying (CB). The co-occurring effects of cyberbullying and traditional bullying(TB) forms of bullying on adolescent mental health are unclear. We performed a meta-analysis to explore the unique and combined effects of CB and TB on adverse psychological outcomes in victims by conducting a joint study of both types of bullying. By doing so, we provide the basis for a comprehensive community bullying prevention program. The database PubMed, PsyclNFO, and Web of Science were searched for studies from 2010 to 2021. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guideline was followed for data abstraction, and the NIH tool was used to evaluate study-level risk of bias. 42 studies with 266,888 participants were identified. Random-Effect models were used for our study. The moderator analysis was used to explore the moderator of prevalence. Studies with three groups of victims (TB only, CB only, and Both) and two groups of victims (TB and CB) were compared in subgroup analysis. The mean victimization rate was 24.32% (95% CI 20.32–28.83%) for TB and 11.10% (95% CI 9.12–13.44%) for CB. Roughly one-third of TB victims were also victimized by CB. Conversely, only about one-third of CB victims were free from TB. The estimated ORs for depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and self-harm in the three-group (TB only, CB only and Both) analysis were: depression [TB only: 3.33 (2.22–5.00); CB only: 3.38 (2.57–4.46); Both: 5.30 (2.43–11.56)]; suicidal ideations [TB only: 3.08 (2.12–4.46); CB only: 3.52 (2.38–5.20); Both: 6.64 (4.14–10.64)]; self-harm [TB only: 2.70 (1.86–3.91); CB only: 3.57 (3.20–3.98); Both: 5.57 (2.11–16.00)]; and suicide attempts: [TB only: 2.61 (1.50–4.55); CB only: 3.52 (2.50–4.98); Both: 7.82 (3.83–15.93)]. TB and CB victimization among youth are a matter of public health concern. Victimization appears to be a marker of greater psychopathological severity, particularly suicide-related issues.

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Alina Cosma, Sophie D. Walsh, … William Pickett

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Bullying is a significant risk factor for the physical and mental health of adolescents [ 1 , 2 ]. In general, bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior by other youths who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated recurrently or is highly likely to be repeated [ 3 ]. Traditional bullying (TB) has been face-to-face and included physical, verbal, or relational forms. With the development of internet technology, a new form of bullying, cyberbullying (CB), has emerged[ 4 ]. Previous meta-analyses have examined the issues related to TB and CB separately, suggesting that TB and CB overlapped[ 5 ]. However, few studies have investigated the extent of CB victimization and its prevalence relative to TB and whether the two types of bullying have different effects on the mental health of victims. In addition, there is no further updated research on whether the prevalence of CB and TB among victims has changed with the development of technology in the last decade.

With the constant evolution of communication technology, more children and adolescents have been exposed to smartphones in recent years. A study in 2018 [ 6 ] found that ninety-five percent of teens ages 13 to 17 said they had constant access to smartphones, and forty-five percent of these teens said they went online “almost constantly,” up from twenty-four percent in 2014. The Internet usage of adolescents has shifted from computer-based to mobile, providing convenience while increasing the amount of time spent online[ 7 , 8 ]. According to the study by Hamm et al. [ 9 ], an increase in Internet use is associated with an increased frequency of CB.

However, the prevalence of CB varies widely across studies due to differences in definitions, measurements, and samples. According to a review, the prevalence of CB ranged from 4.8% to 73.5%, while another meta-analysis showed that cyber victimization rates ranged from 2.2 to 56.2% [ 5 , 9 ]. There is also controversy regarding changes in the prevalence of CB [ 10 ]. The study of Modecki et al. [ 5 ] suggested that the prevalence of CB was likely overestimated due to concerns about the harmful consequences, but others, such as Hamm and Smith, argued that the prevalence of CB is increasing as the technology changes[ 4 , 9 ]. On the other hand, CB and TB are considered highly correlated [ 9 ]. A recent large multinational study from 2002 to 2014 has concluded about samples from 37 countries that 45.8% of CB victims have also been bullied in real life [ 11 ]. The creation and quick adoption of new portable devices such as smartphones and tablets have significantly altered the communication and information environment during the past decade. Over 83% of UK teens aged 12 to 15 own their smartphones [ 12 ]. Based on the situation, a meta-analysis focusing on prevalence over the past decade might be a good reference.

In addition to prevalence, the correlation between TB and CB has also been a controversial point in recent years. Some studies [ 13 , 14 , 15 ] suggest that CB is similar to TB, both occur intentionally or repeatedly in situations of power imbalance. Another opinion considered CB as a distinct form of bullying, which is public, round-the-clock(7/24) and anonymous [ 10 ]. CB can be widely disseminated through messages, pictures, and videos, these make the perpetrators feel less guilty and act out-of-control while potentially increasing the number of bullies [ 10 ]. Although both TB and CB experiences may lead to many adverse psychological and social outcomes such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, low self-esteem, substance abuse, academic function and other health problems, the impact of these two types of bullying can be different [ 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 ]. Thus, victims of CB exhibit higher levels of anxiety and depression [ 21 ], as well as a higher risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior compared to victims of TB [ 22 ]. Although many studies have proposed that TB and CB are highly correlated [ 5 , 9 , 15 , 20 ], research addressing the potential additive effect of both forms of bullying is insufficient.

Based on the status quo, it is necessary to recapitulate and explore: (1) the prevalence trends of TB and CB over the past decade, and (2) the co-occurring effects of both forms of bullying. To understand them better, the current meta-analysis will explore the unique and combined effects of CB and TB on several adverse psychological outcomes in victims by conducting a joint study of both types of bullying.

Our study was guided by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement [ 23 ]. This meta-analysis aimed to examine the changes in prevalences of peer victimization of TB and CB during the mobile network era, and their association with mental health problems. The main mental health problems of interest were suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, self-harm, and depression; others were analyzed if we got sufficient data from the results. Considering the heterogeneity of the measurement instruments and designs used in the studies, we also collected various feasible factors for a moderator analysis. To complete the included studies, the snowballing method was used during the article screening phase. This study was registered with the International Prospective Registry of Systematic Reviews (No. CRD42021250797).

Search strategy

We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science databases for articles published from January 1, 2010, to April 12, 2021. Entering a combination of the following keywords: child, teenager, adolescent, bullying, cyberbullying, suicide, depression, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, mental health. The search was not restricted by language, country or type of research.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

The study population was limited to children and youth ages 8 to 20; this included the age range of most studies on school bullying.

All types of TB were included: verbal (e.g., name-calling and threats), physical (e.g., hitting) or psychological (e.g., rumors and shunning/exclusion). CB included someone making fun of another person online or picking on another person through social media, chat rooms or emails.

Bullying behaviors primarily involved peers, excluding studies of bullying by siblings, parents, and teachers as perpetrators.

Studies with clinical and primary care or incarcerated institutional samples, studies with ethnic minorities (e.g LGBTQ, disability) were excluded to ensure that the sample represented the situation of populations in a usual setting.

To ensure the concordance of samples and comparability within studies of TB and CB. Included studies had to have self-report measures of peer victimization with both TB and CB; studies reporting only one type of bullying were excluded.

These studies had to report the correlation of TB or CB victimization experiences with one of the following outcomes, such as self-harm, suicidal behavior (suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, or suicide plans), and mental health problems (depression, anxiety, etc.).

The studies had to provide sufficient statistical information to calculate the necessary effect size (at least the prevalences of CB and TB victimization and one mental health problem) from the manuscript or after querying the authors. The effect sizes translated from the other measurements are acceptable.

Studies had to be published either in English or Spanish. Book chapters, editorials, conference abstracts, letters to the editor, dissertations and posters were also eligible.

Data selection and extraction

Three independent investigators (CL, PW and MM) screened all the research results by title and abstract, differences of opinion were resolved through discussion. Studies that matched the inclusion criteria were retrieved for full-text assessment. After discussion, a provisional coding book was created. Two authors (WP, CL) extracted data independently from included manuscripts. A third author (MM) resolved any disagreements in the extraction process. The extracted data included the author(s), year of publication, sampling countries, study objectives, study design, sample size, sample age distribution (included mean, standard deviation, and range of age), school grade level, measures of TB and CB (e.g., the questionnaires and number of items used in that study), measures of suicide, self-harm, and mental health problems(e.g., depression, anxiety) and other results. The flow diagram of our search results is provided in Fig. 1 .

figure 1

Flow diagram of all stages of the literature search

Quality assessment

The quality of all articles was assessed using the “Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies” provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [ 24 ]. This tool determines an overall quality rating of good, fair and poor based on fourteen criteria. Given that most of the included articles were cross-sectional studies, the questions of intervention, blinding, etc. in this tool were considered inappropriate for the analysis, we modified to the following two questions: (1) Was a definition presented before the questionnaire?; and (2) Was the sample randomly obtained? Two researchers (CL and PW) evaluated the studies individually and then compared their results. Each article received an overall score (poor, fair, or good) according to the assessment tool.

Coding decisions

Depending on the design of the study, some studies reported two groups of victims (TB and CB) [ 21 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 46 ]. Other studies reported victims who only suffered TB (TB only) or CB (CB only), and victims of both types of bullying (Both) [ 15 , 47 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 , 54 , 55 , 56 , 57 , 58 , 59 , 60 , 61 , 62 , 63 , 64 ]. For studies with the same source of data, we retained the one with more statistical information to ensure that each effect size was represented only once in the analysis. For longitudinal studies that reported multiple time nodes, we selected the one with more statistical information or larger sample size.

The odds ratios (ORs) and Pearson correlation coefficients were the most reported effect size for mental health problems. In our study, ORs were used as effect sizes. Studies with Pearson correlation or regression coefficients were converted to ORs using an approach similar to that used in van Geel et al. [ 65 ]. The experimental groups of ORs were the bullying victims; the control groups were the participants who had not been bullied or not suffered this type of bullying. Some articles categorized bullying into different subtypes of traditional victimization (e.g., physical, relational) [ 15 , 26 , 28 , 30 , 33 , 36 , 37 , 58 , 59 ], in these studies the queried data from the author or the highest prevalence types were used to estimate the effect size. The crude ORs and the adjusted ORs were suitable.

We coded multiple variables regarding sample characteristics and questionnaire design for moderator analysis. The randomization (random vs. non-random) and the institutions included in the sample (single vs. multi-institution) were coded. The source (country) of the sample, age distribution, year of sampling, and grade information were also coded (regions were categorized as Europe and Australia, North America, Asia, and the Middle East, no African and South American study completed our inclusion criterias). The national income (high-income vs. non-high income) based on the World Bank Country and Lending Groups [ 66 ] were estimated. Regarding the questionnaire design, some studies just asked about bullying using the choices “Yes” and “No”, while others offered several options (e.g., “Never”, “sometimes”, “often”, “always”); we coded this as an answer setting (Yes/No vs. multiple selections). The time frame for bullying, the frequency of bullying definition (being bullied once was considered a victim versus requiring repeated actions), and the perpetrator in the questionnaire (some studies asked whether the participant also bullied others or not) were coded. All included studies were coded by three authors (PW, CL and MM) independently; the differences were resolved through discussion. The first time the identical rate was around eighty percent.

Statistical analyses

Given the results of previous studies [ 10 , 67 ], the random-effects model is a reasonable choice for our study. For the prevalence analysis, a generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) method [ 68 ] and Knapp-Hartung adjustment [ 34 ]were used to fit the logit transformed effect sizes [ 69 ]. For an easy explanation, the effect sizes were then transformed back into proportions when plotting and reporting the results.

Studies with the three groups of victims (TB only, CB only, and Both) and two-group of victims (TB and CB) were compared in a subgroup analyses. The moderator analysis based on a method based on the classification and regression tree (meta-CART) [ 70 ] and three-level mixed-effects model [ 71 ] were conducted.

Odds ratios are effect sizes for mental health problems, the mean odds ratios were estimated only when more than five studies reported that factor, and the moderator analyses were explored when that factor had no less than 30 effect sizes. Studies with three victim groups (TB only, CB only and Both) and two victim groups (TB, CB) were pooled to estimate the mean effect sizes. The ORs were transformed to log-odds for analysis, then inversed the result to normal ORs for an easy explanation. Studies were performed using the Mantel–Haenszel method [ 72 , 73 ] when the number of events in each group was provided, then combined with pre-calculated ORs, the inverse-variance method [ 74 ] was used to estimate the final results.

Cochran’s Q [ 75 ] and \(I^{2}\) [ 76 ] were reported as the main heterogeneity measures, some analyses also report the prediction interval recommended by [ 77 ].The publication bias was analyzed by funnel plot and Egger’s regression test [ 78 ]. The R packages “metafor” [ 79 ], “meta” [ 80 ], “esc” [ 81 ], “metacart” [ 70 ] and R version 4.1 [ 82 ] were used in our meta-analysis.

Prevalence rate

A total of 42 studies with 266,888 participants were used to estimate the prevalences of TB and CB. The mean victimization rate was 24.32% (95% CI 20.32–28.83%) for TB and 11.10% (95% CI 9.12–13.44%) for CB (see Fig. 2 ). The prediction interval was 5.18–65.42% for TB, and 2.31–39.73% for CB. Subgroup analysis were conducted to compare studies with three groups of victims (TB only, CB only, and Both) and two groups of victims (TB and CB). Cochran’s Q and \(I^{2}\) indicated substantial heterogeneity across all subgroups. No significant difference between the the two subgroups was detected, in both TB prevalence ( \(Q_\text {between} = 0.05\) , \(p=0.83\) )and CB prevalence ( \(Q_\text {between}= 1.47\) , \(p=0.23\) ).

figure 2

General and subgroup prevalence forest plots of victims of traditional and cyberbullying. TB traditional bullying, CB cyberbullying. The upper cluster included studies just classified in two groups (TB and CB), the bottom cluster included studies classified in three groups (TB only, CB only and Both). All Q statistics significant at p <0.0001

As shown in Fig. 3 , thirty effect sizes reported three groups (TB only, CB only, and Both) of victims. We estimated the prevalence of each group, with 15.50% (95% CI 12.25–19.42%) for TB only and 3.95% (95% CI 2.49–6.22%) for CB only. Approximately 6.76% (95% CI 4.94–9.19%) experienced both types of bullying. Through these studies with three groups of victims, there were 30.54% (95% CI 25.09–36.59% ) of victims who experienced TB who also cyberbullied, and 63.10% (95% CI 52.69–72.45% ) of victims who experienced CB who had also been bullied in school (TB) (the “Both in TB” and “Both in CB” columns in Fig. 3 ). The funnel plot and Egger’s regression test did not detect publication bias in the prevalence analysis.

figure 3

Forest plot of the prevalence of the three groups of victims (column “TB only,” “CB only,” and “Both”) and the mean estimated proportions of the victims of traditional bullying who also experienced cyberbullying (column “Both in TB”), and the victims of cyberbullying who also experienced traditional bullying (column “Both in CB”). All Q statistics significant at p <0.0001

Moderator analysis

In consideration that the moderator effects may be masked in multilevel interactions, a three-level mixed model and meta-CART were used to look into the feasible multi-level moderator. The results showed that region ( \(X^2=5.15,p=0.01\) ) and sampling year ( \(X^2=2.76,p=0.05\) ) were significantly better fit compared to two-level models without inter-cluster level. Regional diversity explained 22.8% of \(I^2\) and sampling year explained 27.14% of \(I^2\) (see Table 1 ). In a subgroup analysis of the prevalences of TB and CB in different regions, the between-group differences were significant in both TB (p=0.05) and CB(<0.001) (Table 1 ).

For further analysis, the moderator analyses based on three-level models were processed to explore the potential moderator factor (Table 2 ). The income is a moderator significant after adjusting the effect of regions, in TB ( \(\beta =-0.86,F=6.86,p=0.01\) ) and CB( \(\beta =-0.69,F=5.24,p=0.03\) ), high-income countries have a lower prevalence of TB and TB than non-high-income countries (Table 2 ). Asia( \(\beta =-0.56,F=4.04,p=0.05\) ) and North America( \(\beta =0.52,F=5.04,p=0.03\) ) are significative in CB, Asia had a prevalence 5.10% lower than others regions, and North American had a prevalence 5.90% higher than others regions. Another moderator analysis was applied after adjusting the variation of sampling year (Table 3 ).

