Cyberbullying has become an unfortunate reality of the digital age, with around a quarter of adolescents reporting cases of bullying or harassment through social media. A recent study published in Cogent Social Sciences has found that although young men are more likely to face bullying in the real world, young women are a favorite target among spineless cyberbullies.

"In certain steps of the transition in a divided city, cyberspace seems to constitute a new place for increasing verbal offence," said Francesca Savoldi, coauthor from the University of Lisbon, in a statement. "This may be because the internet allows bullies to remain anonymous and avoid immediate physical confrontation."

Savoldi and her colleagues surveyed young people living in Belfast, Northern Ireland after they experienced years of conflict with bullying both off and online. Findings revealed bullying often took the form of harassment, threats of violence, sectarianism, and vulgar messages, with much online bullying acting as a continuation of offline behaviors.

While young men were more likely to be the target of in-person bullying, young women reported higher levels of cyberbullying. In addition, moderate Internet users had a higher risk for cyberbullying compared to heavy Internet users. Research has shown bullying behaviors change as students make the leap from elementary school to middle school, with in-person bullies being more prevalent in elementary school and cyberbullies being more prevalent in middle school.

A separate report from the American Psychological Association also looked to compare the effects of cyberbullying as oppose to in-person bullying. Researchers found that although victims of cyberbullying reported less emotional harm than those bullied in person, teens and adolescents who were subjected to both real-world bullying and cyberbullying reported feeling angrier and more upset than any other group.

We should all know by now that victim-shaming never works and can actually be counterintuitive. It seems someone should relay that fact to Twitter and Facebook users. A study out of UCLA recently showed that cyberbullying victims who overshare have a harder time gaining support from other social media users, even if those users have witnessed the alleged harassment. According to lead researchers, there are unwritten social media laws just like in real life. Apparently, one of those unwritten rules states that oversharing is never permitted.

Source: Alvarez C, de Abreu P, Savoldi F. Bullying, cyberbullying and Internet usage among young people in post-conflict Belfast. Cogent Social Sciences. 2016.