Even 66-year-olds engage in online aggression

Online aggression, or intentionally hurting others online, is primarily studied among young people and young adults. However, new research shows that even 66-year take part in online aggression. "Perpetrators and victims of online aggression can be found in all’age groups," say Dr. Sara Pabian and Professor Heidi Vandebosch, researchers of the project from Tilburg University and the University of Antwerp. They surveyed 2,000 Belgian adults aged 19 to 79 about their experiences with online aggression as perpetrators and victims.

While the highest percentage of perpetrators and victims was found in the youngest age category - 18-25 years old - the researchers also found that a significant portion of older age groups had recently been perpetrators or victims of online aggression. "Approximately two out of ten 66-year-olds admitted to recently being aggressive online, and three out of ten were recent victims of online aggression. Among young adults (18-25), six out of ten were recent perpetrators, and five out of ten were recent victims," said Pabian.


The researchers also looked for explanations as to why adults engage in online aggression. Across all’age groups, they found a correlation between having been a target themselves and engaging in online aggressive behavior, but this correlation was strongest among young adults (18-25). In the older age categories, online aggressive behavior was more often explained by certain beliefs that perpetrators hold to justify their behavior. Examples include victim-blaming or the belief that victims are to blame for being attacked online, as well as the belief that there are no serious consequences for victims of online aggression. The results indicate that it is necessary to distinguish between different generations if we want to understand and address this behavior.

Table: Overview of the percentage of perpetrators/victims (at least once in the past three months as a perpetrator or victim

Age Category Perpretator Victim
18-25 60.1% 54.6%
26-35 46.9% 39.2%
36-45 32.7% 36.3%
46-55 22.1% 33.2%
56-65 29.9% 32%
66+ 22.7% 26.8%