School & District Management

Cyberbullying On the Rise in U.S. Schools, Federal Report Finds

By Alyson Klein — July 25, 2019 2 min read
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About a third of middle and high schools said they deal with cyberbullying at least once a week to daily, according to the latest comprehensive school safety statistics, released this week by the Institute of Education Science’s National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s an uptick when comparing the 2017-18 and 2015-16 school years.

The report found that 33.1 percent of middle schools and 30.2 of high schools reported disciplinary problems stemming from cyberbullying at least once a week, or as often as every day. That’s compared with just 4.5 percent of primary schools.

That appears to be a slight increase from the last time the data was collected, in the 2015-16 school year. That year, 25.9 percent of high schools, 25.6 percent of middle schools, and 4.2 percent of elementary schools reported dealing with problems stemming from cyberbullying at least once a week.

The NCES study doesn’t go into detail about just where the cyberbullying is happening most frequently. But one recent study suggests that these days, it is more likely to come from Instagram than Facebook.

The cyberbullying numbers came as a bit of a surprise to Jethro Jones, who just recently left his job as principal of Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks, Alaska, to become a principal administrator in the district’s central office.

His reaction? “They surprise me in that they are not higher,” he said. Jones said he deals with at least one incident a week stemming from students’ online interactions, and it’s typically much more frequent than that. “It’s really easy to get your feelings hurt and one negative comment can overshadow a ton of positive feedback,” Jones said.

He’s also not surprised that the numbers were a bit higher for middle schoolers than for high schoolers.

“Kids in middle school especially aren’t mentally developed enough to make good choices online so they consistently make bad choices online,” he said. “They are so drama-filled and reactionary, they don’t know how to stop and think before they post something ... There’s a lot of changes going on in middle school. By the time they get to high school, they are more sure of the kind of person they want to be and the kind of people they want to hang out with.”

So what can be done about cyberbullying? Jones tries to teach his students to use the THINK strategy before they post something online. They should ask: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

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Image: Getty

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.