Overall, income and regions were factors that affected the prevalence of bullying. The high-income countries may have a lower prevalence of both TB and CB than non-high-income countries. The prevalence of TB and CB in Asia was lower than in North America, Europe and the Middle East. In the analysis of the meta-CART method, no tree-like multi-level moderators were found.

Mental health problems analysis

The estimated ORs of the relationship between the psychological problems (depression, suicidal ideation , self-harm and suicide attempts) and either TB or CB are displayed in Fig. 4 .

figure 4

The plot showed the estimated ORs of the main psychological problems in studies reported in a two groups (TB and CB) design. The OR and 95% CI, the number of effect sizes, \(I^2\) and its 95% CI were shown on the plot. All results were based on the random-effect model and significant at p <0.001

Even though fewer studies reported three groups of victimization (TB only, CB only, and Both), the core mental health problems still had more than five studies. Across the results, the ORs in the three groups were even higher than in the two groups (TB and CB), this is due to the proportion of crude ORs increased in the three groups analysis. The crude OR is generally slightly higher than the adjusted OR. The result was hard to compare directly to the two groups. However, it still was easy to compare within the three groups of bullying victims. For all mental health problems (suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, self-harm, and depression), the ORs were much higher in victims with experience of both types of bullying compared to the other two groups of victims, even though the overleaped zones were still obviously. The ORs of CB only were slightly higher than TB only but with the zones overleaped (see Figs. 4 and 5 ).

figure 5

The plot showed the estimated ORs of the main psychological problems in studies reported in a three-group (TB only, CB only and Both) design. The OR and 95% CI, the number of effect sizes, \(I^2\) and its 95% CI were shown on the plot. All results were based on the random-effect model and significant at p <0.01

The ORs of anxiety were also collected, but few studies reported three groups (TB only, CB only and Both), only four studies reported the two groups (TB and CB), which showed the mean OR of anxiety was 2.37 (95% CI0.82–6.83, p =0.08) in TB, and 3.04 (95% CI2.82–3.27, \(p<0.0001\) ) in CB. Some studies also focus on psychiatric symptoms measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). However, most of them duplicated the samples with the study published by the Eurasian Child Mental Health Study (EACMHS) Group [ 50 ], with no change in conclusions.

Our findings revealed that bullying victims have a higher risk for psychological problems than non-bullied people, that CB victims have a slightly higher risk than TB victims, and that victims who have experienced both TB and CB have a higher risk than victims who have only experienced one type of bullying. However, the overlap of confidence intervals between different types of bullying makes the results ambiguous. Nevertheless, we did not detect publication bias, except in the analysis about the OR of depression in TB ( t =2.54, p =0.03).

This meta-analysis aimed to explore the association between either TB and/or CB, and related mental health risks. Our meta-analysis showed notable findings, enumerated as follows. (1) The prevalence of TB victims was about twice that of CB victims. About one-third of youth who suffered TB also suffered CB. Conversely, two-thirds of youth who suffered CB also experienced TB. (2) Region is a robust moderator for prevalences, especially for CB. (3) High-income countries appear to have lower prevalences of TB and CB than non-high-income countries. (4) Suicidal ideations, suicide attempts, and self-harm are at higher risk with CB than with TB. (5) Victims who experienced both TB and CB had a substantial increase in both suicide-related and depression risks.

In the current study, the mean victimization rate for TB was 24.32%, and 11.10% for CB. These figures are slightly lower than those reported in a meta-study published in 2014 reporting a victimization rate for TB and CB of 36%, and 15%, respectively [ 5 ]. These differences may be affected by the proportion of studies from Asia, which had lower bullying rates than other regions. The bullying rate in North America (30% for TB and 15% for CB in our study) are pretty close to the figures reported in the previous study. The previous studies [ 10 , 11 ] had pointed out that the prevalence of cyberbullying in Europe and America was different and considered that it was affected by culture and policy factors. We added the studies from Asia and the Middle East, and this difference is especially pronounced in CB. The culture and politics may have a more pronounced impact on online behavior and performances.Another relevant finding was that income may influence the prevalence of bullying, as the prevalence of TB and CB victimization rate tends to be lower in high-income countries. This result is consistent with the finding of a study about socioeconomic status and bullying in 2014 by Tippett and Wolke [ 83 ]. The answer setting and the number of institutions included in the samples did not reach significant results in the moderator analysis, they may have a weak moderator function but were concealed by the insufficient of effect sizes. The study [ 5 ] reported that the questionnaire included the questions of perpetrators and the random setting of the studies were moderator variables. However, these two factors were not significant in our study. The random error in the random-effect models could make the weak moderators fewer effects.

One of the purposes of our study was to explore whether bullying prevalence has changed over the last decade when youths worldwide have widely used mobile devices extensively. Although the sampling year can explain a certain amount of inter-cluster variation in the three-level model analysis, it is not meaningful as a moderating variable, in either TB or CB. Three studies [ 61 , 62 , 64 ] that used the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) showed no changes in either TB or CB victim rates from 2011 to 2017. Despite the increased awareness of bullying in American society over the past decade, there is still no measure that can be taken to reduce bullying rates, and the popularity of mobile phones seems not to lead to an increase in CB over the years. Another finding in our study showed that two-thirds of CB victims also experienced TB, the ratio is slightly higher than in another earlier study [ 11 ], which could be related to the fact that young people have spent more time online in recent years, and that traditional forms of bullying are expanding online.

Because we required the included studies to report TB and CB prevalence while focusing on at least one mental health risk, this ensured that most of the inter-bullying-group ORs were estimated based on the same samples. In the analyses, we confirmed the increase in risks of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, self-harm and depression for TB and CB compare to the non-victims of bullying. Some studies also showed similar conclusions [ 22 , 65 , 84 ]. When we compared the studies with two victim groups(TB and CB) and the three groups (TB only, CB only and Both), except for the ORs of depression, the suicide/self-injury related risks were higher in CB than in TB. A study from Germany also showed that bullying based on social relationships and networks has a greater negative psychological impact on young people than physical bullying [ 85 ]. Moreover, our studies showed that the youth who had been bullied by TB and CB had much higher risks than those who just had experienced one type of bullying. Furthermore, most youths with CB are also victims of TB. Thus, CB may be a marker of poor real-world socialization [ 14 , 86 ].

In cyberbullying, the perpetrator could be anonymous, the public tends to have lower guilt and ethic on the Internet, also the function of diffusion and storage make the victim hard to predict and control the influence and duration of the bullying [ 10 ]. In traditional bullying, the participants are usually limited and the perpetrators are clearly identified, and much easy to anticipate and avoid the bullying. This could be the point why the CB victims showed higher risks of those mental health problems. Even though TB still predominates over CB, based on the current trend, the overlap between TB and CB may become more common. Online and offline bullying concurrence could cause severe consequences. For education and social regulators, it may be necessary to explore and formulate policies specifically to protect victims of CB, especially in areas where TB cultures are more prevalent and in developing countries.

Our study also has some limitations. First, most of the articles included in our study were cross-sectional studies, so we cannot make causal statements about the relationships between TB/CB and psychological variables. The inclusion of more longitudinal studies to explore possible causal relationships is recommended in the future. Second, all articles collected data in a self-report form and may be subject to recall bias. On the other hand, each study used different scales. For example, some studies used single-item measures, while others used multiple checklists to obtain data; some articles defined bullying before completing the scale, while others did not; also, some studies used questionnaires which did not mention the word ”bullying” to avoid re-traumatizing victims of bullying. The above problems may lead to some unavoidable bias in our results. Third, the use of secondary data limited our ability to examine other outcome-related factors, such as household income, individual mental health, academic satisfaction, and family and social support. Fourth, previous literature has shown that the impact depends on the type of bullying. For example, some types of CB (e.g., insults,threats) is considered less harmful than TB, while those that use images or videos are considered more harmful [ 4 ]. Fifth, the data obtained were insufficient for some analyses, we could not analyze the effect of potential moderating variables. Some studies [ 46 , 58 , 63 , 87 , 88 ] showed that age, gender, subtype, social support, race, relationship with parents, and sexual orientation have moderating effects. Finally, our research has focused only on the victims of bullying,and this is a dyadic problem including both bullies and victims. Thus some victims are also perpetrators [ 5 , 10 ]. Therefore, we need to explore the above issues in future research to understand bullying better and help prevent it from occurring.

This meta-analysis establishes that TB and CB victimization among youth are a matter of public health concern. The measures implemented in the last decade may not have reduced the occurrence of TB and CB. Victimization appears to be a marker of greater psychopathological severity, particularly suicide-related issues. In the mobile and streaming era in which we live, more studies that explore the impact of peer bullying are indispensable in the development of public policies devoted to mitigating the impact of both TB and, particularly, CB.

Availability of data and materials

All data used in the meta-analysis can be found in the included studies. Supplementary data related to this article can be found at https://osf.io/hk8dv/?view_only=a028bcc17e8945cb8e04148e38f05826 .

Code availability

Analysis codes are available on request from the corresponding author.

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The authors thank Lorraine Maw, M.A., for editorial assistance.

The preparation of this manuscript was supported by Alicia Koplowitz Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit organization born as an expression of its commitment to promote training and research in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as well as social assistance to minors.

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Chao Li, Ping Wang contributed equally to this work.

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Faculty of Medicine, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Chao Li, Ping Wang, Marina Martin-Moratinos, Marcos Bella-Fernández & Hilario Blasco-Fontecilla

Department of Psychiatry, Puerta de Hierro University Hospital, Health Research Institute Puerta de Hierro-Segovia de Arana (IDIPHISA), Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain

Department of Psychology, Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid, Spain

Marcos Bella-Fernández

Center of Biomedical Network Research on Mental Health (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain

Hilario Blasco-Fontecilla

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Dr. Hilario Blasco-Fontecilla is the study supervisor with full access to the data in the study. Ping Wang, Hilario Blasco-Fontecilla, and Chao Li took part in the study concept and design. Data were collected by Ping Wang, Marina Martín-Moratinos, and Chao Li. The manuscript was drafted and critically revised by all authors. Statistical analysis were made by Marcos Bella-Fernández and Chao Li. Administrative, technical, and material support was given by Marina Martín-Moratinos and Ping Wang.

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Li, C., Wang, P., Martin-Moratinos, M. et al. Traditional bullying and cyberbullying in the digital age and its associated mental health problems in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-022-02128-x

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9 facts about bullying in the U.S.

Many U.S. children have experienced bullying, whether online or in person. This has prompted discussions about schools’ responsibility to curb student harassment , and some parents have turned to home-schooling or other measures to prevent bullying .

Here is a snapshot of what we know about U.S. kids’ experiences with bullying, taken from Pew Research Center surveys and federal data sources.

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand U.S. children’s experiences with bullying, both online and in person. Findings are based on surveys conducted by the Center, as well as data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional information about each survey and its methodology can be found in the links in the text of this analysis.

Bullying is among parents’ top concerns for their children, according to a fall 2022 Center survey of parents with children under 18 . About a third (35%) of U.S. parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might be bullied at some point. Another 39% are somewhat worried about this.

Of the eight concerns asked about in the survey, only one ranked higher for parents than bullying: Four-in-ten parents are extremely or very worried about their children struggling with anxiety or depression.

A bar chart showing that bullying is among parents' top concerns for their children.

About half of U.S. teens (53%) say online harassment and online bullying are a major problem for people their age, according to a spring 2022 Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17 . Another 40% say it is a minor problem, and just 6% say it is not a problem.

Black and Hispanic teens, those from lower-income households and teen girls are more likely than those in other groups to view online harassment as a major problem.

Nearly half of U.S. teens have ever been cyberbullied, according the 2022 Center survey of teens . The survey asked teens whether they had ever experienced six types of cyberbullying. Overall, 46% say they have ever encountered at least one of these behaviors, while 28% have experienced multiple types.

A bar chart showing that nearly half of teens have ever experienced cyberbullying, with offensive name-calling being the type most commonly reported.

The most common type of online bullying for teens in this age group is being called an offensive name (32% have experienced this). Roughly one-in-five teens have had false rumors spread about them online (22%) or were sent explicit images they didn’t ask for (17%).

Teens also report they have experienced someone other than a parent constantly asking them where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with (15%); being physically threatened (10%); or having explicit images of them shared without their consent (7%).

Older teen girls are especially likely to have experienced bullying online, the spring 2022 survey of teens shows. Some 54% of girls ages 15 to 17 have experienced at least one cyberbullying behavior asked about in the survey, compared with 44% of boys in the same age group and 41% of younger teens. In particular, older teen girls are more likely than the other groups to say they have been the target of false rumors and constant monitoring by someone other than a parent.

They are also more likely to think they have been harassed online because of their physical appearance: 21% of girls ages 15 to 17 say this, compared with about one-in-ten younger teen girls and teen boys.

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing that older teen girls stand out for experiencing multiple types of cyberbullying behaviors.

White, Black and Hispanic teens have all encountered online bullying at some point, but some of their experiences differ, the spring 2022 teens survey found. For instance, 21% of Black teens say they’ve been targeted online because of their race or ethnicity, compared with 11% of Hispanic teens and 4% of White teens.

Hispanic teens are the most likely to say they’ve been constantly asked where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with by someone other than a parent. And White teens are more likely than Black teens to say they’ve been targeted by false rumors.

The sample size for Asian American teens was not large enough to analyze separately.

A bar chart showing that black teens more likely than those who are Hispanic or White to say they have been cyberbullied because of their race or ethnicity

During the 2019-2020 school year, around two-in-ten U.S. middle and high school students said they were bullied at school . That year, 22% of students ages 12 to 18 said this, with the largest shares saying the bullying occurred for one day only (32%) or for between three and 10 days (29%), according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Certain groups of students were more likely to experience bullying at school. They include girls, middle schoolers (those in sixth, seventh or eighth grade), and students in rural areas.  

The most common types of at-school bullying for all students ages 12 to 18 were being made the subject of rumors (15%) and being made fun of, called names or insulted (14%).

A bar chart showing that girls, middle schoolers and rural students are among the most likely to say they were bullied at school in 2019-2020.

The classroom was the most common location of bullying that occurred at school in 2019-2020, the BJS and NCES data shows. This was the case for 47% of students ages 12 to 18 who said they were bullied during that school year. Other frequently reported locations included hallways or stairwells (39%), the cafeteria (26%) and outside on school grounds (20%).

Fewer than half (46%) of middle and high schoolers who were bullied at school in 2019-2020 said they notified a teacher or another adult about it, according to the BJS and NCES data. Younger students were more likely to tell an adult at school. Around half or more of sixth, seventh and eighth graders said they did so, compared with 28% of 12th graders.

Students who reported more frequent bullying were also more likely to notify an adult at school. For instance, 60% of those who experienced bullying on more than 10 days during the school year told an adult, compared with 35% of those who experienced it on one day.

In 2021, high schoolers who are gay, lesbian or bisexual were about twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to say they’d been bullied, both at school and online, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . In the 12 months before the survey, 22% of high school students who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual – and 21% of those who identify as questioning or some other way – said they were bullied on school property. That compares with 10% of heterosexual students. The data does not include findings for transgender students.

A dot plot showing that high schoolers' experiences with bullying vary widely by sexual orientation.

The trend is similar when it comes to electronic bullying through text or social media: 27% of high school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual say they experienced this in the 12 months before the survey, as did 23% of those who identify as questioning or some other way. That compares with 11% of those who identify as heterosexual.

