Instagram Cyberbullying: Scary Truths About Online Bullies

Profile photo of Karen Lin, author

Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 07, 2024

Want More Real Instagram Followers?

Instagram is a huge part of many people’s everyday lives. For the most part, it has many benefits that make creative expression, communication with friends, and content discovery easier. But the cold, hard truth is that Instagram and most social media platforms aren’t always the safest environment. Some people—teens and young users especially—can fall victim to Instagram cyberbullying.

Bullying is no joke. Not only does it hurt others and have detrimental effects on their physical and mental health. It creates a negative, unsafe space for everyone, too, online or offline. That’s why it’s everybody’s job to spot abusive behavior and combat cyberbullying as much as they can. Today, we’ll tackle hard truths about online bullying on Instagram and what we can all do to stop it.

A woman sitting in bed wiping a tear from her eye while looking at her mobile phone.

What Is Cyberbullying?

First and foremost, what is cyberbullying? Also known as online bullying, this type of abusive behavior happens when someone is harassed with the use of technology. That means text messages, posts on the internet, forums, and more. It’s typically done through social media in an attempt to hurt someone publicly and on a grand scale.

Back then, a typical picture of bullying would be of jocks slamming kids into lockers and demanding lunch money. But today, it’s all about mind games and herd mentality. Bullies harness the scale of social media to humiliate someone where the rest of the world can see it.

Online bullying can take form in many ways. Here are just some of them:

  • Mean and aggressive texts, direct messages, and posts.
  • Negative comments on social media posts that contain hate speech or making fun of someone.
  • Posting photos and videos of someone without consent to embarrass and defame them.
  • Spreading lies and nasty rumors about someone on the internet.
  • “Doxing,” aka posting someone’s sensitive, personal information without their permission.

One of the biggest problems with internet bullying is that anonymity is super easy on social media. Plenty of people join in when someone’s being harassed online without fear of others knowing who they are. So, instead of having one or two mean bullies at school, you could have hundreds of anonymous, cowardly cyberbullies online.

Internet bullying has plenty of detrimental effects on someone who has experienced it. The emotional distress and mental health issues that arise from it are extremely heartbreaking. A 2020 study found that victims of online bullying suffer from both physical and mental effects. They can struggle with constant headaches, difficulty sleeping, and recurring stomach pains. On top of that, they’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.

A woman with smudged mascara around her eyes while reading something on her phone.

Cyberbullying Statistics: Hard-To-Swallow Numbers About Online Bullying

There’s no denying that internet bullying exists. Far too many teens (and even adults) have fallen victim to it to deny that it happens every day. But it’s only when you look at the hard numbers that you realize how prevalent it is today. Here are some cyberbullying statistics you might be surprised to learn:

  • According to the youth organization Ditch the Label, 7 out of 10 young internet users experience online bullying before they’re 18. That means only about 30% of young people are spared the trauma of bullying on social media.
  • The same research found that the youth is twice as likely to experience bullying on Instagram than any other platform.
  • A Pew Research Center study found that 32% of teens have experienced offensive name-calling online. Meanwhile, 22% of them have had nasty, untrue rumors about them spread on the internet.
  • In the same study, it was found that 15% of teens believe they’ve been bullied online because of their appearance. This is worrisome because it can potentially harm young people’s self-esteem.
  • According to Digital Trends, online bullying and hate speech increased by 70% at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was when schools were out, and children had to attend classes through video calls.

A young woman crying while her male classmates say nasty things behind her

Instagram Cyberbullying: What Is the Platform Doing About the Issue?

Instagram’s community guidelines clearly state that everyone must respect all members of the online community. Hate speech and discrimination are not tolerated. Instagram removes content harassing others to shame them for their race, gender, national origin, religion, disabilities, and more.

Any threats found to be credible and harmful also raise flags to the platform. Authorities take reports of threats to someone’s physical and financial harm, vandalism, and theft very seriously.

What’s great is that Instagram has its methods to keep bullying and hate speech at a minimum. Good Morning America reports that the platform now uses artificial intelligence to detect offensive language as someone types it. The app alerts the poster that the comment or message they’re sending can be considered bullying. This gives people a chance to rethink what they post online.

A fountain pen next to a handwritten note that says, “Racism & hate have no place here.”

How To Report Cyberbullying on Instagram

Of course, AI can only do so much when it comes to keeping bullying at bay on Instagram. It’s still everyone’s duty to report even the smallest sign of bullying they see on the platform. This is a more effective way of demanding accountability from bullies, stalkers, and harassers. Plus, it helps empower victims who might not know what to do when they find themselves in these uncomfortable situations.

