Cyber-Victimization is Modern Tool that Extends Playground Bullying

A new U.K. study finds that cyberbullying typically does not create new victims — it is merely a continuation of face-to-face bullying.

Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick said although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

In a study of almost 3,000 pupils aged 11-16 from U.K. secondary schools, 29 percent reported being bullied, but just one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

Victimization was assessed from three difference viewpoints.

Students were asked about direct victimization (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumors spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumors spread about you online,” “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission,” or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages, or tweets”).

Sadly, all the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioral difficulties than non-victims.

However, those who were bullied by multiple means — direct victimization, relational victimization, and cyber-victimization combined — demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioral problems.

The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

As a result, Wolke said that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying — as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

“Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school,” Wolke said.

“Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combating traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

The research is published in the journal, European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: University of Warwick