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    2012 cyberbullying study dispels myths

    Date: 09.14.12 | by Judge Tom.

    A study published in May, 2012, in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology* argues that media reports about the prevalence of cyberbullying have been exaggerated. Dr. Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway conducted the study that involved over 450,000 students in almost 1400 schools in the United States and Norway. The students were surveyed between 2007 and 2010. The findings concluded that cyberbullying is not an epidemic as many articles and news accounts would have you believe.

    The study is titled “Cyberbullying: An Overrated Phenomenon?” In an abstract of the study the following is stated:

    “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.”

    Photo by J_O_I_D (Flickr)

    As a result of these findings, Dr. Olweus recommends that bullying be addressed as a whole, without trying to separate cyber-behavior from traditional face-to-face confrontations. The report states:  “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.”

    The effects of bullying, whether traditional or online/cell phone, include depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem and thoughts of suicide. The problem must be addressed by parents, health providers and schools through a coordinated effort. Once reported by the student, some form of action must be taken by those in authority whether a law mandating such exists or not. Most states have bullying prevention policies in place but many don’t specifically address “cyberbullying.” Does it take a law to recognize the reality that bullying other than the traditional type occurs among our students?

    On a similar note, we read that New Zealand now includes social media relationships in its self-development course for all teenagers. Discovery for Teens claims that adding the topic is a logical extension to their course contents. Recognizing the addictive nature of social media, the Discovery Foundation wants teenagers to take “responsibility for both their actions and futures, and techniques for effective relationships with peers, their family and others,” according to the Foundation’s chairman Mike Johnston.

    *A summary of Dr. Olweus’s study can be read here.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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