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Cyber-Bullying Harder On Victims Than Physical Violence

September 21, 2010

U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday that cyber-bullying may be even harder on the victims than physical beatings or name-calling.

The team at the National Institute of Health found that cyber-bullies seem to be less depressed than their prey, unlike traditional bullies.

Jing Wang, Tonja Nansel and Ronald Iannottti of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development analyzed data from an international survey from 2005/2006 that included 4,500 U.S. preteens and teens.

The teens were asked about feelings of depression, irritability, grouchiness and ability to concentrate, and also if they had been hit, name-called, shunned or sent negative messages through a computer or cell phone.

“Unlike traditional bullying which usually involves a face-to-face confrontation, cyber victims may not see or identify their harasser,” Iannotti’s team wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“As such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack.”

Physical and verbal bullies are also often depressed.  However, the NIH team found that while there was little difference in depression between physical bullies and their targets, cyber-bullying victims reported significantly higher levels of depression than those frequently bullied.

Bullying can be a policy issue and can harm learning and lower a school’s test scores.  U.S. schools are increasingly under pressure to bring up scores and show regular improvements.

The team found last year that over 20 percent of all U.S. adolescents in school had been bullied physically at least once in the last two months, 53 percent were bullied verbally, 51 percent bullied socially by being excluded or ostracized and 13.6 percent were bullied electronically.

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