Let's face it, kids are jerks - jerks that have been picking on other kids since the dawn of time. Bullies are a part of life, and sometimes bullying can make its way out of the schoolyard and into the everyday lives of adults - the office, perhaps. Bullying can be physical, but oftentimes it's emotional. And in the past decade of so, we've been told of the rise in cyberbullying.
Of course, the internet (and more recently, social media) has allowed for verbal abuse to expand past the face-to-face variety. We've been told that it's an "epidemic," and that kids and teenagers are being abused via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. on a daily basis. We've even heard the horror stories - kids killing themselves because they couldn't take it any more, or parents participating in the abuse of their kid's enemies.
Now, one psychologist is saying that we've really overblown the prevalence of cyberbullying.
His claims came as a presentation at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention.
"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, PhD, of the University of Bergen, Norway. "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."
In fact, citing a few large studies (one including over 450,000 grade 3-12 students), Olweus says that face-to-face bullying is still way more common than cyberbullying. On average, 18% of students reported face-to-face bullying. Only 5% said they'd ben cyberbullied. Also, 10% admitted to bullying (traditionally), while only 3% admitted to cyberbullying.
Although that study was conducted in the United States, similar studies from other countries like Norway have produced similar results.
Olweus says that 80 to 90 percent of those who said they had been cyberbullied were also victims of traditional 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...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."
Even if cyberbullying isn't quite the epidemic that some think it is (and this is just one study), its consequences are well known. Incredibly prevalent of not, it needs to be addressed an counteracted with vigor.