(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Bullying is an age-old problem that has taken on a new dimension with the Internet. With the introduction of social networking and mobile devices, gone are the days when a young student being bullied at school could simply go home to get away from antagonizers.
But a new study presented to the American Psychological Association finds old-fashioned bullying is still far more common than the cyber version.
“Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem are largely exaggerated,” psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, said 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 and researchers surveyed 450,000 of U.S. students in grades three to 12.
On average, the researchers reported, 18 percent said they had been verbally bullied while only five percent said they had been cyberbullied. Although conversely 10 percent said they had bullied others and three percent said they had cyberbullied others.
Olweus says that, despite the attention drawn by internet bullies, new media have actually created few new bullies or new victims. He recommends that schools direct most of their efforts in combating traditional bullying.
But, Olweus notes in the study, cyberbullied children, much like targets of traditional bullying, still may suffer from depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety or suicide thoughts.
Still, he says, “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.”
“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,” Olweus says.
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