Background: Bullying is a national public health problem affecting millions of students. With the rapid increase in electronic or online communication, bullying is no longer limited to schools. The goal of the current investigation was to examine the overlap among targets of, and the similarities between, online and in-school bullying among Internet-using adolescents. Additionally, a number of common assumptions regarding online or cyberbullying were tested.
Methods: An anonymous Web-based survey was conducted with one thousand four hundred fifty-four 12- to 17-year-old youth.
Results: Within the past year, 72% of respondents reported at least 1 online incident of bullying, 85% of whom also experienced bullying in school. The most frequent forms of online and in-school bullying involved name-calling or insults, and the online incidents most typically took place through instant messaging. When controlling for Internet use, repeated school-based bullying experiences increased the likelihood of repeated cyberbullying more than the use of any particular electronic communication tool. About two thirds of cyberbullying victims reported knowing their perpetrators, and half of them knew the bully from school. Both in-school and online bullying experiences were independently associated with increased social anxiety. Ninety percent of the sample reported they do not tell an adult about cyberbullying, and only a minority of participants had used digital tools to prevent online incidents.
Conclusions: The findings have implications for (1) school policies about cyberbullying, (2) parent education about the risks associated with online communication, and (3) youth advice regarding strategies to prevent and deal with cyberbullying incidents.