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Cyberbullying Facts

Cyberbullying Facts: Summarizing What is Currently Known

Since 2002, we have surveyed over 35,000 elementary, middle, and high school students in sixteen different studies throughout the United States. The first two studies were online exploratory samples used to obtain a general understanding of the problem. As such, the numbers obtained are higher than average and not representative because they only include online teens who volunteered to participate. Our thirteen most recent studies, however, have all been random samples of known populations, so we can be fairly confident in the reliability and validity of the data obtained ( click here for more information about the methodology). Overall, about 30% of the teens we have surveyed over the last twelve studies have told us that they have been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetimes. About 13% said they were cyberbullied in the 30 days preceding the survey. Similarly, about 15% of those who we surveyed admitted that they had cyberbullied others at some point in their lifetimes (about 6% in the most recent 30 days). In 2020 we surveyed 1,034 tweens (9-12 year-olds) across the United States and found that about 15% of them had been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetimes (about 3% had cyberbullied others). More detailed information about our various studies involving teens (12- to 17-year-olds) can be found here . Our recent study findings involving tweens (9- to 12-year-olds) can be found here .

Cyberbullying Facts: Generalizations

A couple of other broad generalizations can be made about cyberbullying, based on recent research:

– Adolescent girls are just as likely, if not more likely than boys to experience cyberbullying (as a victim and offender) (Floros et al., 2013; Kowalski et al., 2008; Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Schneider et al., 2012)

– Cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems (Brighi et al., 2012; Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Hinduja & Patchin, 2019; Kowalski & Limber, 2013; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010; Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011)

– Cyberbullying is related to other issues in the ‘real world’ including school problems, anti-social behavior, substance use, and delinquency (Hinduja & Patchin, 2007; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Kowalski & Limber, 2013)

– Traditional bullying is still more common than cyberbullying (Lenhart, 2007; Smith et al., 2008; Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011)

– Traditional bullying and cyberbullying are closely related: those who are bullied at school are bullied online and those who bully at school bully online (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Kowalski & Limber, 2013; Ybarra, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2007).

Cyberbullying Facts: Trends

There are only three studies that we are aware of that have explored cyberbullying experiences of students across the United States over time. The first analysis have been conducted by our friends at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Examining the three waves of the Youth Internet Safety Survey (2000, 2005, 2010), they find a slight increase in cyberbullying behaviors over that time period (from 6% to 9% to 11%).

More recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct their biennial survey of students across the U.S. in their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) . This survey has long asked about bullying at school but in 2011 they added a question about “electronic” bullying. In 2019 (the most recent year available), 15.7% of students reported that they were bullied electronically, compared to 14.9% in 2017, 15.5% in 2015, 14.8% in 2013, and 16.2% in 2011.

Finally, the School Crime Supplement (SCS) of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) also surveys students every other year about victimization at school (and online bullying). This source observed a slight increase from 2009 to 2011 (from 6.2% to 9%), but the rate also decreased to 6.7% in 2013. In 2015, 2017, and 2019 (the most recent data available), researchers changed the way they measured cyberbullying–asked as a subset of bullying–which means the numbers cannot be directly compared to previous years. In 2019 16.5% of the 22.2% of students who were bullied said they had been bullied “online or by text.”

Our research has shown a steady increase over time, but again it is problematic to directly compare our studies for a variety of reasons. One thing is for certain: cyberbullying is impacting a number of middle and high school students each year, and more can be done to prevent that.

Cyberbullying Prevalence Rates Over Time

So it is difficult from just looking at these few studies to determine if rates of cyberbullying is increasing or decreasing. Every study defines and measures cyberbullying differently and uses different response windows (we ask about experiences in their lifetime and last 30 days while the NCVS asks about what happened in the last year). We need to collect additional data points over time using consistent measures.

Cyberbullying Facts: References

Brighi, A., Melotti, G., Guarini, A., Genta, M. L., Ortega, R., Mora-Merchán, J., Smith, P. K. and Thompson, F. (2012). Self-Esteem and Loneliness in Relation to Cyberbullying in Three European Countries, in Cyberbullying in the Global Playground: Research from International Perspectives (eds Q. Li, D. Cross and P. K. Smith), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK.

Floros, G.D., Simos, K. E., Fisoun, V., Dafouli, E., and Geroukalis, D. (2013). Adolescent online cyberbullying in Greece: The impact of parental online security practices, bonding, and online impulsiveness. Journal of School Health, 83(6), 445-453.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2007). Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency. Journal of School Violence, 6(3), 89-112.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2008). Cyberbullying: An exploratory analysis of factors related to offending and victimization. Deviant Behavior, 29(2), 129-156.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2009). Bullying beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2010). Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 14(3), 206-221.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2012). Cyberbullying: Neither an Epidemic Nor a Rarity. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(5), 539-543.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2019). Connecting Adolescent Suicide to the Severity of Bullying and Cyberbullying. Journal of School Violence, 18(3), 333-346.

Kowalski, R. M. & Limber, S. P. (2013). Psychological, Physical, and Academic Correlates of Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), S13-S20.

Kowalski, R. M., Limber, S. P. & Agatston, P.W. (2008). Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2010). Cyberbullying and self-esteem. Journal of School Health, 80(12), 614-621.

Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2013). Cyberbullying among Adolescents: Implications for Empirical Research. Journal of Adolescent Health 53(4), 431-432.

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i learned that adolescent girls are just as likely, if not more likely than girls to experience cyber bullied

some cyber bulling stories are just too sad

sooooooo saaaaad

i think that people who get cyberbullied get suicidal thoughts, start an eating disorder, do self-harm, become depressed, and sometimes commit suicide. we can prevent these terrible things by watching who we follow on the internet, who are friends are, and what social medias we use.

I definentaly agree with you its true😢😢


Come on, it's her opinion/view. Can you be a little less judgemental? This is an article on Cyberbullying, don't be one yourself.

wow your a jerk i'm positively sure that's how most MENTAL ILLNESSES happen is because of IDIOT people treating them like crap and it also dosen't help if people keep making fun of eachother just because of their own Damn insecurites an example "oh yeah your fat" or "just go kill yourself no one and nothing will miss you" and how about this one oh boy this one is a popular one but stupid "your just cutting BECAUSE your a self seeking whore" all of those things they start to believe because people keep shoving it in their faces. SO no she dosen't have to do research because you Said so and here's a fun fact what she said isn't STUPID you are because you DIDN'T do the research so there you have it bree . Your Friend Anonymous

I do not believe calling someone a "jerk" contributes to stoping cyberbullying. Your friend -That One Unknown Person

As to someone who has gone through Cyberbullying, its best to ignore them and move on. You are beautiful just the way you are, even though its hard to believe it.

People do get problems like anorexia nervosa(an eating disorder in which the person(s) affected starve themselves) from cyberbullying, so please do your research before rudely calling someone out and calling them stupid on a cyberbullying research site of all places…

-An Anonymous Person

there are lots of people that try to commit suicide from cyber bullying like the movie cyberbully

13% of children consider suicide and the depression mostly comes from divorces, sexual assault, and substance abuse

I know some stories about people who committed suicide because of cyberbullying and its sad because I feel very,very sad for those people who committed suicide and its very sad.😢😢😢😢😢😢

I know exactly how you feel.

Its sad for those who committed suicide😢😢😢

yeah its really sad especially if it turns out to be your best friends. it sucks but it gets better over time.

if you know someone who is being bullied tell someone but instead they just keep it going and going

I'm sorry but, this does not make sense to me ————————> "but instead they just keep it going and going"

I agree that it is very sad and disturbing

#lets stop cyber-bullying

It is so sad that kids commit suicide they don't deserve that. That isn't right!!!!!!

i learned that bullying can affect students and also it can hurt them physically and emotionally

I think it's really upsetting knowing that people cyberbully and people don't do anything about it

We need to stop this

CyberBullying doesn't just happen to Kids. Adults, people you know will start out texting you with normal conversations then sending pictures of all sorts, personal, cartoons of all types, avitars of themselves, scriptures of all sorts an when it never ends, you ask them to stop and then all of a sudden you need god and then a whole new set of all the above starts with a spiritual twist. Everytime you pick up you phone there's a spiritual reason why you don't like the text anymore when all you want them to do is stop.

n text why you don't want them sending them

it makes me angry when someone kills themselfs

Some of these kids think that they are all mighty and powerfull while they are on Instagram or whatever social media they use. Now there are some who may say it to your face but most hide and only say things behind there phones or electronic devices. I was asked to write a essay on this, but the facts are there people look. This is a waste of people's time and can even cause death. It's a shame what kids and even adults to today. If your gonna say something like that say it to their face. Or grow up and be quiet.

I hate cyber bullying because its bad by the way im 7 years odl

jk im 12 but still i dont like cyberbullying its really bad and idk y people do it

to make help themselves feel better

also I wouldn't leak your age onto the internet

Yeah not a good thing to say your age, no offense

listen guys I've been bullied a lot and i have cyber bullied and the movie is so sad i wonder how someone can hack into a device and on to someones profile. That is just stupid who would do such a thing.

I never got cyberbullied

Cyberbullying is a way for kids to relieve stress. It is the parents and the governments fault.

Go on Netflix and watch Cyberbully, it is a sad movie, but entertaining. comment me if you watched it or if you are going to watch it!!!!

its on youtube also

dont you mean you seen cyberbullying the movie

I have been bullied to the point where I became suicidal, and now I get the help that I needed

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

u think so?

Cyber bulling is a very sad thing i have been bullied all my life and its not fun. I have had bad thoughts about myself and its not a good feeling. # lets stop CYBERBULyLING

Cyber bulling is a very sad thing i have been bullied all my life and its not fun. I have had bad thoughts about myself and its not a good feeling. # lets stop CYBERBULyLING WE can STOP this all we have to do is try

I think people comitting suicide is really sad. I have been bullied to the point where I had those dark thoughts but luckily I got the help I needed. With the rise of technology, bullying became easier for people. It's easy to hide behind a computer or phone and bully someone instead of in their face. This only makes things worse! People should not engage in antisocial behaviors and degrade people online. It is so sad to know young people do this the most, its no wonder many young girls have self-esteem issues!

uhmm excuse me but young boys have self-esteem issues to, it isn't always just girls.

Uhhmm. But most of the people who have a self-esteem issue are girls. Maybe that's what she meant

Uhmm… What about trust issues? I'm sure people have gained trust issues from cyberbullying, I know I've gained trust issues but I don't believe they are from being cyberbullied… actually I'm not sure if I've been cyberbullied (can't remember), though I do know that past events have caused my trust issues…

Has it ever occurred to you that girls seem to have greater self-esteem issues because boys can’t say anything because of stereotyping that if a man doesn’t ask for help, but if you do you are a wussy?

Ya it sad, and the people doing the bulling think its funny to them which is not right.

what makes me so sad is that no one wants to stand up for said person

What i think is they need to grow up and truthfully get a life (in a nice way) because no one wants there reputation to be a jerk or a bully.

y can't people just stop being butts to people cuz everyone is different and that is something to celebrate not to be mean about. i am a friend, a sister and, a babysitter so i can't stand if all of my family and friends did that to themselves

3 million kids per month are absent from school due to bullying. 20% of kids cyberbullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 attempt it. 4500 kids commit suicide each year. Suicide is the No. 3 killer of teens in the US.

I don't know why people bully so much. Is it because that person has a lot of stuff that you don't have. Man its not right just let that person be if they want to do the stuff that they want to do just let them be it none of your business to make them feel bad.

this is atrocious.. its gotta come to a stop. I personally have never been cyberbullied but I have been verbally bullied. Cyberbullying isn't right and to think that the people that its coming from think its funny to see someone upset and depressed its just sad.

btw I'm only 13

sTOP tHE hATE, }:-[

I also have Benin cyberbullied but I got through it it needs to stop

Cyberbullying is not good !!!!

Dont cyber bully it is not cool you might take a life away.

cyber bullying is fun (sarcastic) … no matter how hard we try to say "stop bullying" over and over again.. it will always go on and on, i have been bullied well until now .. cyberbullying, traditional bullying .. i cut my wrists everynight and hide it everytime i'm in school.. i always smile when someone is around me but cry at night. i don't have friends (the kids that smiles at me are not considered as friends .. i don't even know them) i even came to the point where i was about to hang my neck in my room, i wrote a letter but i realized .. yes, bullying, cyberbullying or whatever can give depression, anxiety, fear, low self-esteem but that doesn't mean we don't know how to stand up and control ourselves to let our braveness come out of its hiding place. We may not be perfect but we are still humans like those persons who bully us. We are strong, don't think you're weakness takes over your mind.

i am so sorry

bullying among teens is now very rampant on social media nowadys , for it is so easy for someone to degrade a victim online for they can do it annonomously . lets stop cyberbullying instead lets sp[read good vibes on on social media. Afterall, social media is created to make circle of friends not to badmouth and hurt someone else

honestly, playing on games (I play on Xbox ONE) has helped me create a circle of online friends, it's help me.

the bullying that goes on, in this site is just not funny. someone on there has real hate for me and abuses me but if I fight back they sure can't hack that. please stop the bullying on these sites. its causing illness and upset when people are attacking cancer patients and welfare disability ill people and so on. and there is clearly one dirty stalker troll on there from fast forward tv show called magda she does nothing but abuse over her fat son.

I agree, cyberbullying is bad and it always will be, and nothing is going to change that. I have experienced one of my friends go through cyberbullying and it wasn't a good thing to experience. It is like they think it is ok to do this because they are behind a screen and you and nobody else can get to them when they are doing this. Whoever is being bullied or cyber bullied, coming from my experience with kids bullying me and my friends, just don't listen to them. also, just know that there are people here that care about you and that you are not going to go through this alone. also, just incase you think about hurting your self, don't do it! Don't do it because it is not good and even though you think nobody cares about you, they do so just stop and think about that before you do anything. #stopbullyingandcyberbullying #believeinyourself You are perfect in every single way! Help me and others stop bullying at mine and your school. We can do it if we work together.

Its really sad how Trolls want to make people suicide

Can someone put the depression rate from cyber bulling for the people doing school work, i think it would be helpful for a lot kids that have projects.

people should not be bullied any way and any how.

I was bullied all up until 8th grade and i hated it….

I was bullied all up until 8th grade n i hated it i was tempting to have suicide on my mind….

just saying its pretty easy to block people who bully you #common sense.

Why cant people learn to just ignore others?I mean I do it and yes i have dealt with bullies i just learned to use common sense and block them or leave the chat.

come on just ignore and block, its rlly not that hard, its actually pretty easy, just dont give them ammo (JUST LEARN NOT TO BE STUPID ABOUT IT) JUST BLOCK

as a teen that has had suicidal thoughts (and i probably still do) i looked at some of this page then went down to the comments, its nice to see that people are openly against bullying even if some people are victims of bullying, im not quite yet sure why i may still be suicidal but if you want to know why i have yet to have done it… it is because i have thought of who all may be devastated by my actions, what i may miss, and how it would change anything. (i came to this site for a essay i have to write in a class, i dont check my email much)

Life gets better, it really does. You will hopefully realize that your future can be really bright, and that there will always be haters, and that people can be there for you and help you through difficult seasons if you let them. It gets better. Figure out what you love, what you enjoy, what makes you happy, and go after those things. We are in your corner. Really.

I already realize that but right know my problem mainly is that I am unsure of what the thoughts in the back of my head are. I never have truly had friends, only recently I have figured out who near me I might be able to trust. My problem with trust is that i don't even really trust myself, how could one trust some one if they don't trust themselves? As you can tell I do stay up at night which gives me time to think, I truly do over think some things. I use video games to escape my thoughts, sometimes certain parts of songs get stuck in my head. If you want an example of part of a song i could easily give you the 9 words that got stuck on repeat in my head first. For now here's something my own head has come up with: death is fun, death is life, fun will die, but so will life. That is something I can't manage to get out of my head. I will openly admit that I have memories I can't seem to let go of although I need to. Yet I tell some people "Don't dwell on the past" I suppose not dwelling could've lead to my state…

Does any one know what time zone this sites comments go by?

