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Cyberbullying Research Program

About the Research

While the implementation of the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) framework has led to increased awareness and education of cyberbullying in New Jersey, cyberbullying continues to be a major issue for school-aged adolescents as social media adoption continues to attract younger students and outpace the speed of formal anti-bullying pedagogy.

In an effort to promote digital citizenship in a new era of computing users, RDI² created a research program dedicated to conducting interdisciplinary research using advanced computing in order to explore and diagnose the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying. This research included:

  • Assessing and understanding cyberbullying patterns
  • Determining real-time, localized needs to support cyberbullying prevention and response in schools
  • Establishing an informative resource of information for educators, researchers, parents, and others to perpetuate digital citizenship skills 

Phase 1, Completed May 2017

In Phase 1, RDI² researchers partnered with South Brunswick Public Schools (SBPS) and New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS) to survey students in grades six through twelve with the goal of understanding cyberbullying behaviors and victimization patterns within our community as part of a regional assessment. 



Key Findings:

New Victimization Patterns

Much of the available data on cyberbullying asserts that females are the most likely victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying. Our study found that male students self-reported having experienced cyberbullying more than females: 17.5% of boys compared to 14.4% of girls at NBPS and 18.4% compared to 12.6% at SBPS. 

Experience Peaks by Grades

We came to recognize grades where cyberbullying behaviors peaked according to student experiences. In total, these represented over 66% of all cyberbullying activity in NBPS and over 60% in SBPS. These findings suggest that there may be particularly pivotal grades related to bullying behavior. These grades also highlighted gaps in cyberbullying education provided by the districts.

Underreporting of Incidents

We found that students of both genders radically underreport cyberbullying experiences. This underreporting becomes increasingly severe as students age. In NBPS, female students were as likely to report cyberbullying as not, however about 61% of males did not report; meanwhile, in SBPS, students of both genders significantly underreported: 58% of females and 65% of males. Both districts displayed a steep decline in cyberbullying reporting beginning in tenth grade. This finding supports assertions that the majority of students who are bullied do not share information about the experience, although motives for underreporting are unclear.



Posters and Presentations:

Tableau Tapestry 2017 (March 2017)

RDI² researchers presented a poster at the Tableau Tapestry Data Storytelling Conference in St. Augustine, Florida to over 100 invitees in both for-profit and non-profit sectors from journalism, academic, and government institutions. This presentation shared high-level insights from the initial analysis of survey data.

80th Annual Association of Information Sciences and Technology Conference (October 2017) 

In addition to a paper published in conference proceedings, RDI² researchers presented a poster about their research findings at the 80th Annual ASIS&T Conference, a global conference dedicated to the study of information science. This poster summarized complete findings from Phase 1 of the research.




  • “Using Visual Analytics to Combat Cyberbullying in New Jersey Schools.”

Phase 2 (Begun September 2017)

In Phase 2, RDI2 researchers extended their research partnership to six districts in Sussex County, NJ to survey students in grades six through twelve with the goal of understanding cyberbullying behaviors and victimization patterns within our community as part of a regional assessment. Key findings from this round of data collection and analysis supported Phase 1 findings. A full report of both phases of the survey are currently pending submission, and the researchers will be sharing highlights at the International Bullying Prevention Association World Conference.



Current Initiatives:

  • Continue working with Phase 1 schools to develop cyberbullying/digital citizenry curricula
  • Expand Phase 1 cyberbullying district surveys to six districts in Sussex County, NJ and potentially other areas
  • Explore machine learning and mass data mining approaches to research cyberbullying in social media
  • Launch initial Cyberbullying Web Portal on RDI2 website with ongoing plans to expand website into an information knowledge base for researchers, educators, and parents



Posters and Presentations:

From Insight to Action: Visualizing Cyberbullying Behaviors

Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute and New Jersey schools are taking a data-driven approach to combatting cyberbullying in their communities. With more than 11,000 students already surveyed, visual analytics have shown that seemingly obvious conclusions regarding victimization aren’t so clear-cut, and cyberbullying patterns cannot be painted with broad strokes. This poster will share how researchers, educators, and administrators are leveraging visual data analytics to give voice to the victims of cyberbullying and help educators take action.

Macro Sick of Microaggressions Online

Enough with online harassment, threats, and intimidation. It's time to take cyberbullying abuse seriously—and its time to get everyone involved. This insightful, actionable session shows how researchers at Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute are working alongside their local school districts to uncover patterns and trends in their communities to put cyberbullying prevention to work, and—more importantly—how to give students the resources they need (and want) to lead the charge against online bullies.

Upcoming Events


Software Superhero: How Rutgers and New Jersey Schools are Fighting Cyberbullying with Tableau - August 18, 2018

With the help of Tableau, Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute and New Jersey schools are taking a data-driven approach to combatting cyberbullying. This session will share how researchers and educators are leveraging the visual analytics of Tableau to tell the data story of cyberbullying in our community. We will discuss challenges and present findings from ongoing RDI2 research as it explores the impact of school-level environmental factors and how these effect cyberbullying behaviors, experiences, and victimization; underreporting; and a new breed of student vigilante behavior. We’ll also share how researchers have used Tableau to provide intuitive visualizations and dashboards that help local educators convert analytics into concrete action plans to give administrators, educators, parents, and students real-time insight into their schools, with results from early adopters.