Study reveals prevalence of teenage cyberbullying

August 26, 2014

A Murdoch academic is calling for a rethink of interventions for teenage bullying culture after a recent study revealed that cyberbullying was only half as common as traditional forms of bullying.

Dr Kathryn Modecki from Murdoch University along with research colleagues analysed all existing studies from around the world that measured traditional and cyberbullying among adolescents to establish the prevalence of each.

“We found that despite popular thought, cyberbullying was only half as common as traditional forms of bullying with about 15 per cent of adolescents reporting either cyber perpetration or victimisation compared to around 30 per cent for traditional bullying,” Dr Modecki said.

“This means that youth are considerably less likely to be involved in cyber bullying relative to traditional bullying. The correlation between the two types of bullying was also relatively high. This means for those youth who do report being bullied on-line, they likely have also been bullied off-line. “

“Likewise, adolescents who perpetrate or bully online are quite likely to be perpetrators of traditional bullying as well.”

Dr Modecki, who is an expert in antisocial decision making in adolescents, spent two years with her research student gathering and coding published and unpublished data from a bullying studies from around the world.

The studies were wide ranging, including thesis dissertations and other unpublished works.

She found 80 studies with statistics on the two types of bullying with data from more than 300,000 teenagers.

As a result of her study, Dr Modecki and her colleagues are calling for bullying to be approached as a general behavioural issue-with interventions addressing underlying causes or antecedents of mean and harmful behaviours-wherever they occur.  She suggests media and practitioners should de-emphasise the context in which bullying occurs (online or offline).

“Youth bully for a range of reasons and we need to treat the underlying issues that propel adolescents to act in harmful ways,” Dr Modecki said.

“Schools and communities have limited resources and we need to be smart about finding ways to have maximum effect on harmful behaviours, wherever they occur.”

The two year study was supported by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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Media contact: Pepita Smyth
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