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10 January 2013

Teens More Often Victimized by School Bullies Than by Cyber Bullies

Keywords: bullying, teens, North America, computer, happiness, internet, mobile, mobile phone, peers, self-esteem, survey,

In the last few years cyberbullying has received a lot of attention. But is this switch in focus to online bullying justified? A study in Complementary Pediatrics reveals that more teens fall victim to school bullying than to online bullying or bullying by SMS. Rates of unwanted sexual experiences, however, show that those experiences are equal at school and online. 

Take aways

  • Bullying takes place more frequently at school than online or by SMS. 
  • Teens feel more upset by serious school bullying incidents than by online bullying incidents. 
  • Rates of unwanted sexual experiences at school and online are equal. 
  • Prevention programs on school should not lose focus on offline bullying. These programs should incorporate lessons about unwanted sexual experiences as well.

Study information

  • The question?

    Is there a difference in the prevalence of school bullying, online bullying, and bullying via cell phones? 

  • Who?

    1,149 teens (mean age: 15; 49% boys; 73% of the teens were Euro-American, 16% Latino, 14% African-American, 9% had a mixed racial background, and 6% had other ethnical backgrounds)

  • Where?

    United States, national sample

  • How?

    This study used data from the 2008 wave of The Growing Up With Media study: a longitudinal nationally representative study of teenagers from 10-15 years old. In the 2008 wave, teens answered questions about bullying online and offline.

Facts and findings

  • Almost half (40%) of the teens reported being bullied (i.e., repeatedly being hit, kicked, threatened, or told nasty and unpleasant things). 
  • Teens were bullied more often at school (31%) than online (15%) or by SMS (12%), see Figure 1. 
  • Almost a fifth (18%) of the teens reported being bullied in the past year. 
  • One quarter (25%) of the teens reported having been a victim of unwanted sexual experiences (i.e., forced to talk about sex in general, about personal sexual information, and forced to do something sexual). 
  • Rates of unwanted sexual experiences at school and online were equal. 
  • Teens who had been bullied at school, felt much more upset by their most serious bullying incident (38%) than teens who had been bullied online (15%). 
  • Almost half (46%) of the teens bullied online were not sure who their bully was.