Study: Cyberbullying Different From Physical Bullying

By Ian Quillen — April 20, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new study suggests none of the three elements of playground bullying Mom and Dad endured aren’t always present in the cyberbullying that may effect their children.

The study, released last week by the University of British Columbia, also finds that cyberbullying is likely to be under-reported by school students because they incorrectly believe the activity to be less harmful than physical bullying, according to a press release. As a result, the study suggests new anti-bullying initiatives enacted in several states may not effectively limit bullying that occurs online.

While “traditional” bullying usually brings with it a power (size or popularity) difference between bullies and victims, proactive targeting by the bully, and continued bullying over a period of time, cyberbullying often possesses none of those three traits, the report contends. The absence of those traits may be linked to the flexibility of online media which can lead students to play the roles of bullies, victims, and witnesses interchangeably.

Further, while the study involving about 17,000 students in Vancouver, B.C. in grades 8-12 showed 25-30 percent of them to have experienced or participated in cyberbullying, only 5 percent said they felt such activity was anything more than a harmless joke.

The study is the latest in several pushes to educate the public on how cyberbullying differs from the bullying archetype, both in its nature and in its possible effects on victims.

Perhaps the single biggest difference is the anonymity that cyberspace can provide a bully, for example by allowing students to create false social networking profiles.

Anti-bullying advocates point out the same anonymity can make reporting cyberbullying easier.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.