X Close Search

New Research Reveals Roughly Four In Ten Americans Have Been Harassed Online

For help with cyberbullying, online abuse or harassment please follow the links to our support services throughout this article.

A new national survey carried out in the U.S. has revealed that approximately four out of ten American adults have personally experienced abuse or harassment online and that 66% had witnessed others being abused.

The research, carried out by the PEW Research Centre also found that out of the 4248 adults surveyed, 18% had been subjected to extreme forms of abuse that include physical threats, hate campaigns, sexual harassment and stalking. Participants were also asked what they would like to see done to address the problem, with 79% feeling that platform owners had a responsibility to step in and keep users safe, while 35% believe that better policies and user tools are a more effective way of addressing online harassment.

Interestingly, opinion was split on the issue of how to balance protecting freedom of expression while preventing behavior that crosses into abuse and harassment, with 45% of Americans saying that people should be allowed to express themselves freely, while 53% said it is more important for people to feel welcome and safe online.

“Finding the balance between free speech and the abuse of that freedom is a challenge for every online community. We believe that people should be free to express themselves without fear of being abused and we will continue to support users and work with platforms to achieve this.”

Dan Raisbeck, Co-Founder, The Cybersmile Foundation

Bystander behavior was also addressed in the survey, with 60% of Americans saying that they thought bystanders witnessing online abuse should be playing a major role in addressing the issue. Bystander or peer-to-peer support is a popular concept but is hard to get right. Not everyone wants someone jumping in to rescue them as this can often make things worse, but being abused online with no support can be equally distressing.

If you are affected by online abuse we can help! Visit our Cyberbullying and Online Abuse Help Center for information and advice, or use our Total Access Support section to find out the various ways that we can help you with your particular online problem. For further information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the recommendations below.

What are your thoughts on the findings? Tweet us @CybersmileHQ.