Cyberbullying in K-12 Schools


They say it takes a village — raising kids in the age of technology has brought complex issues such as when to start giving students access to technology. With the increase of access comes more opportunities for dangerous trends like cyberbullying to wreak havoc on a young person’s life, sometimes even to the point of major crisis.

12% of America’s adolescents have experienced at least one major depressive episode.

Sadly, 12% of America’s adolescents have experienced at least one major depressive episode over the course of a year. Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Coupling these sobering statistics with trends surrounding cyberbullying paint a picture of being young in today’s age: Nearly half of young people in the US report being cyberbullied. 95% of teens who witness bullying on social media ignore it, letting it go unreported.

Lightspeed Systems®, the leader in K-12 web filtering and device management, set out
to survey IT professionals as well as parents around the country to learn more about cyberbullying today in schools. We asked critical questions: how often do you see cyber- bullying happen at school? Which grade levels experience it most? Do you think it will increase or decrease in the future? Who should be held responsible for stopping online bullying?

Voices From K-12 IT Professionals and Parents

Grade Levels Suffering Most from Cyberbullying

Using Technology for Good

67.9% of IT professionals in K-12 are tracking user activity, as it pertains to cyberbully- ing, as much as they’d like.

47% are always monitoring user activity to curb cyberbullying.

Who is responsible to end the cycle?

40.5% of Parents said parents should be held responsible to stop cyberbullying in K-12. 47% of IT professionals places the responsibility on the parents.
27.5% of parents are not worried about what their child views online.

How Often Does Cyberbullying Happen in Your School?

True or False:

Cyberbullying incidents have increased at my school, thanks to more access to technology.

True or False:

Cyberbullying happens frequently at my school.

When incidents arise, we are able to work with the administration by reporting on student behavior patterns and setting up policies to prevent recurrences.

Linda McGinnis, Comanche ISD

How often is cyberbullying happening on school-owned devices?


We started by asking a community of K-12 IT professionals its insights into cyberbullying at the schools in which these professionals work. With an increase of student access
to technology, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, 67.6% of IT employees say incidents of cyberbullying at their schools have been on the rise, thanks to an increase

of technology in the hands of students. It’s a delicate balancing act of providing students with the tools they need to learn in a digital age, as sadly, it’s apparent that this new- found access has opened doors to a rise of cyberbullying.

When asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Cyberbullying happens frequently at my school” more than one-quarter agreed. A vast majority (73.5%) disagreed with that statement as it pertained to their experiences, and we hope to see that trend continue. Notably, there was a slight increase in agreement with the statement that cyberbullying happens more frequently in public schools than in private schools

We wanted to know how much of the observed cyberbullying behaviors our IT community witnesses occurs on devices provided to students by the school. On a scale of “never, sometimes, frequently, and constantly” nearly 80% of respondents said “sometimes.”

Of the 26.5% of IT teams who said cyberbullying happens frequently at their schools, we dove into how the size of their school played into cyberbullying. Schools with 1,001 to 5,000 students ranked highest in incidences of cyberbullying.

SSL decrypting abilities in Lightspeed Filter™ have opened the door to creating better collaboration between staff and students in our district. We are now able to broaden what resources we can provide and remain CIPA-compliant with no issues.”

Erik Malmberg, Southern Lehigh SD

Who Gets Bullied? Who is the Bully?

Growing up is hard today — as students move up grade levels, they continue to encounter new challenges along the way. On a personal level, anyone who has been through a school system can think back on the events, classmates, and teachers who made life at that time great — and sometimes difficult.

We asked IT teams to report on which grade levels were responsible for cyber- bullying others. Vice versa, we also wanted to know which grade level was most frequently targeted by cyberbullies. Survey responses indicate that seventh graders are the most frequent victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying. For victims of cyberbullying, 6th and 9th grades tied for second place, followed by 8th grade. For those responsible for bullying, 8th and 6th grades came in second and third places, respectively.

What Happens When IT Sees Cyberbullying?

How often over the course of a year do you escalate cyberbullying instances to parents, administrators or teachers?

[Lightspeed Alert™] is extremely powerful. I am already impressed with the notifications and alerts the schools and administration have the power to receive and review.

