Can online dating be a form of cyberbullying for young adults?

 Can online dating be a form of cyberbullying for young adults?


Cyberbullying is generally defined as the intentional bullying or harassment of another person using technology including texts, cell phones, pagers, computers, websites, chat rooms, instant messages and social networking sites.(Patchin et al 2006, Willard 2003)

During the pandemic, almost every individual living on their own dealt with loneliness. The need for human interaction was almost palpable. With social distancing being the norm, dating in the virtual space was at an all time high. According to TOI, While Tinder recorded three billion swipes in a day globally in March last year, OkCupid saw a 700% increase in dates between March and May 2020 world-wide, with Bumble, in India, witnessing a 38 percent rise in video calls. Online dating has been of immense help in keeping alive the spark and intimacy which was snatched away when the lockdown was ordered.

However, on the flip side several more cases of cyber stalking, cyber bullying and harassment were reported. According to a statement by Tinder, “Thirty-eight percent of girls and women report being bullied online, compared to 26 percent of men and boys. Twenty-six percent of women aged 18-24 reported being stalked and 25 percent reported being a target of online harassment.”  

How young adults and teens are affected?

Teens and young adults were observed to be most affected by cyberbullying. Higher incidences of individuals being coerced into sharing intimate pictures or engaging in unprotected sex, which comes under the umbrella of cyberbullying were observed in this age group bracket. Picard et al, 2007 reported that more than 22% of teens had been asked to engage in sexual activity online or on their cell phones when they did not want to, and more than 82% said that they had not told their parents of these solicitations. As compared to even as little as 15 years back, far more teenagers and young adults have mobile phones and easy access to social media platforms. It opens minds and makes them more aware of the world around them, but at the same time makes them easy targets to possible threats in  cyberspace and in the real world, as a consequence of such interactions.. Significant correlations were indeed found among the frequency and duration of Internet use, cybervictimization, and cyberbullying (Mark & Ratliffe, 2012; Twyman, Saylor, Taylor, & Comeaux, 2010; Ybarra, Mitchell, & Korchmaros, 2011). 

The most significant difference between bullying in person( traditional) and bullying in cyberspace would be the anonymity which the cyberbully enjoys. Working from behind a screen, it becomes very easy to threaten the victim with possible intimate pictures or messages that may have been exchanged, under the guise of a possible relationship, albeit online. Wide spread of the internet space and the permanence are used as tools by the bully to threaten the victim. The use of relational and psychological aggression can occur in an ongoing relationship, and can be considered cyberbullying. According to several studies, cyberbullying and the use of explicit photos and texts shared while in a “relationship” to coerce the victim into doing what the bully wants, began as early as middle school. Girls were found to be the victims in a majority of these cases, as per reports and studies conducted.(Mark and Ratcliffe 2012, Bennett et al 2011)

How to tackle cyberbullying:

The vast exposure to technology and social media is said to be one of the causes for the higher incidence of teens and young adults being victims of cyberbullying. Several studies conducted between 2007-2010 concluded that parental monitoring of online accounts and restricted use on the internet would go a long way to protect the younger population from falling victims to cyberbullying. (Pujazon-Zazik & Park, 2010; Twyman et al., 2010) With the proper guidance, teens and young adults can learn to use cyberspace to create a unique identity and maybe, even forge enriching long lasting associations.  

With the rising concern of cyber bullying and stalking, several leading dating sites like bumble and tinder have put security measures into place to avoid such incidents. The block and report feature may be, in my opinion, the most important tool in this regard. The minute another person makes you uncomfortable, blocking and reporting is the next logical step. Artificial intelligence tools are used to identify any objectionable or photos of an intimate nature and alerts the receiver, giving them the freedom to either view or delete said photo. The photo verification feature with each profile helps to prevent cases of catfishing and possible fraud. Choosing whether or not to use one’s full name and address on the profile is another feature that helps to prevent possible cases of stalking. Automatic scans of profiles for red-flag language and images; manual reviews of suspicious profiles, activity, and user-generated reports; shadow-banning suspicious accounts; as well as blocking of email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses and other identifiers associated with bullying and harassment are more such steps being taken by the dating sites to make the experience of online dating more pleasant and safe for its users.


  1. Confronting cyberbullies and exploring the use of cybertools in online dating; Alvarez et al Journal of Clinical Psychology · November 2012 DOI: 10.1002/jclp.21920

  2. Electronic dating violence. Hinduja and Patchin..Cyberbullying Research Centre

  3. In the age of rising cyberstalking, dating sites fight back. TOI 6th apr 2021

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