A study presented May 5 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, D.C. found that 16 percent of U.S. high school students are the targets of cyberbullying.
To be sure, bullying is not new. There have always been kids in the “in” group who find easy prey in kids who are not. However, the reach and permanence of the Internet and the pervasiveness of smart phones and computers have added an even more sinister component to this disturbing behavior. Chat rooms, text messages, e-mail and social networking have all become weapons in the cyberbully’s arsenal, and recent headlines have chronicled tragic instances of teen suicides following vicious online attacks.
“Although teenagers generally embrace being connected to the Web and each other 24/7, we must recognize that these new technologies carry with them the potential to traumatize youth in new and different ways,” said Andrew Adesman, MD, study author, and chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, in an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) news release.
Researchers analyzed data collected from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 15,425 public and private high school students. Study results showed:
- One in six students had been the target of cyberbullying within the past 12 months.
- Girls were more than twice as likely to report being the victim of cyberbullying (22.1 percent) than boys (10.8 percent).
- White teens reported being the victims of cyberbullying (18.6 percent) more than twice as frequently as black teens (8.9 percent); 13.6 percent of Hispanic teens and 14.4 percent of Asian teens reported being cyberbullied.
The study also looked at recreational use of the computer or video games and found that nearly one-third of high school students surveyed played video games or used their computers for other than school work at least three hours a day. This behavior was more common among boys (53 percent) than girls (27 percent).
Noting the amount of time kids are spending online, study authors hoped that their research would spur further investigation into ways to prevent the potentially tragic outcomes of cyberbullying.
“Electronic bullying is a very real yet silent danger that may be traumatizing children and teens without parental knowledge and has the potential to lead to devastating consequences,” said principal investigator Karen Ginsburg, LMSW, also of Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, in the AAP news release.
“By identifying groups at higher risk for electronic bullying, it is hoped that targeted awareness and prevention strategies can be put in place,” added Ginsburg.