Lynne Phillips, Fall Mountain Regional SD

How often does administration step in when they observe bullying: both non-digital and digital?

How K-12 IT Professionals Track Cyberbullying

Are you tracking user activity, as it pertains to cyberbullying, as much as you’d like to?


For some of our youngest students, it’s been so helpful to use After-School Rules in Lightspeed Filter to customize a plan for individual students.”

Lisa Barry Jenkins, Whitfield School

Is your team tracking user activity to curb cyberbullying?


Tracking user activity on devices at school is key to understanding how students are leveraging the provided technology to advance their learning. We asked our community of IT pros if they are tracking user activity, as it pertains to cyberbullying, as much as they’d like to. The vast majority (67.9%) said they are tracking as much as they’d like. Bud- get and resources are always a challenge, and interestingly enough, 68.1% of IT teams made up of five or fewer employees said they are happy with their tracking abilities.

We wanted to know if they are using powerful reporting data to track activity in an attempt to curb cyberbullying. 47% of IT pros said they are always monitoring for this activity while 32.4% are tracking but may not have cyberbullying prevention on the fore- front of their objectives. 5.9% of respondents are not tracking activity.

Again, more data is needed to draw solid conclusions. When monitoring for flagged terms and suspicious activity, having those alerts be visible at the moments they occur
is essential. That’s why Lightspeed Alerts integrates real-time alerts to help IT teams receive notifications for possible dangerous or suspicious searches or other online activity to review at a moment’s notice.

Trends in Cyberbullying: What do the professionals think?

Do you think instances of cyberbullying will increase in the 2017-2018 school year?


Given that IT professionals in K-12 have access to incredible amounts of data about how students use school-owned devices, we wanted to know what they think about where cyberbullying trends are headed

When asked if they thought instances of cyberbullying will increase this school year, the respondents were candid. Sadly, nearly one-third think it will probably increase with nearly 6% saying it will definitely increase. 17.6% said it would not increase.

Thinking back over the last 5 years, 55.9% said bullying, in general, is happening more at their schools, a near 50/50 split from those who said it was not happening more often. Cyberbullying remains a problem and concern for K-12.

We asked parents to compare the negative impact of cyberbullying five years ago to its impact today. When asked if cyberbullying is a bigger problem today for kids than it was five years ago, 95% of parents said it was.

Would you rather limit a child’s access to technology than give them a chance to be a victim of cyberbullying? It’s a tough choice for many parents and every situation is differ- ent. When parents were asked if they would rather limit access to technology than open their children to cyberbullying, 74% said they would.

95% of parents said social media perpetuates cyberbullying, yet interestingly, 51.8% of parents with children who fall into an age group that would currently attend a K-12 school (6-18 years old) allow their children to use social media.


12% of 12-17 year olds have admitted to cyberbullying others in their lifetimes. For many young people, social media can be a gateway to unwanted attention and damaging comments made by peers.

Cyberbullying is a consequence of increased access to technology for young people that schools, parents and students themselves must take seriously to help curb instances of cyberbullying now and in future years to come.

For now, it’s clear that IT teams must remain diligent, and continue to monitor and track student activity to help students and avoid potential crisis situations.

While there are many individuals that can help children who are victims of cyberbullying, the combined efforts of parents and school employees are key.

It’s the duty of an IT team to be tracking user activity holistically, no matter where students are using school devices. Lightspeed Systems leverages two decades of web filtering experience and powers robust solutions to keep students safe and on-track with their online learning.

Ready to make the switch to cloud filtering and cover all of your devices, no matter what OS they are or where they are? Lightspeed Filter is set up in 15 minutes and gives IT complete control over a 1:1 deployment. Get real-time content analysis and flagged activity reports right at your fingertips while keeping your deployment ROI high with lost or stolen device geolocation. SSL decryption is seamless, requiring 0 PAC Files, trust certs, or proxies. Get up and running fast and keep your students protected.


For our IT responses, we sent the survey to our community of Lightspeed Systems customers and non-customer K-12 IT professionals to answer. A total of 34 IT professionals working in K-12 responded. Then, 200 parents were also surveyed in a separate, additional survey. Responses were collected throughout the month of September 2017.

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