Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength. Usually, it is repeated over time. Traditionally, bullying has involved actions such as: hitting or punching (physical bullying), teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying), or intimidation through gestures or social exclusion. In recent years, technology has given children and youth a new means of bullying each other.
Cyber bullying, which is sometimes referred to as online social cruelty or electronic bullying, can involve:
- Sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images;
- Posting sensitive, private information about another person;
- Pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad;
- Intentionally excluding someone from an online group (Willard, 2005).
Children and youth can cyberbully each other through:
- Instant messaging,
- Text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones,
- Web pages,
- Web logs (blogs),
- Chat rooms or discussion groups, and
- Other information communication technologies.
How common is cyber bullying?
Although little research has been conducted on cyber bullying, recent studies have found that:
- 18% of students in grades 6-8 said they had been cyberbullied at least once in the last couple of months; and 6% said it had happened to them 2 or more times (Kowalski et al., 2005).
- 11% of students in grades 6-8 said they had cyberbullied another person at least once in the last couple of months, and 2% said they had done it two or more times (Kowalski et al., 2005).
- 19% of regular Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 reported being involved in online aggression; 15% had been aggressors, and 7% had been targets (3% were both aggressors and targets) (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004).
- 17% of 6-11 year-olds and 36% of 12-17-year-olds reported that someone said threatening or embarrassing things about them through e-mail, instant messages, web sites, chat rooms, or text messages (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2006).
- Cyber bullying has increased in recent years. In nationally representative surveys of 10-17 year-olds, twice as many children and youth indicated that they had been victims and perpetrators of online harassment in 2005 compared with 1999/2000 (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2006).
Who are the victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying?
In a recent study of students in grades 6-8 (Kowalski et al., 2005):
- Girls were about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
- Of those students who had been cyberbullied relatively frequently (at least twice in the last couple of months):
- 62% said that they had been cyberbullied by another student at school, and 46% had been cyberbullied by a friend.
- 55% didn't know who had cyberbullied them.
- Of those students who admitted cyber bullying others relatively frequently:
- 60% had cyberbullied another student at school, and 56% had cyberbullied a friend.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.