Cyberbullying has become a critical issue in recent years thanks to the proliferation of social media, but according to new data, traditional face-to-face bullying is still far more common among today’s youth.
New research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla. found that cyberbullying — which takes place online or via a mobile phone — isn’t growing as rapidly as once thought.
“Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem are largely exaggerated,” said psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, in a 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.”
Olweus has conducted over the years several large-scale, international studies on the topic, including one involving about 450,000 U.S. students in grades three to 12. About 18% of those students said they had been verbally bullied and 5% had been cyberbullied. Meanwhile, about 10% said they had verbally bullied others and 3% had cyberbullied others.
Similar findings surfaced in other studies, including one conducted in Norway that followed 9,000 students in grades four through ten in 41 schools from 2006 to 2010. About 11% said been bullied in person and 4% were victims of cyberbullying.
According to his research, between 80 to 90% of cyberbullied students were also subject to verbal bullying.
“These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies,” Olweus said. “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.”
However, he noted that cyberbullying is still a critical issue that can cause depression, poor self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.
“It is therefore important also to take cyberbullying seriously both in research and prevention.”