Parenting News

Cyber bullying is not our biggest problem

Traditional forms of bullying are still the most common -
and damaging - forms of bullying among young people, a new study claims.

Ask any parent about their fears for their children, and cyber bullying invariably comes up. With the internet and social media a central part of today’s kids’ lives, and many parents feeling that they’re relatively in the dark about the cyber world their kids inhabit, it’s no surprise this is something that so many of us worry about.
Bullying is a real and serious problem in New Zealand, with 15-year-olds reporting the second-highest rate of bullying out of 51 countries in the OECD’s latest three-yearly survey - a figure that NZ Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has blasted as "utterly unacceptable and deeply disturbing".
However, a new study by UK researchers of more than 110,000 English 15-year-olds (which represents one in five English teens) suggests that cyber bullying is not the form of bullying that we should be most worried about.
The teenagers in the University of Oxford study revealed that a third of them experience bullying – however, only one per cent are bullied online only and only three per cent are bullied online as well as face-to-face.
The study was published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.
Concerns have been raised that cyber bullying has the potential to cause more harm than other ‘traditional’ forms of bullying because of the relative anonymity of perpetrators, there are larger audiences, and the permanence of posted messages.
However, in the study, experience of only cyber bullying was found to have a very small association with a decline in well-being and life satisfaction when compared with traditional bullying alone.
Those who faced both types of bullying were five times more likely to report the lowest levels of well-being.
Cyber bullying involves repeated personal attacks online using instant messaging, social media postings, emails, text messages and websites.
The most common forms of bullying reported in the study were: being called mean names or teased and having lies or false rumours spread about them, while physical bullying and cyber bullying were the least common forms of bullying reported.
Bullying can have a profound effect on a young person's sense of well being, their confidence and self esteem. A number of studies have shown bullying in teenage years not only affects the young person's mental health at the time, but is also strongly associated with depression later on in life.