Adult cyberbullies and victims more likely to be young or male, new research reveals

Young adults and males are more likely to experience cyberbullying, and to carry out cyberbullying themselves, than females and older people, new research has shown.

Upset young woman with a mobile phone
Camera icon
Women are less likely to experience cyberbullying

The study by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) questioned people aged 18-74 to assess their experiences of, and engagement in, cyberbullying, including receiving violent or unpleasant images, or nasty, threatening or insulting communication, via media such as email, text messaging and social networks.

Analysis revealed two distinct groups – those who were rarely victim and bully (85%) and those who considered themselves a frequent victim and occasional bully (15%). Young adults and males were more likely to fall into the second group.

Across both groups, the adults reported engaging in and experiencing higher levels of insulting and nasty communication than any of the other cyberbullying types.

Dr Lucy Betts, lead researcher and Associate Professor in Psychology at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said: “We found that age and gender played a part in which group the participants belonged to but, interestingly, the amount of time spent online did not have an impact on involvement in cyberbullying. This suggests that it may be the activities individuals engage in rather than time spent online per se which is a risk factor for cyberbullying.”

The research follows on from a 2016 study by the same team, which found that two-thirds of young people have been a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying in the last year.

According to Dr Betts, the findings of the latest report could have implications for cyberbullying interventions. She added: “Currently, most interventions target adolescents, however, given the prevalence of involvement in cyberbullying in our research, similar action that focuses on insulting and nasty communication may be needed for adults. As time spent online was not a predictor of involvement in cyberbullying, this could be useful for all adult technology users, irrespective of their engagement with technology.”

More than 260 participants from 31 countries were involved in the study.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Media Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards, and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    NTU has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities. With 30,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings. 96% of its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    Our student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Satisfaction Survey.
    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of over 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

Adult cyberbullies and victims more likely to be young or male, new research reveals

Published on 11 January 2019
  • Subject area: Psychology, sociology, health and social care
  • Category: Press office; School of Social Sciences

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418