Cyberbullying starts early. WiredSafety is seeing it start as early as second grade, peaking in fourth grade, leveling off, and then peaking again in seventh and eighth grade. Part of the problem is defining it. When students hear “cyberbullying” they often think different things. Some think it means a death threat, others think it’s a fake Facebook profile set up to humiliate others. Some think it’s using lewd language or posting mean images. (You can learn more about this in Parry's Talk the Talk article.
It starts when kids start using mobile interactive technologies, such as cellphones, DSi and PSPs, and instant messaging. It continues through high school (although high school students hate admitting that they can be bullied and deny it continues through high school). It often follows their journey from technology to technology, as they develop and their interests and relationships change. The more they mature, the less they cyberbully. At the same time, the cyberbullying attacks become more dangerous and better targeted to hurt their victims.
Their methods and motives change with age. Fourth graders tend to blackmail others, middle schoolers use social exclusion, and high school students tend to sexually harass their former romantic partners. This tracks their offline bullying trends, but for some reason surprises people when they look at it from the cyberspace perspective.
Anonymity plays an important role in the rapid growth of cyberbullying. More than 65% of cyberbullying occurs anonymously, by masquerading as the victim or posing as someone else. This drives cyberbullying by making it harder to identify the cyberbully and allows the cyberbully to avoid having to face the real harm their actions are causing.