Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Name calling. Physical punishment. These are a few examples of bullying. With the advent of social media, there has been a rise in cyberbullyling—however, not as much as people are led to believe. Researchers from the American Psychological Association recently revealed that, for many children and young adults, traditional in-person bullying happens more often than cyberbullying.
In the project, the researchers conducted a number of large-studies studies. In particular, one study had 450,000 U.S. participants whose school grades ranged from three to 12. Another study included surveys in 1,349 schools from 2007 to 2010 that focused on a bullying prevention program. A final study looked at 9,000 students, grades four through 10, who were enrolled in 41 different schools in Oslo, Norway from 2006 to 2010. The students were asked questions regarding traditional forms of bullying, either verbal taunts or physical abuse, as well cyberbullying like being the subject of mean, fake rumors.
“Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem is largely exaggerated,” noted psychologist Dan Olweus, a professor at the University of Bergen, Norway, in a prepared statement. “There is very little scientific support to show that cyberbullying has increased over the past five to six years, and this form of bullying is actually a less frequent phenomenon.”
The investigators found that, in the U.S. sample, an average of 18% of students reported that they had been verbally bullied, as opposed to 5% who stated that they had been cyberbullied. Another 10% told the researchers that they bullied others verbally, while 3% said that they engaged in cyberbullying of others. In the Norwegian sample, 11% stated that they had been verbally bullied, 4% said that they were a victim of cyberbullying. In terms of those who bullied others, 4% stated they had taunted others verbally, while 1% noted that they had utilized cyberbullying.
“These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies,” explained Olweus in the statement. “To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of electronic media is only one possible form, and, in addition, a form with low prevalence.”
Even though traditional methods of bullying are seen more often in the study, the scientists believe that it is still necessary to address issues related to cyberbullying as the victims can feel low, suicidal, depressed, and anxious.
“However, it is difficult to know to what extent these problems actually are a consequence of cyberbullying itself. As we’ve found, this is because the great majority of cyberbullied children and youth are also bullied in traditional ways, and it is well documented that victims of traditional bullying suffer from the bad treatment they receive,” commented Olweus in the statement. “Nonetheless, there are some forms of cyberbullying — such as having painful or embarrassing pictures or videos posted — which almost certainly have negative effects. It is therefore important also to take cyberbullying seriously both in research and prevention.”
The researchers concluded that schools and communities need to invest time and energy to determine cases of cyberbullying. They also need to communicate clearly with the students regarding the consequences of cyberbullying. With open communication, it is possible to reduce the amount of cyberbullying and increase knowledge on the possible risks associated with it.
“Given that traditional bullying is much more prevalent than cyberbullying, it is natural to recommend schools to direct most of their efforts to counteracting traditional bullying. I don’t want to trivialize or downplay cyberbullying but I definitely think it is necessary and beneficial to place cyberbullying in proper context and to have a more realistic picture of its prevalence and nature,” remarked Olweus in the statement.