Cyberbullying Doesn't End with High School Graduation

Posted by Josh Young on 16 February 2017 |

cyberbullying doesnt end with high school graduationWhile much effort has been put into combating cyberbullying among elementary and secondary students, not enough focus has been placed on the dangers these activities pose to those in higher education.

Cyberbullying in Higher Education Statistics

A 2014 survey found that while incidents of cyberbullying do decrease in college, the problem doesn't go away completely. For example, one study discovered that 19 percent of respondents had experienced online bullying while enrolled in university. And 28 percent reported having a friend who had been bullied.

According to the respondents, the bullying originated from a number of sources, including:

  • Fellow students (44 percent of incidents)
  • Friends (42 percent of incidents)
  • Boyfriends or girlfriends (22.6 percent of incidents)
  • Unknown harassers (22.6 percent)
  • Coworkers (5.3 percent)

In an unrelated article, one student recounted how she was harassed for nearly two years by someone that she had never met. And there are countless more stories out there.

The nature of the bullying was equally varied; however, 30 percent was based on student's sexuality, 10 percent on their race/ethnicity, and 8 percent on their gender.

The political tensions of the past year are also playing a role. One student at Bryn Mawr College posted a request on the school's ride sharing site, looking to carpool to a nearby campaign event for Donald Trump. The student dropped out two days later after receiving a steady stream of harassing comments.

Negative Consequences of Cyberbullying

One of the most tragic outcomes of cyberbullying at any age is suicide. And while a comprehensive study has yet to be done regarding the correlation of online harassment and self-harm among college students, it remains a serious concern.

But there are a number of negative outcomes beyond suicide.

Research published by the University of Washington explored some of the consequences of cyberbullying among female college students. The multi-site study found that 27 percent of respondents had experienced cyberbullying of some kind during their college career. And of this same pool of students, 17.4 percent met the criteria for depression while 37.5 percent engaged in alcohol abuse.

Women that had been the victims of this harassment were three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than their non-bullied peers, and if the bullying included unwanted sexual advances, the odds of depression doubled.

Cyberbullies don't escape unscathed either. Female students that admitted to engaging in bullying behavior online had a four times higher risk for depression. They were also significantly more likely to develop a drinking problem.

What Can Your Campus Do?

In the study mentioned earlier, 77 percent of students favored education on cyberbullying, indicating a clear need for this type of training at today's universities. An effective anti-bullying program will:

  • Outline the long-term damage caused by cyberbullying
  • Explore the difference between bullying and teasing
  • Offer real-world strategies on how to deal with bullies
  • Help students be proactive and prevent cyberbullying before it occurs

Considering that ethnicity, sexuality, and gender were motivating factors in nearly half of reported cyberbullying incidents, providing your students with diversity and inclusion training would also be wise.

Your campus should also develop resources -- such as a hotline or dedicated social media page -- to help students that are currently being bullied. Connect identified victims with counseling services whether on- or off-campus, and communicate the availability of these resources regularly to all students.


Considering that most students now rely on social media and texting as their primary means of communication, cyberbullying can pose a clear threat to their mental well-being. By equipping your students with the tools necessary to handle cyberbullies and by enacting policies to discourage bullying behavior, you can better mitigate the harm these activities can have among your students.

To learn more about how we can help create a culture of civility and respect on your campus, schedule a demo of our bullying prevention courses.

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