They go by GMT. Thanks for asking.

Thanks, I may try to get on at the same time each day/getting on this site may become something I do daily if possible.

I noticed the time difference between my laptop and the times of the comments I made and wondered about the possibility of the time zones being different. By the way I'm in CTZ.

everyone needs to calm down, i've had a hard time with this stuff to i just learn to ignore most of the time, its easy

Your right it is easy to ignore things like these but some people are either not used to it or are too sensitive because they have had a incredibly shielded life. I assume you realize this but you must remember it.

I believe that cyberbullying is a result of something that happened to the culprit that made them upset about themselves and they are jealous that other people feel better about themselves. Don't get me wrong… cyberbullying is wrong on all levels but i believe that we need to reach out and to the victimizers and find out why they acted out to their peers.

I believe that cyberbullying is a result of something that happened to the culprit that made them upset about themselves and they are jealous that other people feel better about themselves. Don't get me wrong… it is wrong on all levels but i believe that we need to reach out and to the victimizers and find out why they acted out to their peers.

coming from someone has tried killing themselves its really had to wake up and get out of bed but you just don't want to go throw and you know i have had some days were i can get out of bed to go pee because i was to depressed to get up its hard and i want to say that it will get better i know there mite be some bad day but that's just one or two days it will get better.

it is sad to say people kill themself because of cyber bullying or even bullying. But i promise it will get better! It just takes some time to recover from something like this. As much as you want to you have to know that people are there for you and always will. I PROMISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unfortunately some of us get better then something comes along and messes up our lives but we have to continue to push through it.

Hi im kinda late to the party, but Cyber Bullying isn’t just thing you can wash away. its something that grows inside you until you decide enough and you either kill your self, cut, or get help. 2/3 of those options are bad, and being some one who has tried to kill themselves 5 times, its rough. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azRl1dI-Cts here. watch this to get a real idea of what its like to be bullied and almost committing something Horrendous.

Is telling the truth on social media be counted as a cyber bullying? when you just want to tell your side of story to stop those very conclusive individuals whose also attacking you with posts based on false predicaments.

Yeah, its both not one or the other. All people can have self-esteem issues.

When was the article written? Who was it written by?

Hi Max, it was written by Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin and was most recently updated in April of 2021. Thanks for your interest.

Not only does cyberbullying happen to children but even to adults. 🙁

Use suicide or self-harm threat to pressured to dating (or other unwanted behavior) should also count as cyberbullying. For someone who is doing this because of a mental illness/personality disorder, they need professional help, not an impossible person. It’s just as harmful as the other types bullying and may turn victims into abusive (They may think that “suicidal people are socially harmful that need to be eliminated” and abuse those people).

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research article on cyberbullying

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Cyberbullying: what is it and how to stop it, what teens want to know about cyberbullying..

Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it

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We brought together UNICEF specialists, international cyberbullying and child protection experts, and teamed up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and X to answer some of the most common questions about online bullying and give advice on ways to deal with it. 

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. Examples include:

  • spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos or videos of someone on social media
  • sending hurtful, abusive or threatening messages, images or videos via messaging platforms
  • impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf or through fake accounts.

Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.

If you are worried about your safety or something that has happened to you online, you can seek help by calling your national helpline . If your country does not have a helpline, please urgently speak to an adult you trust or seek professional support from trained and experienced carers.

The top questions on cyberbullying

  • Am I being bullied online? How do you tell the difference between a joke and bullying?
  • What are the effects of cyberbullying?
  • How can cyberbullying affect my mental health?
  • Who should I talk to if someone is bullying me online? Why is reporting important?
  • I’m experiencing cyberbullying, but I’m afraid to talk to my parents about it. How can I approach them?
  • How can I help my friends report a case of cyberbullying especially if they don’t want to do it?
  • How do we stop cyberbullying without giving up access to the internet?
  • How do I prevent my personal information from being used to manipulate or humiliate me on social media?
  • Is there a punishment for cyberbullying?
  • Technology companies don’t seem to care about online bullying and harassment. Are they being held responsible?
  • Are there any online anti-bullying tools for children or young people?

Am I being bullied online? How do you tell the difference between a joke and bullying?

1. Am I being bullied online? How do you tell the difference between a joke and bullying?

Unicef: .

All friends joke around with each other, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is just having fun or trying to hurt you, especially online. Sometimes they’ll laugh it off with a “just kidding,” or “don’t take it so seriously.” 

But if you feel hurt or think others are laughing at you instead of with you, then the joke has gone too far. If it continues even after you’ve asked the person to stop and you are still feeling upset about it, then this could be bullying.

And when the bullying takes place online, it can result in unwanted attention from a wide range of people including strangers. Wherever it may happen, if you are not happy about it, you should not have to stand for it.

Call it what you will – if you feel bad and it doesn’t stop, then it’s worth getting help. Stopping cyberbullying is not just about calling out bullies, it’s also about recognizing that everyone deserves respect – online and in real life.

> Back to top

What are the effects of cyberbullying?

2. What are the effects of cyberbullying?

When bullying happens online it can feel as if you’re being attacked everywhere, even inside your own home. It can seem like there’s no escape. The effects can last a long time and affect a person in many ways:

  • Mentally – feeling upset, embarrassed, stupid, even afraid or angry 
  • Emotionally – feeling ashamed or losing interest in the things you love
  • Physically – tired (loss of sleep), or experiencing symptoms like stomach aches and headaches 

The feeling of being laughed at or harassed by others, can prevent people from speaking up or trying to deal with the problem. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can even lead to people taking their own lives. 

Cyberbullying can affect us in many ways. But these can be overcome and people can regain their confidence and health.

Illustration - boy with face buried in hands

3. How can cyberbullying affect my mental health?

When you experience cyberbullying you might start to feel ashamed, nervous, anxious and insecure about what people say or think about you. This can lead to withdrawing from friends and family, negative thoughts and self-talk, feeling guilty about things you did or did not do, or feeling that you are being judged negatively. Feeling lonely, overwhelmed, frequent headaches, nausea or stomachaches are also common.

You can lose your motivation to do the things that you usually enjoy doing and feel isolated from the people you love and trust. This can perpetuate negative feelings and thoughts which can adversely affect your mental health and well-being.

Skipping school is another common effect of cyberbullying and can affect the mental health of young people who turn to substances like alcohol and drugs or violent behaviour to deal with their psychological and physical pain. Talking to a friend, family member or school counsellor you trust can be a first step to getting help.

The effects of cyberbullying on mental health can vary depending on the medium through which it happens. For example, bullying via text messaging or through pictures or videos on social media platforms has proven to be very harmful for adolescents.   

Cyberbullying opens the door to 24-hour harassment and can be very damaging. That’s why we offer in-app mental health and well-being support through our feature “ Here For You .” This Snapchat portal provides resources on mental health, grief, bullying, harassment, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, stress, and suicidal thoughts. It was developed in partnership with leading international advocacy and mental health organizations to help Snapchatters contend with some very real issues. Still, our foundational piece of guidance for any well-being issue is to talk to someone: a friend, parent, caregiver, trusted adult – anyone whom you trust to listen.

At Snap, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our community.  Reach out and tell us how we might be able to help.    

Cyberbullying has the potential of having a negative impact on people's mental health. It's why it's so important that you reach out to someone you trust – whether it's a parent, teacher, friend or caregiver – and let them know what you're going through so that they can help you.

The well-being of our community matters hugely to us, and we recognise that cyberbullying can have an adverse impact on people's mental health. As well as taking strong action against content or behaviour that seeks to shame, bully or harass members of our community, we have partnered with experts to develop our well-being guide to help people learn more about improving their well-being, and keep TikTok a safe and inclusive home for our community.

Who should I talk to if someone is bullying me online? Why is reporting important?

4. Who should I talk to if someone is bullying me online? Why is reporting important?

If you think you’re being bullied, the first step is to seek help from someone you trust such as your parents, a close family member or another trusted adult.

In your school you can reach out to a counsellor, the sports coach or your favourite teacher – either online or in person.

And if you are not comfortable talking to someone you know, search for a helpline in your country to talk to a professional counsellor.

If the bullying is happening on a social platform, consider blocking the bully and formally reporting their behaviour on the platform itself. Social media companies are obligated to keep their users safe.

For bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key.

It can be helpful to collect evidence – text messages and screen shots of social media posts – to show what’s been going on.

For bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key. It can also help to show the bully that their behaviour is unacceptable.

If you are in immediate danger, then you should contact the police or emergency services in your country.


At Meta, we take bullying and harassment situations seriously. Bullying and harassment is a unique challenge and one of the most complex issues to address because context is critical. We work hard to enforce against this content while also equipping our community with tools to protect themselves in ways that work best for them.

If you're experiencing bullying online, we encourage you to talk to a parent, teacher or someone else you can trust – you have a right to be safe and supported.

We also make it easy to report bullying directly within Facebook or Instagram. You can send our team a report from a post, comment, story or direct message (DM). Your report is anonymous; the account you reported won’t see who reported them. We have a team who reviews these reports 24/7 around the world in 70+ languages and we will remove anything that violates our policies.

Meta’s Family Center offers resources, insights and expert guidance to help parents, guardians and trusted adults support their teen’s online experiences across our technologies. Additionally, the Meta Safety Center provides bullying prevention resources that can help teens seeking support for issues related to bullying like what to do if you or a friend is being bullied or if you've been called a bully. For educators , we have expert-backed tips on how to proactively handle and work to implement bullying prevention strategies

Bullying is something no one should have to experience, either in person or online. 

Snapchat’s Community Guidelines clearly and explicitly prohibit bullying, intimidation, and harassment of any kind. We don’t want it on the platform; it’s not in keeping with why Snapchat was created and designed. Learn more here .

Letting us know when you experience or witness someone breaking our rules allows us to take action, which helps to protect you and other members of our community. In addition to reporting violating content or behaviour to Snapchat, speak with a friend, parent, caregiver, or other trusted adult. Our goal is for everyone to stay safe and have fun!

Everyone has the right to feel safe and to be treated with respect and dignity. Bullying and harassment are incompatible with the inclusive environment we aim to foster on TikTok. 

If you ever feel someone is bullying you or otherwise being inappropriate, reach out to someone you trust - for example, a parent, a teacher or a caregiver – who can provide support.

We deploy both technology and thousands of safety professionals to help keep bullying off TikTok. We also encourage our community members to make use of the easy in-app reporting tools to alert us if they or someone they know has experienced bullying. You can report videos, comments, accounts and direct messages so that we can take appropriate action and help keep you safe. Reports are always confidential. 

You can find out more in our Bullying Prevention guide for teens, caregivers, and educators on how to identify and prevent bullying, and provide support.

Being the target of bullying online is not easy to deal with. If you are being cyberbullied, the most important thing to do is to ensure you are safe. It’s essential to have someone to talk to about what you are going through. This may be a teacher, another trusted adult, or a parent. Talk to your parents and friends about what to do if you or a friend are being cyberbullied.

We encourage people to report accounts to us that may break our  rules . You can do this on our  Help Center  or through the in-post reporting mechanism by clicking on the “Report a post” option.

Last updated: January 2022.

I’m experiencing cyberbullying, but I’m afraid to talk to my parents about it. How can I approach them?

5. I’m experiencing cyberbullying, but I’m afraid to talk to my parents about it. How can I approach them?

If you are experiencing cyberbullying, speaking to a trusted adult – someone you feel safe talking to – is one of the most important first steps you can take.

Talking to parents isn’t easy for everyone. But there are things you can do to help the conversation. Choose a time to talk when you know you have their full attention. Explain how serious the problem is for you. Remember, they might not be as familiar with technology as you are, so you might need to help them to understand what’s happening.

They might not have instant answers for you, but they are likely to want to help and together you can find a solution. Two heads are always better than one! If you are still unsure about what to do, consider reaching out to other trusted people . There are often more people who care about you and are willing to help than you might think!

How can I help my friends report a case of cyberbullying especially if they don’t want to do it?

6. How can I help my friends report a case of cyberbullying especially if they don’t want to do it?

Anyone can become a victim of cyberbullying. If you see this happening to someone you know, try to offer support.

It is important to listen to your friend. Why don’t they want to report being cyberbullied? How are they feeling? Let them know that they don’t have to formally report anything, but it’s crucial to talk to someone who might be able to help.

Anyone can become a victim of cyberbullying.

Remember, your friend may be feeling fragile. Be kind to them. Help them think through what they might say and to whom. Offer to go with them if they decide to report. Most importantly, remind them that you’re there for them and you want to help.

If your friend still does not want to report the incident, then support them in finding a trusted adult who can help them deal with the situation. Remember that in certain situations the consequences of cyberbullying can be life threatening.

Doing nothing can leave the person feeling that everyone is against them or that nobody cares. Your words can make a difference.

We know that it can be hard to report bullying, but everyone deserves to feel safe online. If your friend is experiencing cyberbullying, encourage them to talk to a parent, a teacher or an adult they trust.

Reporting content or accounts to Facebook or Instagram is anonymous and can help us better keep our platforms safe. Bullying and harassment are highly personal by nature, so in many instances, we need a person to report this behaviour to us before we can identify or remove it. You can report something you experience yourself, but it’s also just as easy to submit a report for one of your friends. You can find more information on how to report something on our How to Report Bullying section  at the Meta Safety Center.

You and your friends may be reluctant to report to a technology platform for any number of reasons, but it’s important to know that reporting on Snapchat is confidential and easy. And remember: You can report Snaps (photos and videos), Chats (messages) and accounts – about your own experiences or on behalf of someone else. 

In the more public places of Snapchat, like Stories and Spotlight, simply press and hold on the piece of content and a card with “Report Tile” (as one option) will appear in red. Click that link and our reporting menu will appear. Bullying and harassment are among the first categories in the reporting list. Just follow the prompts and provide as much information as you can about the incident. We appreciate you doing your part to help us protect the Snapchat community!  

If you believe another member of the TikTok community is being bullied or harassed, there are ways you can provide support. For example, you can make a confidential report on TikTok so that we take appropriate action and help keep your friend safe. 

If you know the person, consider checking in with them and encourage them to read our Bullying Prevention guide so they can find out more information about how to identify bullying behaviour and take action.

If your friends are experiencing cyberbullying, encourage them to talk to a parent, a teacher or an adult they trust.

If a friend of yours does not want to report their experience, you can submit a bystander report  on their behalf. This can include reports of private information , non -consensual nudity  or impersonation.

Being online gives me access to lots of information, but it also means I am open to abuse. How do we stop cyberbullying without giving up access to the Internet?

7. How do we stop cyberbullying without giving up access to the Internet?

Being online has so many benefits. However, like many things in life, it comes with risks that you need to protect against.

If you experience cyberbullying, you may want to delete certain apps or stay offline for a while to give yourself time to recover. But getting off the Internet is not a long-term solution. You did nothing wrong, so why should you be disadvantaged? It may even send the bullies the wrong signal — encouraging their unacceptable behaviour. 

We need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others.

We all want cyberbullying to stop, which is one of the reasons reporting cyberbullying is so important. But creating the Internet we want goes beyond calling out bullying. We need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others. We need to be kind to one another online and in real life. It's up to all of us!

