Bullying still > cyberbullying, but most kids do neither

By Anne Collier

Researchers keep coming up with different numbers, but what doesn’t change is that…

1. Most kids do not engage in bullying or cyberbullying
2. There’s considerable overlap between online and offline aggression among kids who do
3. Bullying is not on the rise, but there’s more of it going on than cyberbullying
4. The prevalence of cyberbullying has been widely overstated.

“Reports of a cyberbullying explosion over the past few years because of increasing use of mobile devices have been greatly exaggerated,” reported USATODAY, citing newly published research by leading bullying expert and psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen in Norway. His report, published recently in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, included large-scale samples in the US and Norway.

“In the US sample,” USATODAY reported, “18% of students said they had been verbally bullied, while about 5% said they had been cyberbullied. About 10% said they had bullied others verbally and 3% said they had bullied others electronically.”

Looking at a broad range of studies (as well as their own), US researchers and authors Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja at the Cyberbullying Research Center have found a higher figure for the US than Olweus did – on average 24% – for teens who have experienced cyberbullying. Here are other key highlights in Profs. Patchin and Hinduja’s response to Dr. Olweus’s article in the psychology journal:

* Research over the past 10 years shows neither an increase nor a decrease in cyberbullying, but…
* More kids are reporting cyberbullying incidents. But the reporting figure is still low: about 25%.
* “The fact that more teens are telling their stories and more high-profile tragic incidents are being reported in the media may lead some people to conclude that the problem is increasing,” Hinduja and Patchin write. “But like Professor Olweus, we do not see any evidence of this.”
* Like Olweus, they also see the value of a positive school climate and other pieces of “a systematic and comprehensive multi-domain effort involving schools, parents, law enforcement, other community leaders, and teens themselves” in reducing bullying.

In other comparisons of the US and other parts of the world where bullying’s concerned, the Christian Science Monitor recently reported that cyberbullying is less prevalent in the US than other countries. It cited a Microsoft-sponsored Global Youth Behavior Survey of 7,600 8-to-17-year-olds in 25 countries finding that 13% of US students had engaged in “behaviors online that are often considered to be bullying – such as meanness, teasing, and unfriendly treatment – compared with 24% around the globe.” But a recent survey by EU Kids Online of young people in 25 European countries found that only 6% of 9-to-16-year-olds have been bullied online (search for the 2011 “final report” on this page). The Microsoft survey that, in the US, 52% of respondents said their school provides cyberbullying prevention instruction, compared with 37% of students in other countries around the world.

Next in this 2-part series: “‘Bullying’ & ‘peer victimization’: Clearer terms, better communication

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