The numbers indicate that cyberbullying and harassment are huge problems for young people on social media. A 2016 report from the Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that 33.8% of students between 12 and 17 were victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime. Conversely, 11.5% of students between 12 and 17 indicated that they had engaged in cyberbullying in their lifetime.

Cyberbullying is different from “traditional” bullying in that it happens 24/7. For victims, there is no escape. It’s not confined to school or the playground. Kids and teens connect through social media, so for many, there is no option to simply go offline.

Even more troubling is the connection between cyberbullying and child exploitation. At Two Hat Security, we’ve identified a cycle in which child predators groom young victims, who are tricked into taking explicit photos which are then shared online; this leads to bullying and harassment from peers and strangers. Finally, the victim suffers from depression, engages in self-harm, and sometimes — tragically — commits suicide. It’s a heartbreaking cycle.

Cyberbullying and online harassment are profoundly dangerous and alarming behaviors with real, often severe and sometimes fatal, consequences for victims.

Social media platforms have options, though. AI-based text and image filters like Community Sift are the first lines of defense against cyberbullying. Purposeful, focused moderation of User Generated Content (UGC) is the next step. And finally, education and honest, open discussions about the effects of cyberbullying on real victims is crucial. The more we talk about it, the more comfortable victims will feel speaking out about their experiences.

Originally published on Quora, featured in Huffington Post and Forbes

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