We’re continuously developing new technologies  to encourage positive interactions and take action on harmful content, and launching new tools to help people have more control over their experience. Here are some tools you can use:

  • Comment warnings: When someone writes a caption or a comment that our AI detects as potentially offensive or intended to harass, we will show them an alert that asks them to pause and reflect on whether they would like to edit their language before it’s posted.
  • Comment and message controls: Comments with common offensive words, phrases or emojis, and abusive messages or messages from strangers can be automatically hidden or filtered out with the ‘ Hidden words ’ setting, which is defaulted on for all people. If you want an even more personalized experience, you can create a custom list of emojis, words or phrases you don’t want to see, and comments containing these terms won’t appear under your posts and messages will be sent to a filtered inbox. All Instagram accounts have the option to switch off DMs from people they don’t follow. Messenger also gives you the option to ignore a conversation and automatically move it out of your inbox, without having to block the sender.
  • Block and Mute: You can always  block  or  mute  an account that is bullying you, and that account will not be notified. When you block someone on Instagram, you’ll also have the option to block other accounts they may have or create, making it more difficult for them to interact with you.
  • Restrict: With ‘Restrict,’ you can protect your account from unwanted interactions in a quieter, or more subtle way. Once Restrict is enabled, comments on your posts from a person you have restricted will only be visible to that person. You can choose to view the comment by tapping “See Comment”; approve the comment so everyone can see it; delete it; or ignore it. You won’t receive any notifications for comments from a restricted account.
  • Limits:  You can automatically hide comments and DM requests from people who don’t follow you, or who only recently followed you. If you’re going through an influx of unwanted comments or messages — or think you may be about to — you can turn on Limits and avoid it.

Our priority is to foster a welcoming and safe environment where people feel free to express themselves authentically. Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not tolerate members of our community being shamed, bullied or harassed. 

We use a combination of technology and moderation teams to help us identify and remove abusive content or behaviour from our platform. 

We also provide our community with an extensive range of tools to help them better control their experience – whether it's control over exactly who can view and interact with your content or filtering tools to help you stay in control of comments. You can find out about them on our Safety Centre . 

Since hundreds of millions of people share ideas on X every day, it’s no surprise that we don’t all agree with each other all the time. That’s one of the benefits of a public conversation in that we can all learn from respectful disagreements and discussions.

But sometimes, after you’ve listened to someone for a while, you may not want to hear them anymore. Their right to express themselves doesn’t mean you’re required to listen. If you see or receive a reply you don’t like, unfollow  and end any communication with that account. If the behaviour continues, it is recommended that you block the account . If you continue receiving unwanted, targeted and continuous replies on X, consider reporting the behaviour to X here .

We are also working proactively to protect people using our service through a combination of human review and technology. Learn more about how to feel safer on X here .

How do I prevent my personal information from being used to manipulate or humiliate me on social media?

8. How do I prevent my personal information from being used to manipulate or humiliate me on social media?

Think twice before posting or sharing anything on digital platforms – it may be online forever and could be used to harm you later. Don’t give out personal details such as your address, telephone number or the name of your school.

Learn about the privacy settings of your favourite social media apps. Here are some actions you can take on many of them: 

  • You can decide who can see your profile, send you direct messages or comment on your posts by adjusting your account privacy settings. 
  • You can report hurtful comments, messages, photos and videos and request they be removed.
  • Besides ‘unfriending’, you can completely block people to stop them from seeing your profile or contacting you.
  • You can also choose to have comments by certain people to appear only to them without completely blocking them.
  • You can delete posts on your profile or hide them from specific people. 

On most of your favourite social media, people aren't notified when you block, restrict or report them.

Is there a punishment for cyberbullying?

9. Is there a punishment for cyberbullying?

Most schools take bullying seriously and will take action against it. If you are being cyberbullied by other students, report it to your school.

People who are victims of any form of violence, including bullying and cyberbullying, have a right to justice and to have the offender held accountable.

Laws against bullying, particularly on cyberbullying, are relatively new and still do not exist everywhere. This is why many countries rely on other relevant laws, such as ones against harassment, to punish cyberbullies.

In countries that have specific laws on cyberbullying, online behaviour that deliberately causes serious emotional distress is seen as criminal activity. In some of these countries, victims of cyberbullying can seek protection, prohibit communication from a specified person and restrict the use of electronic devices used by that person for cyberbullying, temporarily or permanently.

However, it is important to remember that punishment is not always the most effective way to change the behaviour of bullies. Sometimes, focusing on repairing the harm and mending the relationship can be better.

On Facebook, we have a set of  Community Standards , and on Instagram, we have  Community Guidelines . We take action when we are aware of content that violates these policies, like in the case of bullying or harassment, and we are constantly improving our detection tools so we can find this content faster.

Bullying and harassment can happen in many places and come in many different forms from making threats and releasing personally identifiable information to sending threatening messages and making unwanted malicious contact. We do not tolerate this kind of behavior because it prevents people from feeling safe and respected on our apps.

Making sure people don’t see hateful or harassing content in direct messages can be challenging, given they’re private conversations, but we are taking steps to take tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules. If someone continues to send violating messages, we will disable their account. We’ll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send harmful messages.

On Snapchat, reports of cyberbullying are reviewed by Snap’s dedicated Trust & Safety teams, which operate around the clock and around the globe. Individuals found to be involved in cyberbullying may be given a warning, their accounts might be suspended or their accounts could be shut down completely. 

We recommend leaving any group chat where bullying or any unwelcome behaviour is taking place and please report the behaviour and/or the account to us.  

Our Community Guidelines define a set of norms and common code of conduct for TikTok and they provide guidance on what is and is not allowed to make a welcoming space for everyone. We make it clear that we do not tolerate members of our community being shamed, bullied or harassed. We take action against any such content and accounts, including removal.

We strongly enforce our rules to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely. These rules specifically cover a number of areas including topics such as:

  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Abuse/harassment
  • Hateful conduct
  • Suicide or self-harm
  • Sharing of sensitive media, including graphic violence and adult content

As part of these rules, we take a number of different enforcement actions when content is in violation. When we take enforcement actions, we may do so either on a specific piece of content (e.g., an individual post or Direct Message) or on an account.

You can find more on our enforcement actions here .

Internet companies don’t seem to care about online bullying and harassment. Are they being held responsible?

10. Technology companies don’t seem to care about online bullying and harassment. Are they being held responsible?

Technology companies are increasingly paying attention to the issue of online bullying.

Many of them are introducing ways to address it and better protect their users with new tools, guidance and ways to report online abuse.

But it is true that more is needed. Many young people experience cyberbullying every day. Some face extreme forms of online abuse. Some have taken their own lives as a result.

Technology companies have a responsibility to protect their users especially children and young people.

It is up to all of us to hold them accountable when they’re not living up to these responsibilities.

Are there any online anti-bullying tools for children or young people?

11. Are there any online anti-bullying tools for children or young people?

Each social platform offers different tools (see available ones below) that allow you to restrict who can comment on or view your posts or who can connect automatically as a friend, and to report cases of bullying. Many of them involve simple steps to block, mute or report cyberbullying. We encourage you to explore them.

Social media companies also provide educational tools and guidance for children, parents and teachers to learn about risks and ways to stay safe online.

Also, the first line of defense against cyberbullying could be you. Think about where cyberbullying happens in your community and ways you can help – by raising your voice, calling out bullies, reaching out to trusted adults or by creating awareness of the issue. Even a simple act of kindness can go a long way.

The first line of defense against cyberbullying could be you.

If you are worried about your safety or something that has happened to you online, urgently speak to an adult you trust. Many countries have a special helpline you can call for free and talk to someone anonymously. Visit  United for Global Mental Health to find help in your country.

We have a number of anti-bullying tools across Facebook and Instagram:

  • You can block people, including any existing and new accounts they might create.
  • You can  mute  an account and that account will not be notified.
  • You can limit unwanted interactions for a period of time by automatically hiding comments and message requests from people who don’t follow you, or who only recently followed you.
  • You can use ‘ Restrict ’ to discreetly protect your account without that person being notified.
  • You can  moderate comments  on your own posts.
  • You can  modify your settings  so that only people you follow can send you a direct message.
  • We will notify someone when they’re about to post something that might cross the line, encouraging them to reconsider.
  • We automatically filter out comments and message requests that don’t go against our Community Guidelines but may be considered inappropriate or offensive. You can also create your own custom list of emojis, words or phrases that you don’t want to see.

For more tips and ideas, visit Instagram’s Safety page and Facebook’s Bullying Prevention Hub . We also offer resources, insights and expert guidance for parents and guardians on our Family Center .

We want teens and young adults to be aware of the blocking and removal functions on Snapchat. Clicking on the person’s avatar will bring up a three-dot menu in the upper right-hand corner. Opening that menu offers the option of “Manage Friendship,” which, in turn, offers the ability to Report, Block or Remove the person as a friend. Know that if you block someone, they will be told that their Snaps and Chats to you will be delivered once the relationship is restored.  

It’s also a good idea to check privacy settings to ensure they continue to be set to the default setting of “Friends Only.” This way, only people you’ve added as Friends can send you Snaps and Chats.  

We also recommend reviewing your Friends’ list from time to time to ensure it includes those people you still want to be friends with on Snapchat.  

Alongside the work that our safety teams do to help keep bullying and harassment off our platform, we provide an extensive range of tools to help you control your TikTok experience. You can find these in full on our Safety Centre . Here are a few highlights:

  • You can restrict who comments on your videos to no one, just friends or everyone (for those aged under 16, the everyone setting is not available)
  • You can filter all comments or those with specific keywords that you choose. By default, spam and offensive comments are hidden from users when we detect them.
  • You can delete or report multiple comments at once, and you can block accounts that post bullying or other negative comments in bulk too, up to 100 at a time.
  • A comment prompt asks people to reconsider posting a comment that may be inappropriate or unkind, reminding them of our Community Guidelines and allowing them to edit their comments before sharing.

We want everybody to be safe on X. We continue to launch and improve tools for people to feel safer, be in control and manage their digital footprint. Here are some safety tools anyone on X can use: 

  • Select who can reply to your posts  – either everyone, only people you follow or only people you mention
  • Mute – removing an account's posts from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account
  • Block – restricting specific accounts from contacting you, seeing your posts, and following you
  • Report – filing a report about abusive behaviour
  • Safety mode  – a feature that temporarily blocks accounts for using potentially harmful language or sending repetitive and uninvited replies or mentions.

With special thanks to:  Meta, Snap, TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter). Last updated: February 2024.

To anyone who has ever been bullied online: You are not alone

TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D'Amelio open up about their personal experience of being bullied and share tips on how to make the internet a better place.

Reporting abuse and safety resources

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Socioeconomic Effects in Cyberbullying: Global Research Trends in the Educational Context

Eloy lópez-meneses.

1 Department of Education and Social Psychology, Pablo de Olavide University, 41013 Sevilla, Spain; se.opu@nempole

2 Research Institute in Social Sciences and Education, Vice-Rectory for Research and Postgraduate, University of Atacama, Copiapó 1530000, Chile

Esteban Vázquez-Cano

3 Department of Didactics and School Organization, National University of Distance Education, 28040 Madrid, Spain; se.denu.ude@zeuqzave

Mariana-Daniela González-Zamar

4 Department of Education, University of Almeria, 04120 Almeria, Spain

Emilio Abad-Segura

5 Department of Economics and Business, University of Almeria, 04120 Almeria, Spain

Nowadays, cyberbullying has become a problem of social harassment in numerous educational centres worldwide. New communication technologies have provided the perfect support for the development of this type of harassment in peer relationships, in addition to being linked to broad social and economic circumstances. In this study, the global trends of the socioeconomic implications of cyberbullying in the educational context have been analysed, from 2004 to 2019. Thus, a bibliometric analysis has been applied to 1128 articles, obtaining results of the evolution of scientific activity in this period. The articles are mainly associated with the thematic areas of Social Sciences, Psychology, Medicine and Computer Science. Seven main thematic axes have been detected, highlighting those related to the psychological aspect, adolescence, and the school environment. Likewise, the link of the main authors, institutions, and countries to these lines of research has been detected. The evidence has shown the interest and relevance of this topic at the international level. Future research lines propose different analyses about how certain socioeconomic factors influence this psychological harassment inside and outside the classroom.

1. Introduction

In recent decades, technological advances allow communication with other people through digital devices to be incorporated into our daily interaction dynamics. The current technological revolution has transformed the way we communicate and relate; and it has meant that, in the case of young people, school is not the only place where they live together, but a new framework has been introduced in which they primarily interact with other people, cyberspace [ 1 , 2 ].

Likewise, community life and the interpersonal relationships that are generated in the spaces become elements of relevance and development of the individual’s social competence. In the case of adolescents, most of the interactions take place in educational centres [ 3 ]. This is undoubtedly because the school is one of the main places where children and young people spend most of their time, and it is one of the spaces where their socialization takes place through daily coexistence. Therefore, this place is very important in the development of antisocial or criminal behaviours at school age and, also, it can be key in their prevention [ 4 ].

The quality of interpersonal relationships, in turn, affects the psychoevolutionary development of the students and it depends on them that they acquire an adequate development of social competence associated with cognitive and affective processes [ 5 ]. This competence has been considered from different theoretical perspectives, as the way to effectively carry out interpersonal relationships.

In the educational context, the importance of social competence to favour the social development of young people has been recognized [ 6 , 7 ]. The relevance of this theme is to improve the interpersonal relationships of individuals and prevent problems of violence between equals, such as harassment, and violence in the first couple relationships.

School violence has been nourished by ICTs to develop new violent dynamics, including cyberbullying. In this sense, ICT has revolutionised communicative, training and work processes [ 8 ]. This phenomenon is increasingly worrying because of its scope, since the population where it appears with the highest proportion is adolescents. It is one of the problems that cause the most concern in society, given the negative consequences that it entails, and which may be even more serious than those that appear when suffering from other types of abuse, such as child maltreatment by the family and from which the ideation of suicidal ideas and even suicide itself is not excluded [ 9 , 10 ].

In essence, cyberbullying (CB) is an indirect form of traditional harassment that shares the intrinsic characteristics of bullying, such as the aggressive act, intentionality, and repetition over time by one of several aggressors; although it has its own characteristics, such as anonymity, advertising on social medias and the difficulty of disconnecting from the cyber environment [ 11 , 12 ]. From this approach, CB is considered from the Triple Criminal Risk model in order to contribute to a broader definition of crime based on three sources of risk, that is, individuals, societies, and environments [ 13 , 14 ].

The purpose of this study is to analyse the socioeconomic implications on CB in the context of education, in order to examine the evolution of this crime in a global context determined by different economic and social factors.

The literature review has allowed finding documents on this topic, so the research question refers to determining if the evolution of scientific production is directly or indirectly associated with digital transformation. In other words, if scientific production in this area is linked to the development of platforms that promote research among academics, institutions or regions; And if in addition the development of social networks that encourages the development of CB is also linked, in some way, with the development of academic and scientific production.

The main objective of this study is to analyse global research trends on the socioeconomic aspects that affect cyberbullying in an educational context during the period 2004–2019.

Consequently, to obtain answers to the research question posed, a sample of 1128 articles from scientific journals selected from the Elsevier Scopus database was analysed. In this study, the bibliometric method has been applied to synthesize the knowledge base on global research trends regarding the socioeconomic aspects that have implications on CB.

The results obtained have shown the contributions in this field of research, so that it has allowed identifying the main driving agents, their current and future potential trends, in addition to revealing certain gaps in critical knowledge.

In this context, it is necessary to highlight that among the lines of research that are currently being developed in relation to the subject of the study, these refer, among others, to analysing the psychosocial impacts of cybervictimization and the barriers to seeking social support; to carry out socioeconomic analyses of the decision-making process that underlies the viewers who help the victims of CB; or to study the risk factors of CB and the association with perceived health in certain contexts and regions.

This study supposes an analysis of the scientific production and of the actors that stimulate the research on CB in an educational context, during the period 2004–2019, as well as the identification of the research lines and their evolution and transformation, assuming a contribution to decision making and reinforcing the relationship between science and technology.

It can be concluded that research in the socioeconomic aspects of CB in the field of education is a dynamic research topic, which evolves along thematic axes, and where it is observed that both researchers and institutions and countries are making efforts to study this aggressive behaviour that causes numerous problems in the health of adolescents.

This research has some limitations, which may be the basis for future research. They highlight the possibility of determining the relevance of authors, institutions, and countries, since in the scientific field there is a paradox that some publish few articles, but they are very relevant in a certain subject area. Therefore, to overcome these limitations, in the research work, the bibliometric analysis must be completed with other qualitative and quantitative methodologies. On the other hand, the study could be expanded with publications compiled in other bases of data.

