Study: cyberbullying not nearly as widespread as face-to-face bullying

A new Oxford University study found 27 per cent of 15-year-olds were regularly bullied face-to-face.
LEV DOLGACHOV/ 123RF

A new Oxford University study found 27 per cent of 15-year-olds were regularly bullied face-to-face.

Although cyberbullying gets a lot of attention, it is comparatively rare among teens — with face-to-face bullying a far bigger problem, according to new research.

A landmark Oxford University study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal found that less than 1 per cent of 15-year-olds regularly experienced cyberbullying while 27 percent experienced face-to-face bullying two or three times a month.

Three per cent of the 110,000 15-year-olds surveyed (one fifth of all the 15-year-olds in England) reported suffering both face-to-face and online bullying on a regular basis.

Internationally, the cyberbullying rate for teens is thought to be 15 to 20 percent, but a new study disputes that.

Internationally, the cyberbullying rate for teens is thought to be 15 to 20 percent, but a new study disputes that.

Researchers concluded that online bullying was merely a new tactic employed by bullies and not a way of targeting new victims. 

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Face-to-face bullying remains a bigger problem than cyberbullying, according to new research.
123RF.COM

Face-to-face bullying remains a bigger problem than cyberbullying, according to new research.

"This is in direct and stark contradiction to the widespread assumption that cyberbullying is a common experience of young people,"  said Professor Shirley Reynolds of the University of Reading, commenting on the Oxford study.

"Parents, teachers and young people themselves may find this reassuring and probably surprising."

But Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the rate of cyberbullying among intermediate and secondary school-aged children was generally accepted to be around 15 to 20 per cent internationally. 

He said the Oxford study had been designed to test a traditional definition of cyberbullying.

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"Whether a young person is being cyberbullied or having a bad experience that is coming to them through technology is not really the question we need to be asking," said Cocker. 

Data from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey, a 20-year longitudinal study led by University of Auckland psychologist Chris Sibley, potentially puts the New Zealand cyberbullying rate even higher, with 46 per cent of 18 and 19-year-olds reporting that someone had used the internet or a digital device to "hurt, intimidate or embarrass" them. 

The Oxford study found the most common forms of bullying behaviour were name calling and teasing (12 per cent of the teens reported it) and spreading lies (9 per cent). The least common forms of bullying were physical (2 per cent), mean online messages (2 per cent) and having pictures taken and shared online without permission (2 per cent).

Cocker acknowledged that cases of cyberbullying tended to get hyped up in the media, with a disproportionate focus on a few cases.

He said bullying behaviour emerged at pre-school, when children were about 4 years old. "They discover the bullying and then they discover the technology."

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 - Stuff

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