Study finds cyberbullying less common but more harmful to victims

Study finds cyberbullying less common but more harmful to victims'

Children who bully others online believe that their actions are less harmful than those that bully others face-to-face, according to a major survey of offline and cyberbullying by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

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The University interviewed 3112 grade 6 to 12 students in 30 schools across Australia.  Their data shows that 30% of students say they have been victim to “traditional” face-to-face bullying while 15% were subject to online bullying.  Some 7.5% of the total students surveyed said they had been bullied both face-to-face and online.

The study looked at the impact and perceived impact of online and traditional bullying by bullies and victims.  It found that pupils who were bullied face-to-face felt it had a greater impact on their lives and was more cruel than pupils who were bullied online.  However, the paper reports that pupils who were bullied online suffered from higher levels of depression, anxiety, and social problems than pupils bullied offline.

The Associate Professor of the Faculty of Education in QUT, Marilyn Campbell, said that while fewer children reported being bullied online it appeared to have a more damaging impact on their mental health than other forms.  Speaking to the Education Review website Professor Campbell said that many victims of online bullying were unaware of the effect it was having on them,

“When we measured their social problems, children who had been cyberbullied had much higher scores than victims of traditional bullying but they didn’t see it themselves,

“[for victims] It’s a cycle. They go to school, they get bullied. They go home and get cyberbullied. They go back to school and are bullied again.”

As for bullies: some 8% said that they had engaged in online bullying and of majority of these felt that their actions were not harmful to their victims.  Some 12% of those surveyed said they bullied face-to-face.

Pupils who engaged in bullying said they did so for fun or because their victim “deserved it.”  Professor Campbell called for more to be done to prevent bullying, both online and off, but emphasised the pervasive nature of online bullying.

“With the 24/7 nature of technology, access to a wider potential audience and the power of the written word and images, cyberbullying has more detrimental effects.”

The results of the study came as Australian schools held their annual National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

Parents, pupils, and general users can find more information about social web on the big three social network’s help pages.


Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).

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