Cyberbullying Is Common, Psychologically Damaging

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- Bullying over the Internet is common, and it is associated with symptoms of psychopathology in boys and girls, according to researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

"Peer victimization using the medium of cyberspace ... carries similar negative repercussions for adolescent adjustment compared to more traditional, face-to-face forms of victimization," Lisa M. Sontag of the department of psychology at the university and her colleagues reported. Their study was presented in a poster session at a meeting sponsored by the Society for Adolescent Research.

They found that among a study population of 268 middle school students, almost 40% said they had been targets of cyberbullying. More girls than boys reported being harassed (46% vs.35%), but the difference was not significant.

The student sample, drawn from two large public schools in the Gainesville area, was 66% female, had a mean age of 12 years, and a racial composition that was 50% white, one-fourth black, 10% Hispanic, and the rest "other."

The mean family socioeconomic status boiled down to "some college and occupation level comparable to clerical worker or small-business owner."

Participants were categorized as "cybervictims" if they responded yes to either of the following questions: "I have been directly teased or hassled in a mean way through e-mail, instant messenger, or text messaging, or have had someone tease me on a Web site in the past 6 months"; or "I have had rumors or mean things said about me to other people on a Web site, e-mail, instant messenger, or text message in the past 6 months. …