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MTV, AP-NORC Center survey finds that online bullying has declined

New York, NY October 24, 2013 MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research today released the results of a new survey exploring the pervasiveness of digital abuse among teens and young adults, how it is affecting America's youth and how they're responding to it. According to the survey, trends show that the share of young people affected by digital abuse has declined since 2011, with less than half (49 percent) of those surveyed stating that they have experienced digital abuse, compared to 56 percent in 2011. Additionally, virtually every form of digital abuse tracked in this study 26 out of 27 listed has declined*. When experiencing digital abuse, 44 percent of young people state that they seek help from their parents or family, up over 25 percent from 2011, and the majority (66 percent) say that telling their parents made the situation better.

Sexting is down nearly 20 percent from 2011, with only about a quarter of young people reporting that they have sent or received "sext" messages, compared with one in three in 2011. Meanwhile, just over 10 percent of 14-24 year olds say they have shared naked pictures of videos of themselves. While this number remains relatively consistent over the past few years, the percentage of teens and young adults who say they sent naked pictures to someone they only know online has decreased by more than half since 2009. Additionally, young people report less pressure to send naked pictures or videos of themselves, down over 40 percent compared to 2011 (12 percent vs. 7 percent). Unfortunately there has been less progress on digital dating abuse. On par with 2011, nearly 40 percent of young people in a relationship report experiencing some type of digital dating abuse, with one in five stating that their partner has checked up with them multiple times per day online or via mobile, and that their significant other has read their text messages without their permission.

The MTV and Associated Press-NORC Center study was released today as part of MTV's "A THIN LINE" campaign, which has already empowered more than 1.5 million young people to take action to stop the spread of digital abuse.

Detailed findings from the October 2013 study include:


Less than half of young people (49 percent) report experiencing digital abuse, representing a nearly 15 percent decline from 56 percent in 2011. Some of the positive gains include:

  • Drops in 26 of 27 forms of digital abuse (2013 vs. 2011)*. Some of these include:

    • A nearly 30 percent drop in reports of people using email, IM or cell phone text messages to spread rumors that weren't true (15 percent vs. 21 percent)
    • An almost 30 percent decline in reports of people impersonating the respondent by logging into his or her email or social media accounts without permission (15 percent vs. 21 percent)
    • A nearly 25 percent decrease in reports of spying by logging into personal email and/or social media accounts without permission (16 percent vs. 21 percent)

When responding to digital abuse:

  • More young people are seeking help from parents or family, up over 25 percent from 2011. Among the 1 in 3 who asked their parents for help in 2013, a majority (66 percent) say it made the situation better, up 35 percent compared to 2011 (49 percent). Additionally, nearly 20 percent asked a sibling for help, and among that group- over half (57 percent) report that it made the situation better.

  • The most effective responses to digital abuse include:

    • Changing email, IM, or social networking passwords (nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, report that this made the situation better)
    • Changing an email address, screen name or cell phone number (72 percent report this made the situation better)
    • Deleting a social networking profile (72 percent report this made the situation better)
    • Telling parents (66 percent report this made the situation better).

  • Retaliation is now cited as the least effective response, with 20 percent saying that it made the situation worse. Nearly 50 percent viewed retaliation as an effective response in 2011, compared to less than 30 percent in 2013, representing a nearly 40 percent decline.


The number of young people who have sent or received "sext" messages has declined. Of the young people who have shared naked pictures or videos of themselves, over half (66 percent) say they sent naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend, and less than 15 percent have shared naked pictures with someone they only know online, marking a more than 50 percent decline since 2009.

While fewer young people report sending or receiving "sext" messages, digital dating abuse has unfortunately remained relatively consistent, with nearly 40 percent of young people who are currently in a relationship experiencing some form of digital abuse:

  • Around one in five report that their partner has checked up with them multiple times per day online or via mobile (22 percent), and that their significant other has read their text messages without their permission (21 percent).

  • Nearly 10 percent say their significant other has called them names, put them down, or said mean things to them on the Internet or on their cell phone (9 percent) or demanded to know the passwords to their email and Internet accounts (8 percent).

  • Nearly 20 percent of young people say they feel pressured by their partner to respond to their phone calls, emails, texts, or instant messages.


Contact: Eric Young
NORC at the University of Chicago

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