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Bullying: face-to-face more common than cyberbullying

Cyberbullying alone doesn´t seem to be as big an issue amongst teenagers as people may think. However, as much as 30% of 15 year olds in the UK said they´d been bullied in some form at least twice a month in the previous two months.

Being bullied is distressing and can have a big impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Traditionally bullying has been done in a face-to-face manner with people being called mean names, made fun of, teased, excluded from friends or even been hit or kicked or been victim of other types of hurtful behaviour. With young people’s extensive use of social media, the term cyberbullying has become another form of bullying that involves technology, where people can be bullied any time of day without any face-to-face contact.

Researchers from the University of Oxford conducted a study to investigate the extent of bullying in 15 year olds all over the UK. They asked 300,000 15 year olds to fill in a questionnaire about bullying and 110,000 filled in the questionnaire. The researchers found that 30% of them experienced what they called ‘traditional’ form of bullying, 3% experienced both ‘traditional’ and cyberbullying whereas less than 1% experienced only cyberbullying.

The teenagers also filled in a mental wellbeing scale so that the researchers could investigate if there was a link between experiences of being bullied and adolescents’ mental wellbeing. They found that teenagers who said they were being bullied twice a month or more had a poorer mental wellbeing than teenagers who were not being bullied that often.

The ‘good’ news from this study is that cyberbullying alone doesn’t seem to be as big an issue as is sometimes suggested in the media and it doesn’t seem to be creating new victims of bullying. The bad news is that as much as 30% said they’d been bullied in some form at least twice a month in the last two months before filling in the questionnaires. That is a big number and shows that bullying is still a problem that needs tackling.

There are limiting factors in all studies and there are some obvious problems in this study too. For example, only 40% of the 15-year olds who were contacted completed the questionnaire and we don’t know why the rest (60%) chose not to respond. This is important because we don’t know if the 40% who responded are typical for that age group. It could be that adolescents are more (or less) likely to respond to that type of survey if they are being bullied. So in that way they may not be representative of all 15-year olds in the UK. We don’t know…

Another thing is that this was a so-called cross-sectional study, which means that it only gathers information once and asks about a particular time period, in this instance the last two months. So if people had been bullied more than two months before the study that would not have been picked up by this study. Also, in this type of study it’s impossible to say anything about causes. So we don’t know what came first: being bullied or having a poorer mental health. An then of course, there will always be lots of factors about people’s lives that the researchers can’t account for, such as difficult circumstances at home or other things that could contribute to the results of the study.

You can read more about this study on NHS Choices website and we have also linked to some websites about bullying and advice on dealing with that.

Links:

Bullying UK

NHS Choices: Coping with Cyberbullying

 

This article was first published : 24.8.2017

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