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Bullying and cyberbullying facts

Most children and young people know about bullying or cyberbullying either from their own experience or because they know of other young people who have been bullied. Having a disability, or experiencing a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, can contribute to a young person's vulnerability to bullying.

You can read some facts about:

Bullying facts

Over 20,000 Australian students aged 8-14 had their say about bullying in separate surveys, with the results published in the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). It showed:

  • more than a quarter—27%—of Year 4 to Year 9 students were bullied every few weeks or more during a term of school
  • frequent bullying was most commonly reported by Year 5 and Year 8 students
  • hurtful teasing was the most common type of bullying, followed by having hurtful lies told by another person
  • girls were more likely to bully in covert ways, with students beginning this behaviour as early as Year 3.

Research shows many of the same young people who bully others offline, such as at school, are also the same young people who bully others in cyberspace.

Cyberbullying facts

How popular is social media?

Research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) shows young people use the web—and social media—a lot. For example:

  • young people aged 14-17 had the highest rate of internet use at June 2010, with 91% going online weekly*
  • chatting to friends is the main reason 89% of 16-17 year olds use the internet. Social media is also more popular among teenage girls**
  • more than 2 in 3 14-17 year olds consider the internet to be either ‘very' or ‘extremely' important to them**
  • by 16-17 years of age, more than 75% of teenagers consider a mobile phone to be ‘very' or ‘extremely' important to them.**

How common is cyberbullying, and who does it affect?

Australian researchers presented a conference paper, ‘The prevalence of cyberbullying in Australia', as part of an international conference on violence in schools earlier this year. More than 3000 students from Year 6 to Year 12 across 3 Australian states shared their thoughts about bullying and cyberbullying in a questionnaire used for the study. The research showed:

  • more students reported being victims of face-to-face bullying than cyberbullying in the last year (30.5% compared to 14%). More than 7% of students reported experiencing both forms of bullying
  • age and gender differences, with more females (64%) reporting being cyber victims; and 14-year-olds most frequently reporting experiencing both forms of bullying
  • the majority (83%) of victims and those who bullied them knew each other in real life. Most victims and those who bullied also went to the same school, were the same gender and described themselves as a friend—not an acquaintance
  • 25% of young people who cyberbullied targeted people they didn't know
  • MSN, social networking, texting, email and chat were the mediums most commonly used by young people who cyberbullied.***

How do young people feel about cyberbullying?

Of young Australians aged 12 to 17:

  • just over 1 in 2—54%—strongly or somewhat agree they ‘worry about someone hacking into their page' on a social networking website
  • 40% either strongly or somewhat agree they ‘worry about getting upsetting personal emails, comments or chat messages'
  • 35% worry about what others know about them from their social networking service page.**

What can parents do?

Cyberbullying is one of many cyber risks for children and young people. Research from the publication Cybersmart parents: connecting parents to cybersafety resources, shows 71% of parents are concerned about cyber safety issues—including privacy risks, safety risks, cyberbullying, and where to go to complain about harmful content.

Cybersmart has gathered together a range of resources for parents, including cybersafety information, games and activities for:


*ACMA report Australia in the digital economy: the shift to the online environment. Available on the Australian Government's Cybersmart website.

** ACMA report Click and connect: Young Australians' use of online social media. Available on the Australian Government's Cybersmart website.

***Campbell, M.A., Spears, B., Slee, P., Kift, S., & Butler, D. (2011, April). ‘The prevalence of cyberbullying in Australia'. 5th World conference and IV Iberoamerican congress on violence in school. Investigations, interventions, evaluations and public policies Mendoza, Argentina.

Young people and technology

A smartphone against a black background.
The report, Young people and technology, prepared for The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, includes information about cyber safety issues more broadly. Some of the topics include:

  • cyber risks within the school community
  • cyber safety legal issues, including discrimination
  • similarities and differences between bullying and cyberbullying.

It also discusses positive and negative uses of different technologies, including:

  • mobile phones
  • the internet—including instant messaging, chat rooms, websites, blogs, online forums, social networking sites, video sharing sites and virtual reality sites.

Read more research reports at the National Centre Against Bullying.

Buddy Day

Get your school involved in Buddy Day: 1 June

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
11 March 2013

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