In order to achieve the stated objective, this research work has been structured as follows: Section 2 details the scope of the study and justifies the relevance of this research topic, delimiting the unit of analysis and providing a theoretical framework that acts as a guide. Section 3 presents the methodology applied in this research and the process of selecting data from the sample of scientific contributions. Section 4 shows the main results and their discussion. Finally, Section 5 presents the conclusions obtained and the main future research lines.

2. Research Scope

This section is the result of the previous analysis and review of the literature, while its purpose is to act as a guide and framework in the global investigation of socioeconomic aspects with implications for CB in the educational context. Thereby, firstly, the backgrounds of this topic is described, and then, the theoretical model and a series of interrelated terms are incorporated that allow the study in the field of knowledge to be conceptualized, and the aim of this research to be consolidated.

2.1. Backgrounds

International research on bullying and harassment among schoolchildren has fundamentally gone through four time periods [ 15 , 16 ]. From 1970 to 1980, its systematic study began, with the Norwegian researcher Olweus pioneering this analysis in his book Aggression in School: Bullies and Whipping Boys [ 17 ]. Later, in the 1980s, intervention programs were developed after the previous investigation, such as the Olweus Prevention Bullying Program [ 18 ]. From 1990 to mid-2004, studies on bullying became international [ 19 ] and, from 2004, it is when the term cyberbullying is added to refer to cyberspace as a new medium in which assaults occur [ 20 ].

Most of the interactions of adolescents occur in educational centres. This is undoubtedly because the school is one of the main places where children and young people spend most of their time, and it is one of the spaces where their socialization takes place through daily coexistence. Therefore, this place is important in the development of antisocial or criminal behaviours at school age and, also, it can be key in their prevention [ 21 ]. On the other hand, the current technological revolution has transformed the way of communication and relationship, and this has meant that, in the case of young people, school is not the only place where they coexist, but a new framework has been introduced in which they primarily interact with other people, cyberspace, which is, fundamentally, a place of communication [ 22 ].

Aggressive behaviours that occur in virtual space seem to have very serious consequences for victims. Specifically, these consequences for young people are the devaluation of their self-esteem, their self-confidence, academic problems, poor interpersonal relationships, and poor psychosocial adjustment. These negative effects can be as severe as those that occur from traditional abuse and harassment [ 23 , 24 ].

A review of the literature on the research topic has established a framework to unite the theoretical basis and terminology of the global study of the socio-economic implications of CB in the educational environment. For this reason, Table 1 shows the main documents examined to focus on the theoretical and conceptual structure of the research topic. This examination has allowed determining the problem, the purpose and the objective of the investigation, as well as obtaining the key terms to apply the methodology specified in the following Section 3 .

Key documents examined to formulate objective the research topic.

2.2. Framework

From the literature review related to the different theories consulted in this research, the framework for the socioeconomic implications of CB in the educational system is established. This selected theoretical model supports the CB argument as a problem of the digital age in the educational environment.

In this context, the Triple Criminal Risk (TCR) model is configured as an integrative theory or meta-theory of crime. In other words, this criminological model assumes, as an axiom, that it is probable that there is not a single criminal genesis process [ 40 ]. Criminal behaviour would become more likely from the reciprocal interaction between various factors, that is, from the sources of risk. Likewise, this model is situated on the criminological side, called Developmental Criminology. This criminological theory has unified all possible pro-criminal influences into the categories: Personal Risks (PR), Gaps in Prosocial Support (GPS) and exposure to Criminal Opportunities (CO) [ 41 , 42 ].

There are also previous researches of CB behavior based on general criminological theories. Three of these theories have a greater theoretical incidence on personal factors: the Theory of Tension, by Robert Agnew; the Social Cognitive Theory with its mechanisms of moral disassociation, by Albert Bandura; and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action; and a fourth that affects aspects of opportunity: the Theory of Daily Activities [ 43 , 44 , 45 ].

The advantage offered by studying the phenomenon of CB taking into account the TCR model, is because it is a more comprehensive theory that integrates internal and external elements of the individual. Furthermore, it attempts to contribute to a more general definition of crime based on three sources of risk: individuals, societies, and contexts [ 46 ].

In this context, research requires defining the main terms conceptually, with the fundamental purpose of contextualizing their intrinsic circumstances. Firstly, bullying is defined as any form of psychological, verbal or physical abuse produced between schoolchildren, repeatedly over a certain period of time. In the same way, it could be said that it is a type of conduct directed to do damage, repeated over time and that occurs in the environment of an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.

On the other hand, when social networks are used as a means of aggression, this phenomenon is called CB. One of the most frequent manifestations of this is the publication of photographs, which can cause annoyance to its protagonists, so that their contacts see the images. Also, very frequent the creation of Web pages or groups destined to attack, circumvent or denounce some intimate aspect of the victim [ 47 , 48 ].

CB has a differentiating element through the use of technology, which is why it is defined as the repeated and intentional damage caused through electronic means, such as mobile or the Internet, and carried out by an individual or a group against which the victim cannot defend herself/himself [ 49 , 50 ].

Moving forward in its conceptual definition, the CB is about an intentional aggression, by a subject or a group, with the intervention of electronic forms of contact; and that the person to whom it is addressed cannot defend itself of it. CB is also considered to consist of cruel and hostile conduct towards another person through the sending or publication of harmful material or involvement in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies. Finally, it is also considered socially inappropriate online behaviour: harassment, humiliation, intimidation, insults or threats in messages, taunts and use of inappropriate language.

Educational policies and didactic and pedagogical trends increasingly advocate the use of technology inside and outside the classroom as a support mechanism for teaching and learning [ 51 ]. Nowadays, schoolchildren, unlike their parents, are digital natives. These new generations have a greater knowledge of technology than their parents, these being, at best, digital immigrants. For this reason, schoolchildren find a haven of privacy online where they can interact with their peers. In this communication, schoolchildren find a refuge that when assaulted leaves them in a devastating state of vulnerability [ 52 ]. Hence, for harassers, the digital environment is a perfect and effective means to attack their victims, since the technologies do not pose any difficulties to them, they avoid face-to-face confrontation, and the scope of the damage they achieve is considerable in proportion to the action they execute. Our lives are digitized and digital, which requires a properly trained citizenry to face the challenges and novelties that have arisen [ 53 ].

Regarding the psychological sequelae that victims are likely to suffer, it has been observed that they usually occur during adolescence and throughout their adult life, with symptoms such as high levels of anxiety, depression-like mood disorders, helplessness, low self-esteem, degradation of their self-concept, or different types of psychosocial maladjustments [ 54 ]. It has also been observed that numerous victims, while they are suffering bullying, present low academic performance, difficulty concentrating and truancy. In the future they will be more vulnerable to stress, negative emotions such as fear and having suicidal thoughts [ 55 , 56 ].

Consequently, CB differs mainly from bullying in: (i) a greater scope, since with a single gesture the harasser can spread a hoax to thousands of people online; (ii) the impossibility of escape, the victim has no way of avoiding the harassment situation; (iii) the anonymity of the harasser; and (iv) the permanence of the harassment, the hoax poured in cyberspace can be difficult to eliminate or perpetuate over time, so that the victims will assume a constant re-experience of the harassment experience. All this, in addition to the fact that the harassment scheme, due to its playful nature, transmits to the harasser a low sense of guilt and a high sense of pleasure. Table 2 lists these two forms of crime, bullying [ 57 ] and CB [ 58 , 59 ], through their typologies.

Types of bullying and cyberbullying.

Among the main differences that are made explicit in CB, they highlight: (i) intentionality, the aggressor must have the intention of harming the victim so that a true phenomenon of harassment occurs; (ii) repetition, CB, like bullying, requires that the aggression be reproduced more than once, (iii) the imbalance of power, which can result both from the victim’s helplessness in the face of aggression and from technological anonymity, since the person cannot do anything against the aggression, cannot delete a photo or video from the Internet that has already been broadcast; (iv) absence of physical and social feedback between the participants, that is, as there is no physical contact between the aggressor and the victim, this means that it is not possible to know the victim’s reaction, but it does promote disruptive, uninhibited behaviour in the victim aggressive and impulsive; and (v) open channel, unlike bullying, in which harassment of the victim occurs in a specific space (school, institute or on the way to/from home), in CB, with the possibilities of new technologies, aggressor can commit his attacks at any time [ 60 , 61 , 62 , 63 , 64 ].

Another term related to the research topic is adolescence, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the period of human growth and development that occurs after childhood and before adulthood, that is, between 10 and 19 years old [ 65 ]. This is one of the most important transitional stages in a person’s life, characterized by an accelerated rate of growth and change, and conditioned by various biological processes [ 66 , 67 ].

Furthermore, the crime of CB occurs in the context of the digital environment, mainly social networks [ 68 , 69 ]. These are Internet sites made up of groups of people with common interests or activities (friendship, kinship, work), with the objective of communicating and exchanging information. They emerged in 1995 with the creation of the website classmates.com by the American, R. Conrads, to bring together former classmates from college or university.

As for the socioeconomic aspects that influence CB, socioeconomics is an alternative economic and social paradigm to neoclassical economics programmatically proposed by the German sociologist Etzioni (founder, in 1988, of the World Society for Socioeconomics) in his work The Moral Dimension of Economy [ 70 , 71 ]. In this line, the socioeconomic level of a person or a group includes a series of economic, sociological, educational and labour variables for which it is classified within a social hierarchy [ 72 , 73 ].

Also, the socioeconomic study allows to know the economic, social, cultural and work environment of a person; although in the study of the socioeconomic factors that have implications in CB, it is key to determine how the socioeconomic level affects education [ 74 , 75 ].

Hence, factors such as: (i) the income level of the family unit stand out, that is, the economic situation of the family can help and hinder the obtaining of education and this be associated with aggressive, undisciplined children, they lack affection and with low self-esteem; (ii) the educational level of the parents, since the lack of education of the parents can suppose a negative attitude towards education, and hinder the child academically; (iii) gender, the availability of education for girls varies by country and culture, so that in some the content of education is limited in certain specific areas; (iv) race, in some countries, for example, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations are limited to access to education; (v) the social environment, that is, factors such as where they live, the circle of friends and family life determine school performance and the educational level they achieve; and, lastly, (vi) the state budget for the education sector may have an impact on the creation of programs to sensitize the educational community to CB [ 76 , 77 , 78 , 79 ].

3. Materials and Methods

3.1. bibliometric method.

Bibliometrics studies the main characteristics and evolution of a scientific discipline through its publications, mainly from its computation and from the analysis of relational indicators. This science uses bibliometric indicators to measure the existing information on the results of scientific activity in any of its documents. This set of indicators allows to quantitatively express the bibliographic characteristics of scientific publications. A bibliometric indicator synthesizes a certain bibliographic characteristic or a combination of these using a numerical value, which denotes interest when it can be compared with observations from other document sets, from other geographic areas, institutions, disciplines, specific areas of knowledge, or databases, and thus study its evolution over time [ 80 , 81 , 82 ].

The objective of this research work is to analyse global research trends in socioeconomic factors that have an impact on CB at the educational level. To achieve this, a quantitative analysis has been performed, using the bibliometric method. This is a documentary method that has reached an important development in the last decades and has allowed to review the scientific knowledge of different publications in many scientific areas [ 83 , 84 , 85 , 86 ].

The methodology applied in this study has been the search for scientific publications related to the object of study in the Scopus database, chosen for its outstanding coverage and reliability in the peer review, as has been used in other analyses applied with success [ 87 , 88 , 89 ].

Bibliometric techniques are the basis for measuring the effort and impact of scientific activity, since, for example, the number of scientific documents published in a country can be quantified, both by an institution and by a researcher or team of researchers. The objective of bibliometrics is, therefore, to study science based on the analysis of scientific publications published in a certain territory or field of knowledge.

3.2. Data Collection

Based on the revised literature of the study topic, mainly in Table 1 , the terms chosen in the search string are “cyberbullying”, “cyber-bullying”, “social”, “economic” and “education”, joined by Boolean connectors.

The process followed in the selection of the sample conforms to the flow chart of Figure 1 , according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines [ 90 ]. Thereby, in phase 1 (identification) 10,320 records were identified from the Scopus database, considering all the fields for each of the search terms (cyberbullying, cyber-bullying, social, economic, education), all types of documents and all the data in the data range (all years—31 March 2020). In the next phase 2 (screening) the option of “article title, abstract and keywords” is chosen in the field of each term, so that 8335 records are excluded. Subsequently, in phase 3 (eligibility), with 1985 records, the data range is chosen from all years to the last full year (2019), and the document type only selects the articles, for quality assurance that they have derived from the peer review process. Hence, this phase excluded 857 records. For these reasons, in the last phase (included), the final sample is collected with 1128 articles. Essentially, the search selected records from the subfields title, abstract and keywords, in the period that contains the publication of the first article on the research topic (2004) until the last full year (2019), that is, a period of 16 years has been analysed, in the same way that it has been applied successfully in various works that have used bibliometric methodology [ 91 , 92 , 93 ]. The representation of this sample of articles is supported by the proven quality of the Scopus database, regarding the indexing protocol, in addition to the systematic procedures of the search criteria.

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PRISMA flowchart of the applied methodology.

3.3. Data Processing

The bibliometric methodology has been developed to analyse the scientific communities associated with this research topic. The relationships between the main authors, affiliations, and countries in global research on CB have been analysed, explained through the co-authorship of each article, and the number of citations received has also been considered. A publication by the rest of the scientific community, which quantifies the impact achieved by this publication. In addition, the relationships between the keywords of all scientific articles on the research topic, based on co-occurrence, have been analysed [ 94 , 95 , 96 ].

In the methodology used, the co-authorship analysis allows observing the articles with citations and cited references, which can show scientific knowledge and trends in each discipline in order to establish research strategies. Accordingly, bibliometric instruments are used in evaluation operations. The authors, institutions and the countries are determined from the citations shared by the other elements, which are relevant to the discipline [ 97 , 98 ]. This allows generators of scientific production (authors, institutions, and countries) to be substitutes for the ideas they represent when grouping [ 99 ].

Likewise, the co-occurrence analysis is used in order to provide a graphic visualization of the connection of the key terms of the analysed documents. The co-occurrence networks provide a graphic map of the relationships between the authors, institutions, countries, or keywords of a sample article on a given research topic. In this sense, the proximity relationship of two or more keywords is established in a text unit. Thus, if the keywords coexist in a sentence, that is, they appear together, there is a probability of semantic relationship [ 100 ].

The co-occurrence criteria group strongly related keywords in the set of articles in the sample. This analysis examines the articles to search for two or more keywords that tend to be together [ 101 ]. It is established that if there are concurrent concepts, a category is generated. In this way, two or more keywords will be co-occurring if they frequently appear together in a sample of articles and if, occasionally, they are separated in the other articles.

In summary, indicators of collaborative structure measure the relationships between authors, institutions, and countries that contribute to a research topic over a period. In this study, these indicators have been analysed with network processing tools and maps, due to their proven reliability and convenience in bibliometric methodology [ 102 , 103 ].

To obtain these co-authorship and co-occurrence maps, the online software tool VOSviewer, (version 1.6.15, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands) was used in this study. The VOSviewer tool (Visualizing scientific landscapes) offers reliability and guarantee in bibliometric methodology, as a tool for mapping and processing article data, since it has been used in other bibliometric studies. This tool allows the analysis of co-citation and co-occurrence, to visualize relationship maps and network links between authors, institutions, countries, and keywords. Subsequently, this software tool allows recognizing research trends based on the use of keywords in research articles [ 104 , 105 ].

Finally, all the results obtained allow the evaluation of research and scientific activity in the CB research area. Likewise, it is necessary to recognize that Bibliometric instruments allow the analysis and description of innovation processes, to identify themes, authors, institutions and countries, in addition to monitoring interactions between them. In this sense, the content, and options for success of innovation in a research area will depend on the intensity of these relationships and links. The results obtained from the application of the bibliometric method to the sample are revealed to be useful for researchers, academics, and decision-making to optimize for the rest of the agents involved in this research topic.

