There’s a troubling new dimension to the nation’s bullying problem.
While tools such as cell phones and computers can aid students’ learning, they can inadvertently put students in harm’s way. For starters, the widespread availability of electronic devices and social media means bullies can now target their victims around the clock.
“Most cyberbullying occurs outside of school,” says EDC’s Shari Kessel Schneider, who led a large-scale study that showed cyberbullying is associated with psychological distress and poorer school performance. “Perpetrators can post messages anonymously, to a wide audience, at any time of the day. Victims don’t get a break when they leave school and enter their homes.”
More than 20,000 high school students in the MetroWest Boston area participated in the study, which was funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation. Overall, 16 percent reported being victims of cyberbullying, and 26 percent reported being victims of school bullying. One in 10 students reported being targets of both kinds of bullying.
Published in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the study provides valuable insights to patterns of cyberbullying and its association with school performance and mental health problems:
- More girls than boys reported being the victims of cyberbullying.
- Youth who did not identify themselves as heterosexual were more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than heterosexual youth.
- Victims of cyberbullying were more likely to report lower grades in school and a lower sense of connection to school than nonvictims.
- Students who were victims of cyberbullying, either alone or in combination with school bullying, were more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicide attempts than students who were only bullied at school.
“Technology and teens’ use of social media continue to evolve,” Kessel Schneider says. “This study underscores the need for schools and families to work together to address both school bullying and cyberbullying and their associations with mental health problems and school success.”
Originally published on January 24, 2012