Despite the breathless headlines and TV news segments, researcher Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, reported the results of a study that found traditional bullying in schools and on playgrounds is far more common than cyberbullying. Olewus studied 450,000 students in the U.S. from Grades 3-12 and 9,000 students in Norway.
Eighteen percent of the U.S. students reported being bullied while only five percent complained of cyberbullying. Of the bullied students, 80 percent said that cyberbullying was just part of the traditional bullying pattern of in-school interaction. Three percent reported cyberbullying others.
“These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies,” Olweus said in a release. “To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of electronic media is only one possible form, and, in addition, a form with low prevalence.”
Obviously any bullying is abhorrent, but the focus on high-profile cyberbullying attacks often ignores the real life bullying that goes on in schools around the world. Like any social problem, news organizations love splashy headlines about “new” forms of bullying and lawmakers are even trying to legislate it. What really needs to be fixed are the systems in place designed to react to and prevent bullying in the first place.
As a kid who got his licks in grade school, I can only imagine what modern children feel when they’re attacked on the playground and on their computers. Clearly the best hope for a solution is in education and disciplining of the bullies who make kids’ lives a living hell.