Cyberbullying Less Emotionally Impactful than In-Person Bullying?
Researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) just published a paper in the journalPsychology of Violence that explores the question of whether technology “amplifies” the harm for youth who are bullied. Anecdotally, we have heard this to be the case from many youth over the years: that the bullying they experienced online was as bad, and in some cases much worse, than the bullying that they experienced at school. Adolescent targets, for example, often reported feeling less equipped to stop cyberbullying. They confronted more barriers when confiding in adults about these behaviors. Educators have policies and are trained to deal with the bullying that occurs on school grounds, but up until very recently this wasn’t the case for online bullying that occurred away from school. Moreover, sometimes the aggressors are anonymous, and the hurtful content is posted in a public place for all to see. So in many ways it seems that online bullying has the potential to be much worse for some who experience it.
But one particular finding in the UNH paper has called this conventional wisdom into question. Specifically, students who experienced cyberbullying by itself (with no accompanying in-person bullying) were less emotionally impacted than those who experienced face-to-face bullying. The mediahas interpreted this as “cyberbullying is not as bad as in-person bullying.” This is part of the story, but not the whole story.