Committee for Children Blog

5 Ways to Protect Tweens and Teens from Cyberbullying

Research-based insights and tips to protect middle school and high school kids from cyberbullying

Cyberbullying continues to be one of the biggest challenges youth face online, and millions of youth are affected by it.

This holds true especially on social networking sites. Estimates show that 70 percent of teens use social media several times a day.1 A recent survey by Ditch the Label shows that more than a third of youth reporting bullying connect those incidents back to social media. It also found that more youth report being bullied on Instagram (42 percent) than on any other platform, although Facebook (37 percent) and Snapchat (31 percent) rates are still high.2 And 44 percent of teens report digitally disconnecting from people largely due to bullying, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.3

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, insult, or intimidate another young person—or a combination of these actions. Like in-person bullying, it is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, and it is often repetitive.4,5

Cyberbullying on the Rise

Online bullying is a problem that affects thousands of youth every year. In a recent National Crime Victimization Survey, 20 percent of youth ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied. And the bullying happened online for 15 percent of those who were bullied. Youth indicate that online bullying is increasing, and that online bullying incidents are higher than in either the bathroom/locker room (12 percent) or the bus (8 percent). Would you guess that girls are three times more likely than boys to report being bullied online?6

5 Ways Parents and Teachers Can Protect Adolescents

Here are research-based tips to prevent bullying digitally (and in real life).

1. Boost Knowledge and Conversations About Online Safety

Help youth understand how they can take action to be safer online. Don’t be shy about monitoring them. At ParenTeen Connect you can get expert advice and hear from other tweens, teens, and parents about what screen time monitoring could look like. Try these tips for protecting kids from cyberbullying by establishing clear device use limits and communications.

2. Cultivate Belonging at Home and at School

Having a strong sense of belonging can deter students from cyberbullying. Home and school efforts that focus on positive interactions and relationships could buffer bullying, resulting in decreases in bullying behavior.7 The stronger a connection the student has with family, the less likely they are to carry out acts of bullying. The greater their sense of belonging to family and peers, the more likely they are to feel a connection to school, and with school connectedness, the likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviors decreases.8

3. Teach Social Skills

Social and communication skills are predictors of bullying involvement. Youth with strong social and communication skills are less likely to be involved in bullying.9 You can help prevent bullying by teaching and modeling skills for listening, perspective taking, appreciating diversity, and building relationships.

4. Teach and Encourage Positive Bystander Behaviors

Bystanders have the potential to make a positive difference for those being bullied, yet they are less likely to intervene and support those being bullied in online bullying situations.10 Let youth know how important a role they have in helping stop the bullying. Talk with them about how to be positive bystanders by teaching them the importance of recognizing, reporting, and responding to online bullying situations. Something as simple as messaging a person to stop the bullying can make a significant difference for someone.

5. Understand Blur Between Digital & Physical Bullying

“Cyberbullying and the kinds of bullying that happen in person often go hand in hand,” says Committee for Children Research Scientist Jasmine D. Williams, PhD. “Bullying that happens in school can carry over to digital spaces like Instagram, and vice versa. Teens don’t see a divide between physical and digital worlds, as adults do.” This is important for middle school and high school educators and parents to understand in our increasingly multidevice, always-connected culture.

“Cyberbullying can feel more pervasive because it doesn’t end when a child leaves school. It stays at their fingertips, in their phones and other devices.”

More About Bullying Prevention Resources

Research References

1. Rideout, V. & Robb, M. B. (2018). Social media, social life: Teens reveal their experiences. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

2. Ditch the Label (2017). The annual bullying survey 2017. Brighton, England: Ditch the Label. Retrieved from

3. Pew Research Center. (May 2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Retrieved from

4. Nemours Children’s Health System. (n.d.). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from

5. (n.d.). What is bullying. Retrieved from

6. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics Reports (2019). Student reports of bullying: Reports from the 2017 school crime supplement to the national crime victimization survey. Retrieved from

7. Slaten, C. D., Rose, C. A., & Ferguson, J. K. (2019). Understanding the relationship between youths belonging and bullying behavior: An SEM Model. Educational & Child Psychology, 36(2), 50-63.

8. Yeager, D. S. (2017). Social and emotional learning programs for adolescents. The Future of Children, 27(1), 73-94.

9. Cook, C. R., Williams, K. R., Guerra, N. G., Kim, Tia. E., & Sadek, S. (2010). Predictors of bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic investigation, School Psychology Quarterly 25(2), 65–83. Retrieved from

10. Brody, N. & Vangelisti, A. L. (2015). Bystander intervention in cyberbullying. Communication Monographs 83 (1), 94–119. Retrieved from