Nearly one in five – around 764,000 pupils in England and Wales – experienced some form of attack via their smartphones or computers in the 12 months up to March.
Being called names, sworn at or insulted were the most common forms of cyberbullying, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The prevalence of online bullying was significantly higher for children with a long-term illness or disability (26 percent) than those without (18 percent), the report shows.
The research, based on responses from 10 to 15-year-olds in the Crime Survey for England and Wales, is the first time official statisticians have
collated the data.
Overall, 19 percent of children aged 10 to 15 years in England and Wales experienced at least one type of online bullying in the year ending March 2020.
Some 72 per cent of children who suffered online bullying endured some of it at school or during school time. More than two thirds (68 percent) believed their school dealt with bullying well, while a quarter did not.
Sophie Sanders, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “Greater use of smartphones, social media and networking applications means online bullying can follow a child anywhere.”
In the survey, children were first asked to identify any nasty things that had happened to them or been done to them from a list of behaviours commonly recognised as bullying.
Youngsters were later separately asked whether or not they would describe the experiences as “bullying”. More than half (52 percent) said they would not describe it as bullying, while 26 percent did not report their experiences to anyone.
The majority (68 percent) of children were emotionally affected by their experience of online bullying.
Researchers say the split between in-person and online bullying is likely to have changed greatly after data was collected because of isolation at home and more time spent online.
Alex Gray, from the charity Childline, said: “Every year thousands of children contact Childline about their experiences of cyberbullying and tell us it can feel impossible to escape.
“Lockdown has exacerbated these feelings for many young people and from April to October our trained counsellors held more than a thousand counselling sessions with young
people about online bullying.”
An NSPCC spokesman said: “These findings are deeply concerning and echo what our Childline counsellors hear on a daily basis.
“We know online bullying is incredibly traumatic for young people and that it can feel impossible to escape. Bullying can have a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing and this can be felt long into adulthood.”
- Call Childline on 0800 1111 or the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.