Teen Sweethearts and BFFs Are Terrorizing Each Other Online, Study Reveals

Keep your enemies close, I guess.

by Diana Tourjée
Aug 22 2016, 8:08pm

Photo by Sean Locke via Stocksy

In recent years, stories about cyberbullying have been everywhere as peer aggression amongst adolescents has spread onto the internet. But while the face of teen Twitter bullies is usually assumed to be the class jerks, today researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Davis, released a study that found teens are most likely to be cyberbullied by their friends and people they're in romantic relationships with.

According to the study, "Toxic Ties: Networks of Friendship, Dating, and Cyber Victimization," the closer you are, the more likely you'll attack each other. Friends of friends were found to be less likely to cyberbully one another, while friendship makes "the odds of victimization over six times more likely." Scenes from Heathers reel through the mind.

Read more: Teen Girls Are Roasting Boys in New Cyberbullying Trend

Romantic relationships elicit cyberbullying as well; according to the research, "A dating tie increases the chances of a cyber aggression link by a factor of approximately 7." Robert Faris is a professor of sociology at UCD, and the co-author of this study with head researcher Diane Felmlee. In an interview with Broadly, Faris explained that "much of the harassment and cruelty involved in failed dating relationships centered around saving face. Kids tend to date schoolmates, and thus the aftermath of a breakup can create social fault lines. Sometimes they lash out in efforts to stay on the right side of those lines.

"The motivations of domination and control, which underly a lot of dating violence generally, also likely play a role [in these findings]," Faris continued.

According to their study, LGBT students were subjected to cyberbullying at four times the rate as heterosexual students. "LGBTQ students often face harassment, ostracism, and brutality from their peers simply because of their sexual orientation," Faris said. "In many schools, heterosexuality is deeply encoded in social life, and kids who do not conform to that expectation can face severe discrimination and abuse."

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Further unsurprising was the fact that girls were found to be subjected to more abuse than boys. Female students are "significantly more likely," to experience cyber aggression, the study reports. "Girls are as likely as boys to perpetrate bullying overall, but are way more likely than boys to be victims," Faris said. "This is because, in our data at least, girl-to-girl bullying is the most common pattern, followed by boy-to-boy." He added that boy-to-girl bullying is much more common than girl-to-boy bullying.

"Schools are not just heteronormative, but can also be deeply sexist places, venerating male athletes and reinforcing sexual double standards, to cite just two examples," Faris said. No kidding.