Tag Archives: Invited expert discussion paper Cyberbullying An overrated phenomenon?

Paper: Cyberbullying may be overrated

6 Aug

Technology can be used for information gathering and to keep people connected. Some people use social media to torment others. Children can be devastated by thoughtless, mean, and unkind comments posted at social media sites. Some of the comments may be based upon rumor and may even be untrue. The effect on a particular child can be devastating. Because of the potential for harm, many parents worry about cyberbullying on social media sites.

Nirvi Shah is reporting in the Education Week article, Researchers: Cyberbullying Not as Widespread, Common as Believed:

While parents may spend more time worrying about their kids being terrorized by text, tweet, Facebook, or Formspring, new research suggests that cyberbullying “is a low-prevalence phenomenon, which has not increased over time and has not created many ‘new’ victims and bullies, that is, children and youth who are not also involved in some form of traditional bullying.”

The research, presented here this week at the American Psychological Association convention, involved 450,490 students in 1,349 American schools surveyed between 2007 and 2010 and another 9,000 Norwegian students at 41 schools. It was intended to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about cyberbullying.

The study, by longtime bullying researcher Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, found that while, on average, 18 percent of American students said they had been verbally bullied; those who said they had been cyberbullied was about 4.5 percent. About 11 percent of Norwegian students said they had been verbally bullied, compared to about 3.4 percent who said they had been bullied in some electronic format. The study was published online in May in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology….

The research also shows “there has been no systematic increase in cyberbullying,” Olweus said, despite an increase in the number of youths with cell phones and on social networking sites. (Facebook is considering expanding access to younger people, which has concerned some educators.)

Of the American students who had been exposed to cyberbullying, 88 percent had been bullied in at least one other way.

“To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of the electronic media is only one possible form, and, in
addition, a form with a quite low prevalence,” the study says…. “T

The study notes that “bullying implies a form of relationship with certain characteristics and the term should not be used as a blanket term for any form of negative or aggressive act.”

While electronic bullying can have the same effects of traditional bullying—depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, headaches, and effects on sleep—it is
difficult to tell whether or to what extent these problems are a result of electronic bullying since the majority of cyberbullied children and youth are also harassed in other ways.

(Some states have amended existing bullying laws or passed new ones just to address cyberbullying. And lawsuits over bullying online or other electronic methods are increasing in number.)

Olweus writes that because traditional bullying is far more common than cyberbullying and that the great majority of cyberbullied students are also bullied in more typical ways, “it is natural to recommend schools to direct most of their efforts to counteracting traditional bullying,” ideally using an evidence-based approach. His research has found that levels of electronic bullying decline along with traditional bullying in these schools. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/08/orlando_while_parents_may_spen.html


Invited expert discussion paper

Cyberbullying: An overrated phenomenon?

Dan Olweus

RKBU Vest, Uni Research, Bergen, Norway

The paper argues that several claims about cyberbullying made in the media and elsewhere are greatly exaggerated and have little empirical scientific support. Contradicting these claims, it turns out that cyberbullying, when studied in proper context, is a low-prevalence phenomenon, which has not

increased over time and has not created many ‘‘new’’ victims and bullies, that is, children and youth who are not also involved in some form of traditional bullying. These conclusions are based on two quite large samples of students, one from the USA and one from Norway, both of which have time series data

for periods of four or five years. It is further argued that the issue of possible negative effects of cyberbullying has not received much serious research attention and a couple of strategies for such research are suggested together with some methodological recommendations. Finally, it is generally recommended that schools direct most of their anti-bullying efforts to counteracting traditional bullying, combined with an important system-level strategy that is likely to reduce the already low prevalence of cyberbullying. Keywords: Cyberbullying; Victims; Bullying.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dan Olweus, RKBU Vest, Uni Research,

Krinkelkroken 1, PO Box 7800, NO-5020 Bergen, Norway. E-mail: Olweus@uni.no


2012, 1–19, iFirst article

 2012 Psychology Press, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business



Two articles describe the effects of social networking on teen relationships. In the first article, Antisocial Networking?, Hillary Stout writes in the New York Times about toxic social networking sites and their effect on teens.

Hans Villarica has an excellent article in Time, Dealing With Cyberbullying: 5 Essential Parenting Tips

Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don’t understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally “doesn’t count” and that digital abuse doesn’t hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids’ behavior in person…. (More on Time.com: Lessons on Cyberbullying: Is Rebecca Black a Victim? Experts Weigh In)

Take an interest in your kids’ online behavior. Kids tend to think their parents don’t know or care about their online lives. They fear that their parents, in not understanding, will simply take away their cell phone or computer if anything goes wrong….. (More on Time.com: The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)

Check school policies on cyberbullying. Contact your child’s teacher or a school social worker or administrator and find out whether there is an official policy on cyberbullying. If there is one, read it and discuss it with your kids.

If there isn’t a written policy in place, ask about how cyberbullying is handled and whether there are any plans to create an official policy. Better yet, step up and join — or push to create — a committee to set the standards…. (More on Time.com: Cyberbullying? Homophobia? Tyler Clementi’s Death Highlights Online Lawlessness)

Set guidelines about cell-phone use. Many parents give their kids cell phones, so they can stay in closer contact with them. But that’s typically not the reason kids want cell phones. Rather, kids use them to surf the Web, send text messages to friends, update their social-networking status, and share pictures and videos.

Review with your children the laws that could affect their cell phone use, including limitations on where and when they can legally take photos or videos, and how you expect them to handle text messaging or Internet use. If you choose to monitor what’s on your kids’ phones, be aware that more than 70% of kids delete messages or photos before giving their parents their phones for checks, according to research from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. (More on Time.com: A Glimmer of Hope in a Bad-News Survey About Bullying)

Help your children respond appropriately if they are cyberbullied. First, talk with your children about what happened and how they feel about it. Be supportive. Remember that your kids feel that they are under attack. Second, report the abuse to the website on which it occurred. This can often be done via an “abuse” or “report” button or link on the site. Lastly, report the bullying to school administrators and ask them to look after your children.

Parents must monitor their children’s use of technology.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©