4. Results and Discussion

Section 4 presents and discusses the results of the global evolution of scientific production and activity in the socio-economic implications of CB in the educational context. Likewise, the findings about the distribution of publications by subject area and by journal are presented. These results together with the analysis of the main keywords associated with the most productive authors, institutions and countries worldwide, and with the analysis of the main associated keywords, allow us to determine the current and future trends of this important research topic at the international level.

4.1. Scientific Production

Figure 2 shows the progress of the total articles in the sample that have been identified in the search carried out in the Scopus database. The polynomial trend line of order 2 illustrates the growing relationship between the number of articles published on the socioeconomic aspects of CB in the educational environment throughout the time horizon examined, since the data change direction in this period. Thereby, the curve represents shows its goodness with an R 2 of 0.9778. On the other hand, the linear trend line shows that scientific production on the research topic has increased at a constant rate from the end of 2006 to 2019, that is, over a period of more than twelve years. It is observed that the value of R 2 is 0.9261, which is a good fit of the line to the data set. In this sense, both trend lines show their goodness of fit since their R 2 value is close to 1.

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Evolution of Scientific Production (2004–2019).

Furthermore, this result also allows us to observe that during the last triennium (2017–2019) 51.58% (583) of the total articles have been published, that is, in the last three years more than half of the total documents on this research topic, which indicates the special interest and relevance it arouses in the academic and scientific community at the international level [ 106 ].

Furthermore, this result is confirmed if it is observed that in the last five years (2015–2019) 818 articles have been published, which represent 72.52% of the total; while in the last decade (2010–2019) 96.81% (1092) of total contributions were published. On the other hand, in the first year analysed (2004), only one article was published; while in the last year studied (2019), 252 articles (22.83%) were published.

Table 3 display the ten most cited documents on the research topic of the socioeconomic factors associated with CB globally, during the period 2004–2019. It is observed that the article with the most citations date from 2008 (1316), and it is about the nature and impact of CB on the pupils of the secondary school [ 107 ].

Most cited articles (2004–2019).

The most cited article is Cyberbullying: Its nature and impact in secondary school pupils [ 107 ] by Smith (affiliated with Goldsmiths, University of London, and Unit for School and Family Studies, Goldsmiths College, New Cross, both in London, UK) and Mahdavi et al. (affiliated with Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK). This document has 1322 citations in the Scopus database, ranked first in the Medicine category, followed by Psychology. In relation to the thematic areas in which the ten most cited articles are associated, 50% are classified in the Medicine category, 30% in Arts and Humanities, and 20% in Social Sciences.

Regarding the distribution of articles by language, most of this research topic is written in English (88.86%), since it increases their audience, as it happens mainly in searches made in the Scopus database [ 117 ]. Articles have also been published in other languages, such as Spanish (6.26%) or French (1.11%), while the rest do not exceed 1% of total contributions.

4.2. Subject Areas and Journals

In the time horizon examined, articles related to CB research are grouped into different areas of knowledge. Hence, the sample of 1128 articles is classified into 23 subject areas, according to the Scopus database. In this sense, it should be noted that an article could be classified in more than one subject area, depending on the interest of the author or authors of the article and the editor of the journal.

Figure 3 presents the classification by subject areas of the articles in the global research on CB, during the period 2004–2019. Social Sciences is the category that collects the most articles with 28.51% of the articles published (564) in the total sample. Next, it follows the Psychology (23.71%, 474), Medicine (14.81%, 296), Computer Science (11.26%, 225), Arts and Humanities (7.45%, 149), Engineering (3.75%, 75) and Environmental Science (2.05%, 41). The five most relevant thematic areas group 85.44% of the articles published in the period 2004–2019. The rest of the thematic areas do not reach 2% of published works.

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Main Subject Areas (2004–2019).

Most of the articles on CB are associated with the thematic area of Social Sciences, which is made up of various disciplines such as education, law, economics, history, sociology and communication [ 118 ]. When considering the socioeconomic aspects of the CB, it is relevant the first position that it occupies within the ranking of the 15 thematic areas that carry out the greatest scientific production.

As can be seen in Figure 3 , when considering CB as a social problem, psychology comes second. This discipline that attends to the study of individuals as social beings and their behaviours, recognizes in the CB the presence of psychological consequences in its victims. Some of the alterations observed by various authors coincide in the loss of self-esteem, mood disorders such as depression, high levels of anxiety, among others [ 119 ].

For its part, Medicine as a science that is at the service of the individual, seeks among its objectives to achieve the prevention of diseases and the promotion and preservation of health. In this way, understanding the CB as a problem that worries not only the relatives and surroundings of the victims, but also the health professionals, due to its powerful growth in cases in recent years and for acting as a bridge to other actions, such as rapes, suicides, addictions and another series of physical and psychological abuse [ 120 ].

As seen, CB especially affects adolescents, being a virtual type of bullying. New technologies and sometimes the misuse of them, have led to this type of harassment has seen the percentages of those affected shoot up. Thus, the relevance of the topic at present and the importance of prevention are two of the issues in which the research coincides [ 121 ]. This situation is demonstrated in the growing volume of research and that the Computer Science area appears in a relevant fourth place.

Finally, the results demonstrate a significant association between certain risk factors and the possibilities that the CB phenomenon will spread among young people. Among other social factors, the intensive use of the Internet, membership of social networks, an erroneous perception of privacy on the Internet and from the economic point of view, greater economic solvency, both in the role of victim and that of stalker, were some of CB risk factors [ 122 , 123 ].

In this way, it is confirmed that the socioeconomic aspects intervene and impact the CB due to the social nature of the phenomenon, thus being the most cited articles and, to a certain extent, most relevant to the scientific and academic community, those that collect contributions associated with the Social Sciences [ 124 ].

Figure 4 presents the fifteen most productive scientific journals on this research topic. Taking into account the number of articles published and the percentage they represent of the total sample, this ranking is led by Computers in Human Behavior (65, 5.76%) and International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (34, 3.01%). They follow them, in order, Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking (27, 2.39%), Frontiers in Psychology (17, 1.51%), Children and Youth Services Review (14, 1.24%), Aggressive Behavior (13, 1.15%), Journal of Adolescent Health (13, 1.15%), Journal of Interpersonal Violence (12, 1.06%), Journal of School Violence (12, 1.06%) and Journal of Youth and Adolescence (12, 1.06%). The rest of the journals in this Figure 4 do not reach 1% of the total contributions.

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Main Journals (2004–2019).

Among the most productive journals on this research topic, the second position of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health ( IJERPH ) is remarkable, with 23 articles published in 2019, which represents 67.65% of the total on this topic, and, furthermore, all are classified in the thematic areas of Environmental Science and Medicine [ 125 , 126 ].

4.3. Analysis of Keywords

The top twenty keywords associated with the total sample of 1128 articles on the global research of socioeconomic factors linked to CB in the educational context, according to the Scopus database, are “adolescent”, “Internet”, “child”, “psychology”, “social media”, “major clinical study”, “crime victim”, “computer crime”, “victim”, “adolescent behavior”, “adolescence”, “aggression”, “social networking (online)”, “school”, “education”, “mental health”, “depression”, “victimization”, “peer group” and “sex difference”.

Figure 5 shows the keyword network on this research topic, based on co-occurrence analysis, from the VOSviewer software tool. One of the main utilities of the bibliometric method is the examination of the analysis units of the article text, that is, of the keywords extracted from the title and abstract fields [ 127 ]. Therefore, seven clusters of keywords composed of interrelated units have been detected, on the topic of socioeconomics aspects on CB in an educational context at a global level.

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Keywords network based on co-occurrence analysis (2004–2019).

The pink cluster, the most numerous, groups 26.33% of the keywords in the articles. The main keyword is “psychology”, with 159 co-occurrences. This keyword is associated with “academic achievement”, “addiction”, “aggressiveness”, “alcohol consumption”, “anonymity”, “antisocial behavior”, “anxiety”, “anxiety disorder”, “attention deficit disorder”, “autism”, “avoidance behavior”, “awareness” “behavior addictive”, “body image”, “bully”, “chat room”, “communication”, “comorbidity”, “coping behavior”, “cyber aggression”, “cyber harassment”, “cyber victimization”, “cyberbullying perpetration”, “cyberbullying victimization”, “depression”, “depression disorder”, “disease association”, “distress syndrome”, “drug dependence”, “educational status”, “emotion”, “emotionally”, “family”, “fear”, “feeding behavior”, “health status”, “health survey”, “high risk behavior”, “Hispanic”, “impulsiveness”, “insomnia”, “intelligent quotient”, “internet addiction”, “interpersonal communication”, “life satisfaction”, “loneliness”, “meal”, “mental disease”, “mental disorder”, “mental health”, “mental stress”, “middle school student”, “observational study”, “parental mediation”, “physiology”, “physical activity”, “predictive value”, “prevalence”, “problematic internet use”, “psychological distress”, “psychological theory”, “psychological well-being”, “psychosis”, “suicide attempt”, “technology”, “text messaging”, “utilization”, “wellbeing”, or “young population”.

The green group (17.16%) is headed by “student” (116) and it is associated with “adolescence”, “adolescent health”, “attitude”, “behavior”, “behavior change”, “bystander”, “cell phone”, “clinical article”, “cognition”, “college student”, “cooperation”, “education”, “emotional intelligence”, “empowerment”, “extraversion”, “helping behavior”, “human issue”, “intervention”, “mood”, “moral disengagement”, “morality”, “moral”, “neurosis”, “organization”, “organization and management”, “parents”, “perception”, “physical violence”, “prevention and control”, “primary education”, “primary school”, “program evaluation”, “psychological model”, “quality of life”, “responsibility”, “school health service”, “school teacher”, “secondary education”, “self-concept”, “self-efficacy”, “social behavior”, “social environment”, “social norm”, “teacher”, “teaching”, “university”, “university student”, or “vignette”.

The red group (16.57%) led by “adolescent” (340) and it is associated, among others, with “adaptative behavior”, “adolescent behavior”, “adolescent psychology”, “age”, “age factors”, “aggression”, “anger”, “bullying”, “cellular phone”, “child”, “child behavior”, “child parent relation”, “child psychology”, “coping”, “counselling”, “culture”, “dominance-subordination”, “e-mail”, “focus groups”, “information technology”, “Internet”, “interpersonal relations”, “juvenile”, “middle aged”, “mobile phone”, “offender”, “parent-child relations”, “parenting”, “peer group”, “psychological aspect”, “risk assessment”, “school child”, “sex difference”, “sex distribution”, “social adaptation”, “social dominance”, “social perception”, “social psychology”, “software”, “victimization”, or “ videorecording”.

The yellow group (13.91%) is headed by “victim” (116) and is associated with “adulthood”, “bisexuality”, “childhood”, “cybervictimization”, “decision making”, “empathy”, “family relation”, “gender”, “girl”, “harassment”, “heterosexuality”, “high school”, “homophobia”, “major clinical study”, “middle school”, “minority group”, “physical abuse”, “prevention”, “protection”, “race”, “self-control”, “self-esteem”, “sexual and gender minority”, “sexual behavior”, “sexual harassment”, “sexual orientation”, “sexuality”, “skill”, “smartphone”, “social competence”, “social skills”, “verbal hostility”, “young adult”.

The violet cluster (13.91%) is led by “cyberbullying” (666) and is associated with “children”, “computer crime”, “cyber bullying”, “cyber-bullying”, “cyber-victimization”, “cybercrime”, “emotions”, “Facebook”, “friendship”, “human computer interaction”, “learning”, “machine learning”, “model”, “obesity”, “online communication”, “online harassment”, “parent”, “peer victimization”, “physician”, “privacy”, “psychosocial disorder”, “reliability”, “risk”, “school bullying”, “sexting”, “social media”, “social network”, “social networking (online)”, “traditional bullying”, “twitter”, or “youth”.

The blue cluster (6.80%) is headed by “school” (78) and is linked with “behavior disorder”, “bullying victimization”, “child safety”, “computer”, “cultural factor”, “emotional disorder”, “ethnicity”, “gender identity”, “high school student”, “law”, “legal aspect”, “outcome assessment”, “safety”, or “public health”.

Finally, the orange cluster, the least numerous (5.33%), is led by the keyword “crime victim” (138) and is linked with other terms, such as “automutilation”, “child abuse”, “epidemiology”, “friend”, “health”, “self-injurious behavior”, “socioeconomic factors”, “socioeconomics”, “violence”, or “well-being”.

Consequently, from the clusters formed in Figure 5 , seven different lines of research can be inferred in relation to the socioeconomic aspects that influence CB in the educational context. The first research line is linked to the term psychology and related to the thematic axis of CB. This line focuses on the study of the profile of the aggressor (addiction, aggressiveness, anonymity, antisocial behaviour, or feeding behaviour), of the victim (anxiety, body image, fear, family, education status, emotion, or psychological well-being), of diseases and associated disorders (comorbidity, anxiety, mental disease, mental disorder, mental health, mental stress, disease association, or distress syndrome), or the analysis of this type of aggression (coping behaviour, cyber aggression, cyber harassment, cyber victimization, cyberbullying perpetration, cyberbullying victimization, or drug dependency). This thematic axis in studies the significant impact that CB has on the psychosocial adjustment of adolescents, which increases depressive symptoms and the problematic use of the Internet and social networks [ 128 , 129 ].

The second line associated with the term student, is related to the study, mainly, of the influence of CB on academic self-esteem and school perception (college student, education, organization, organization and management, school health service, school teacher, primary school, or secondary education). Although psychosociological factors associated with this aggression are also linked to this line in analysis (attitude, behaviour, behaviour change, cognition, extraversion, helping behaviour, or psychological model). This line is widely studied since CB was considered as a new form of educational bullying [ 130 ].

This third line of research is associated with the term adolescent, so it fundamentally studies the characteristics of this period, that is, physical growth and psychological development, as well as how and why it is so directly associated with CB (adolescent behaviour, adolescent psychology, juvenile, middle aged, age, age factors, or peer group) [ 131 ]. This thematic axis is also associated with the use of technologies, such as digital natives (e-mail, software, videorecording, information technology, Internet), and close family relationships at this vital stage (child parent relation, parent-child relations or parenting) [ 132 ].

The fourth axis is linked to the term victim and, specifically, is devoted to examining the characteristics that a vulnerable person makes of the aggressor (empathy, self-esteem or childhood), and with sexuality itself (gender, bisexuality, heterosexuality, sexuality, sexual orientation), sexual and gender minority, or sexual behaviour). This line has also been studied in recent years, due to the staggering of sexually aggressive or coercive behaviour facilitated using electronic devices [ 133 ].

The fifth axis is associated with the main term of the study, that is, CB. This term, as the central axis of the research, is the one with the most co-occurrences. This line is linked in a general way with all aspects of the study of this type of aggression, and mainly with its digital environment [CB social media] (computer crime, Facebook, human computer interaction, online communication, online harassment, social media, social network, social networking (online), or twitter).

This sixth line is associated with the term school in the context of CB. This axis is directly associated with the studio of the second line (student). Here, mainly, the aspects of the educational centre are examined as a space where this type of aggression begins [ 134 ] (bullying victimization, child safety, computer, cultural factor, ethnicity, or high school student).

Finally, the sixth line is associated with the term crime victim and studies both from the victim’s point of view (automutilation, child abuse, epidemiology, or self-injurious behaviour) [ 135 ] and, more recently, the social and economic factors that influence in the development of CB (socioeconomic factors, socioeconomics) [ 136 ].

On the other hand, Table 4 displays the twenty main keywords by number of occurrences and the total of link strength. As can be seen, each keyword is associated with one of the clusters in Figure 5 .

Main keywords by occurrences and total link strength (2004–2019).

