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Nearly 1 In 10 Kids Report Cyber Bullying

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

New research shines a light on the phenomenon of “cyber bullying,” suggesting that nearly 1 in 10 children are bullied through electronic means such as text messages, and girls are more likely to be victims than boys are.

Other kinds of bullying remain much more common, however. Large numbers of kids continue to harass each other by spreading rumors, turning fellow students into outcasts and intimidating others through words and violence.

There is a bright spot: The findings suggest that parents have the power to prevent kids from bullying or being bullied.

“Parental warmth and support may improve your own psychological development, meaning you’re less likely to feel a need to degrade others to improve your own self -esteem,” said study co-author Ronald Iannotti, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health.

In addition, he said, “others may perceive you more positively,” potentially preventing children from being bullied themselves.

The study authors examined a 2005 national survey that asked 7,182 students in grades 6 through 10 about bullying. The study findings appear online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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Thirteen percent of students said others physically bullied them — hit, kicked, pushed or shoved them or locked them indoors.

About a third of students said others called them mean names, made fun of them or teased them in a hurtful way; about a third acknowledged doing the bullying themselves. Moreover, 26 percent to 32 percent said others spread rumors about them or ostracized them.

Cyber bullying was much less common. Eight percent said others bullied them through computer pictures and messages; 6 percent received bullying messages through cell phones.

The study found that having a wider circle of friends was both good and bad in terms of bullying: Those with more friends were less likely to be victims, but more likely to be bullies. However, friends did not seem to have any influence on cyber bullying.

The findings also shed light on bullying in middle school, which often receives less attention than high school bullying, said Stephen Russell, director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families at the University of Arizona.

However, he said, “what remains needed in this field of study is attention to the reasons that kids bully one another … much of which have to do with bias or discrimination based on how a student looks or acts, their sexuality or gender, their race or religion, or their social class — whether they are perceived as poor.”

Research suggests bullying due to discrimination is more severe than other kinds, he said.