Protect yourself and others who may be getting bullied online. Here’s how to report cyberbullying on Instagram if it comes in the form of a published post:

1. Click the three dots at the top-right corner of the offensive post. If you’re watching videos on the Reels tab, the dots may appear on the bottom-right corner of the screen.

2. Click Report at the bottom of the pop-up menu.

3. Choose the reason why you’re reporting the post. You can choose from many options available, including bullying and harassment, false information, hate speech, fraud, and more.

4. If you chose “Bullying or harassment,” let Instagram know on the next page which the post is targeting. You can either declare yourself the victim or report it on behalf of someone else.

5. Read the final reminders about reporting posts about bullying, then hit Submit report.

You can also report offensive comments in a post’s comment section. Just swipe right and click the gray speech bubble with an exclamation point on it to report it. Then, follow the steps above to go through the report submission process.

If you are still not comfortable after that, block the person bullying you or someone else on the platform. If you don’t want them to know that you’ve blocked them, consider restricting them instead. This hides their comments without them knowing.

How To Prevent Cyberbullying: Make Instagram a Safe Space for All

Aside from adhering to the community guidelines and reporting bullies, there are many other ways to protect your peace online. Do you want to do your part and combat bullying in the small and big ways you can? Here’s how to prevent cyberbullying and make Instagram a positive and safe environment for all.

1. Encourage Respect and Empathy in Your Community

Set an example to your followers by treating everyone with respect, no matter how different you are from them. Even when debating opposing sides of an issue, speak to others with empathy and kindness.

If online bullying is a topic you feel passionately about, use your voice on Instagram to raise awareness about it. Promote better ways of speaking to others—with love and inclusivity, never hate and discrimination.

If you’re a brand owner or content creator, it would also be nice to have a zero-tolerance bullying policy. Consider not entertaining fan messages or service requests from users who bully others. Taking a stand in this way shows that you care about the welfare and mental health of other users.

2. Speak Up When You See Someone Getting Bullied

If you see someone getting chewed out on Instagram, don’t just sit there and read it—say something. Even a tiny sign of bullying shouldn’t be tolerated or ignored. Spring into action right away and stand up for what’s right.

There are two ways to do this. First, you can intervene and address the bully directly to call them out on their abusive behavior. Don’t be afraid of calling someone out on Instagram, especially when they’re speaking with utter disrespect and hate. Tell them why the aggressive, offensive language they’re using is wrong.

If you don’t want to be involved in drama, check on the victim in private via DM to support them. Make them feel listened to and respected. Then, encourage them to take further action, like reporting the account that was bullying them. (PS: Report the account yourself as well!)

A girl covering her mouth with her hand, which has “Silence is Violence” written on it.

3. Put Your Profile on Private Mode if That Feels Safer for You

If you’ve been getting threats and attacks from strangers on the internet, consider setting your profile to private. When you have a private profile, strangers who don’t follow you can’t lurk or leave comments on your feed posts.

It also gives you more control over who is allowed to follow your page. Anyone who wants to follow you can only first send a follow request, which you can approve or deny.

Limit your followers only to those whom you trust. It’s better to have a smaller circle on Instagram that you feel safe with than to deal with mean strangers.

4. Stay in Touch With Friends Who Lift You and Protect Your Peace

Bullies can get the best of you with their words and actions. If you fall victim to any form of internet bullying, the trauma feels like it can persist forever. But as long as you have a solid support system, processing the trauma gets a little easier.

Surround yourself with good people with whom you have positive relationships. If that means taking a break from Instagram and social media, then so be it. Bond with fellow students at school or spend extra time with your family at home.

The key here is to protect your peace when online bullying reaches a fever pitch. Don’t think about those bullies on the internet spewing out hate—focus your energy on people who actually love you. At the end of the day, they’re the only people who matter anyway.

Two women comforting their sad friend while they eat popcorn together.

Bullying on Instagram Is Never Okay—Report It Fast!

Internet bullying is super scary, especially for younger users of social media. It’s not a joke and is never okay. The effects on physical and mental health are detrimental and stick with victims for years. So, everyone needs to do their part to maintain a positive, enjoyable, and safe online environment. If you see signs of bullying on Instagram, report it immediately.

While it’s a must to keep an eye out for bullying online, remember that Instagram isn’t all that bad. For the most part, it’s a great place to showcase your aesthetically pleasing visual content, personal photos, and unique talents. As you protect your online environment from Instagram cyberbullying, it’s just as important to enjoy your time on the platform. Post content, engage with others, and work hard to grow your page!

Do you need a leg up as you try to grow your Instagram brand? Work with Path Social! We use proprietary, AI-driven algorithms to find your niche audience and promote your page to them. People who resonate with your content discover your brand, allowing them to give you a follow. In no time, you’ll have a solid, genuine, active fanbase loyal to your brand. Grow your community today with our help!