In this ranking the most represented clusters are, with five keywords each, red (adolescent, Internet, child, adolescent behaviour, aggression) and violet (cyberbullying, cyber bullying, social media, computer crime, social networking (online)). Also, the occurrences attribute indicates the number of documents in which a keyword appears, while the total strength of the link indicates the number of publications in which two keywords appear together. Also, the occurrences attribute indicates the number of documents in which a keyword appears, while the total link strength indicates the number of publications in which two keywords appear together. Consequently, the keyword “cyberbullying” is the one that has more occurrences (666) and greater total link strength (1929). In relation to the highest number of occurrences, it is followed by “bullying” (408), and in terms of the total link strength, it is followed by “adolescent” (1899).

Figure 6 shows the evolution of each group of keywords during the period examined, 2004–2019. This Figure represents the value over time of the keywords associated with the different research topics, depending on when they arose and were linked to the contributions on socioeconomic aspects with implications on CB in the educational environment. The terms that were first linked to this topic (2004–2014), as terms of reference, have had a notable influence on those that have subsequently emerged. Next, a second period (2014–2016), a third period (2016–2018), and a fourth period (2018–2019) can be identified. In this way, it is observed that the research topics related to psychology, student, adolescent, victim, and school have been the most studied during the time horizon, mainly, from 2004 to 2018. In the same way, it happens with the line of the CB that, as a central theme, it continues to evolve during the period analysed. The topic related to crime victim is the most recent and the one that is contributing new terms to the study, so since 2018 researchers are dedicating their efforts to analyse the social and economic aspects that have a direct influence on this type of virtual harassment, and, in this sense, they are in the process of generating new lines of research.

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Evolution of keywords network based on co-occurrence analysis (2004–2019).

In this context, new keywords are emerging or being given a new application, such as “policing”, “blackmail”, “teenage slang”, “expletives”, “truancy”; “trolling”, “tokenization”, “technoself”, “technoference”, “stuttering”, “stalking”, or “speedbump”. Also, this study is associating theories, such as “social theory” or “criminological theory” [ 137 , 138 ].

Another series of keywords are associated with the works that study the social and economic aspects in the CB, among these are “patient counselling”, “social stigma”, “ethnic minority”, “ethnic difference”, “minority groups”, “gender based violence”, “gender nonconforming”, “gender disparity”, “cyber homophobic bullying”, “positive digital citizenship”, “management system information”, “absenteeism”, “school absenteeism”, “deafness”, “hearing impairment”, “sociocultural”, “social skills”, “social phobia”, “economic status”, “developing countries”, “global health”, or “socioeconomically disadvantages”.

4.4. Authors, Affiliations and Countries

Table 5 shows the main characteristics of the 10 most prolific authors in this research topic. The total sample of articles has been written by 2674 authors. The five most productive authors were Vandebosch (Universiteit Antwerpen), Ortega-Ruiz (University of Cordoba), Wright (Masaryk University), Van Cleemput (Universiteit Antwerpen) and Casas (University of Cordoba). Eight authors of this ranking are of European origin, highlighting four Belgians (Vandebosch, Van Cleemput, Pabian and Poels), three Spanish (Ortega-Ruiz, Casas and Garaigordobil) and one Czech (Wright), while two authors are of Asian origin (Heiman and Olenik-Shemesh). It is also necessary to highlight that in this ranking of most productive authors, 60% have contributed to research of this topic in 2019 (Vandebosch, Ortega-Ruiz, Wright, Casas, Garaigordobil and Pabian).

Most productive authors and main keywords (2004–2019).

R: position in the ranking; N: number of articles by country; %: percentage of total articles; 1A: First article in research topic; LA: Last article in research topic.

In addition, Table 5 indicates the most relevant keywords associated with the ten most prolific authors on the socioeconomic factors associated with CB, during 2004–2019 period. The keywords related to the works of the main authors are varied and are mainly linked to four groups. The first group is associated with the period of biological, psychological, sexual, and social development (adolescent, child, adolescence). The second group is related to harassment, inconvenience, or attacks that the person receives (computer crime, cybervictimization, cyberaggression, crime victim, cyber aggression, victim). The third is associated to the virtual space where she/he receive it (Internet). And, the fourth group associate terms related to the study and analysis of people’s behaviour and mental processes (major clinical study, psychology, loneliness, social support).

As noted, the most prominent term is “adolescent” which, as indicated by the WHO, is the period of preparation for adulthood during which certain and important experiences of development of the person take place [ 139 ].

Figure 7 displays the cooperation map between the authors, based on co-authorship analysis, who have published globally on the socioeconomic factors associated with CB. Likewise, the colour of the cluster is related with the group of authors in the publication of articles, while the diameter of the circle indicates the number of articles by the author. Likewise, the authors in this research topic are associated in seven groups.

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Authors network based on co-authorship analysis (2004–2019).

Cluster 1 (rose) groups 22.99%, and presents the collaboration between Barnes, Cardoso, Cross, Green, Lester, Slee, and Water, among others. Cluster 2 (green) brings together 17.24% of authors, and includes the collaboration by, among others, Butler, Campbell, Dunne, Kifts, Spears, Tran, and Whiteford. Cluster 3 (red) groups 14.94% and is composed by authors like Donlin, Moreno, Rivara, Selkie, and Simonetti, among others. Cluster 4 (yellow) links 13.79% and presents the collaboration of, among others, Brittain, Duku, Law, Short and Trinh. Cluster 5 (violet) links 11.49% of the authors and presents the cooperation of, among others, Bobir, Campbell, Tones and Vicig, F. Cluster 6 (blue) links 11.49% and describes the collaboration of, among others, Miles, Young, Richards and Rifon. Finally, cluster 7 (orange) groups 8.05% and includes the collaboration between, among others, Cousans, Coyne, Garland and Sprigg.

In the literature review, one of the main keywords that the authors constantly associate throughout the research and associate it with the CB is the term “adolescent”. Considering the grouping of the clusters, it turns out to be the keyword of the third group and the keyword most studied by the most productive authors ( Table 5 ). Various researches acknowledge that the adolescent is going through a stage with profound physical, emotional and psychological changes, that added to the technological advances and the increase of virtual connectivity it will be for the harassers the perfect and most effective means of attacking their victims. ICT does not pose any difficulties to them, they avoid face-to-face confrontation, the extent of the damage they get is considerable in proportion to the action they execute. Throughout its history, humanity has never had so many ICTs at its disposal as at present, technologies that duplicate at high speed thanks to digitization, making it transmedia, that is, the observation of media content in different devices, multiply the ways in which we can interact people with information [ 140 ].

Regarding the first cluster whose main keyword is “psychology”, it is not observed that the most productive authors have placed it as a keyword, although among all scientific production it continues to appear as the most used keyword.

Cybervictimization is another main keyword that represents the greatest influence on research. It belongs to cluster 4, where “victim” is the keyword that represents it. In this sense, CB appears in cluster 5, as the central theme. Various investigations relate it to “computer crime” which is one of the main keywords, inferring that the authors with the greatest scientific production investigate this question. Likewise, the co-occurrence or proximity of the CB term is what allows us to understand the principle of relationships with the rest of the keywords.

In relation to cluster 7, where the central keyword is “crime victim”, it evidences the incorporation of other terms such as “socioeconomics factors”, “violence”, “socioeconomic”, or “well-being”. In this sense, authors from European Universities in Belgium and Spain, Vandebosch [ 141 ] and Garaigordobil [ 142 ], respectively, are the ones that stand out.

On the other hand, the 1128 articles on socioeconomic implications on CB research have been written in 2155 international affiliations. Table 5 displays the ten most prolific institutions in this research topic. Therefore, the top fine productive were the Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium), University of Cordoba (Spain), Queensland University of Technology (Australia), University of Toronto (Canada) and Masaryk University (Czech Republic). In addition, this ranking highlight that six are of European origin, three of North American origin and two Australian. Among the six European, four are Spanish (University of Cordoba, University of Seville, University of the Basque Country, and International University of La Rioja). It is also noteworthy that all the institutions in this classification have published in the last year examined, 2019, confirming the interest in this topic.

Table 6 also shows the main keywords of the most productive institutions in the investigation of the socioeconomic implications of CB in an educational context, in the period 2004–2019. The keywords used by these ten most productive institutions are grouped into three groups. Consequently, the first group is associated with the period of biological, psychological, sexual, and social development, and with the training and learning stage (adolescent, child, adolescence, youth, student). The second group is related to the harassment or attacks that the person receives (cyber victimization, crime victim, computer crime). While, the third group associates terms related to the study and analysis of people’s behaviour and mental processes (mental health, major clinical study, psychology, depression).

Most productive affiliations and main keywords (2004–2019).

R: position in the ranking; N: number of articles by country; %: percentage of total articles.

Figure 8 shows the network of institutions based on the co-authorship analysis. The VOSviewer software tool associates them into five groups. Cluster 1 (blue) groups 22.58% of the institutions, among which stand out the University of Bologna, University of Wroclaw, University Adam Mickiewicz of Poznań, or Goldsmith, University of London. Cluster 2 (green) joins 22.58%, among others, to Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Boston University, Telefonica Research and Development or University College London. Cluster 3 (pink) associates 22.58%, highlighting the University of Jaen, University of Strathclyde, or University of Greenwich. Cluster 4 (yellow) groups 19.35% of the institutions, among them, Düzce Üniversitesi, University of Luxembourg, or Western Sydney University. Finally, cluster 5 (violet) associates 12.90%, among others, University of Southern California, University of Aveiro, or University of Bremen. It is noteworthy that the departments of various universities, such as the Spanish universities in Seville or Cordoba, are associated with different clusters.

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Affiliations network based on co-authorship analysis (2004–2019).

The Spanish universities (Universities of Cordoba, Basque Country, Seville, and La Rioja) carry out their research according to the line centred on the “adolescent”. This question could be extrapolated to the rest of the European universities, such as Belgium and Czech Republic and the North American ones, which also incorporate this as the main term. The Australian Queensland University of Technology and University of South Australia focus their studies on thematic axis whose centre term is student.

In this research topic, the 1128 articles were written in 73 different countries. Table 7 shows, mainly, the top ten countries in the field of CB. The country with the most articles on CB is the United States (27.66%), followed by Spain (14.10%). Then followed by the United Kingdom (8.69%), Australia (7.09%), Canada (6.03%), and Turkey (3.99%). The rest of the countries did not exceed 3% of the total contributions. It is noteworthy that all the countries in this ranking have published their last article in 2019, that is, the last year of the period analysed, indicating the interest in this topic, in the same way as happens with institutions.

Most productive countries and main keywords (2004–2019).

Furthermore, Table 7 also presents the three main keywords to the most productive countries in this research topic. The most used keyword in the articles is “adolescent”. In this sense, the keywords used by these ten countries are associated in four different groups. Hence, the first group is associated with the period of biological, psychological, sexual, and social development, and with the training and learning stage (adolescent, child, adolescence). The second group is related to harassment or attacks that the person receives (cyber victimization, crime victim). The third group is related to the digital environment (Internet, social media, social networking (online)). Finally, the fourth group of keywords is associated with the study and analysis of people’s behaviour and mental processes (psychology, major clinical study).

Figure 9 displays the collaboration network between the countries in the writing of articles on CB in a context global, based on co-authorship analysis. Once the software tool, VOSviewer, was applied to the article sample, the countries have been associated in seven clusters.

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Countries network based on co-authorship analysis (2004–2019).

Therefore, pink cluster is the group with the most associated countries and incorporates 32.30% of the total. It is led by the United Kingdom and is mainly associated with European countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, or Norway, and others such as Brazil and South Africa. The green cluster (22.03%) is led by the Netherlands and shares articles with Bahrain, Egypt, Finland, Iraq, Ireland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The red cluster (18.64%) is led, in this case, by the United States, and collaborates in the production of documents on the study’s research topic, with Czech Republic, Hong Kong, India, Iran, China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden or Taiwan. The yellow cluster (10.17%) is led by Spain and forms its network, mainly, with Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, or Paraguay. The violet cluster (8.47%) is headed by Australia, and incorporates into its network to Fiji, New Zealand, or Vietnam. The blue cluster (5.08%) is led by Canada and cooperates with France or United Arab Emirates. Finally, the orange cluster 6 (3.39%) is led by Turkey and cooperates with Ukraine.

In the development of CB research during the period analysed, 2004–2019, collaboration based on scientific activity between countries is not associated with cultural, economic, political, or legal aspects. There is unanimity in the use of the term “adolescent” by European countries (the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain). For their part, the United States, Australia, and Canada focus their interest mainly on the same concept. The Asian countries of Turkey and Malaysia incorporate “internet” and “social media” as main thematic axes.

In this way, as theoretical-practical implications of this research, it can be indicated that the analysis of scientific production and of the actors that stimulate CB research in an educational context, during the period 2004–2019, supposes a greater and better identification of the lines of research, in addition to their evolution and transformation. Innovation in this research field has been identified based on the composition of the clusters of authors, institutions, countries and keywords, and the intensity of the relationships that develop in them [ 143 ]. Thereby, the results obtained are a complement to the knowledge on CB in the educational context and allow the relationship between science and technique to be established, and to inform the decision-making process.

5. Conclusions

This work has analysed the main trends in global research on the socioeconomic factors associated with CB, in the period that begins with the publication of the first article on this research topic (2004) until the last full year (2019). For this end, the bibliometric method has been applied to a sample composed of 1128 scientific articles selected from the Elsevier Scopus database. This analysis has made it possible to obtain the evolution of scientific production, and to identify the main thematic areas, journals, authors, institutions, and countries that contribute to global research on socioeconomic aspects with implications for CB.

The volume of scientific articles has increased remarkably during these 16 years, particularly in the last five years, where 818 documents have been published, which represents 72.52% of the total contributions on the subject of social and economic aspects that affect the CB.

This study has also identified the most influential areas of knowledge: Social Sciences, Psychology, Medicine and Computer Science, which confirms the relevance of this research topic and the interest for a wide sector of the international scientific community.

Likewise, seven lines or thematic axes of research have been examined, associated, on the one hand, with the central axis of the research, that is, with CB, and, on the other, with psychology, the student, the school, the adolescent, to the victim of this type of virtual aggression, and to the term crime victim. It is a dynamic research topic that has evolved in its thematic axes during these 16 years. Since 2019, the interest in the investigation of the socioeconomic aspects that intervene and impact in the CB is confirmed due to the social nature of the phenomenon, such as race, gender, income level of the adolescent’s family, or the social environment.

Consequently, this study demonstrates the interest it arouses in scientific activity at the international level from different thematic areas, to analyse all its circumstances, highlighting, ultimately, the social and economic factors that affect this type of harassment.

This research has some limitations, which may be the basis for future research. They highlight the bibliometric methodology, which is a method that does not consider the qualitative aspects of the data. Another limitation is determining the relevance of the authors, institutions, and countries, since in the scientific field there is a paradox that some publish few articles, but they are very relevant in a certain subject area. Therefore, to overcome these limitations, in research work, bibliometric analysis must be completed with other qualitative and quantitative methodologies. On the other hand, the study could be expanded with publications collected in other databases.

Future research lines include those that will make efforts to (i) analyse the psychosocial impacts of cybervictimization and the barriers to seeking social support; (ii) carry out socio-economic analyses of the decision-making process that underlies the spectators who help victims of CB, or (iii) study the risk factors of CB and its association with perceived health in certain contexts and regions.

In conclusion, the growing interest in research on CB in the last 16 years and, recently, in the study of social and economic factors that have an impact on this type of behaviour has been observed. The relevance of this topic has been demonstrated by authors, institutions, and countries, so that the global increase in the number of contributions and the breadth of thematic axes supports the interest of the international scientific and academic community.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, methodology, software, formal analysis, resources, data curation and writing—original draft preparation, E.A.-S. and M.-D.G.-Z.; investigation, validation, writing—review and editing, visualization, supervision, project administration, E.A.-S., M.-D.G.-Z., E.L.-M. and E.V.-C.; funding acquisition, E.L.-M. and E.V.-C. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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