Cyberbullying Affects More than 25% of Teens

Findings from a study conducted in Spain suggest that cyber-bullying becoming increasingly common among adolescents.

Cyberbullying may be more common than many people believe.

Researchers at the University of Valencia (UV) in Spain found that between 25% and 29% of teenagers were bullied via their mobile phone or the Internet during the past year, according to data from a study carried out in the region.

"The data from our study shows that technological bullying affects 24.6% of teenagers in the case of mobile telephony, and 29% with regard to the internet. In the large majority of cases, this abuse lasts for a month or less", said Sofía Buelga, co-author of the study and a researcher at the UV, in an online report.

For their research, which is published in the journal Psicothema, Buelga and colleagues surveyed 2,101 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17 in 11 secondary schools in Valencia in 2009. According to their findings, cyberbullying lasts for less than a month for most teenagers.

"Out of the total surveyed, 17.4% were bullied via their mobile phones and 22.5% on the Internet,” they wrote.

Although cyberbullying is a short-lived problem for most adolescents, there is a "relatively small, but significant" percentage of teenagers who have been subject to bullying of moderate (less than one attack per week) and severe intensity (more than one attack per week) over the course of more than three months, 4% between 3 and 6 months and 3% for more than a year, the authors found.

In cases where bullying is moderate and lasts for more than three months, the most commonly used means for it is the mobile phone. "This could be explained by the availability and central importance that mobile phones have in life,” said Buelga, noting that previous studies have shown that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14 have owned an average of three mobile phones, and 63% of them never switch them off.

“More cyber bullying tends to take place in the first years at school than in the last ones, both by mobile and Internet", she noted. “The study shows that girls suffer more bullying than boys in most cases, particularly verbal bullying, invasions of privacy, spreading of rumors and social exclusion. If is very important to raise young people's awareness, since they are often not aware of the repercussions of their actions.”

The report EU Kids Online, produced this year in 25 European countries, shows that Spain is "slightly below" the European average in terms of internet bullying. The average rate of Internet bullying in Europe is 5%, with Estonia and Romania reporting the highest incidence of this phenomenon.

"Technology is taking on ever greater importance in daily life. This is why we need measures to teach people how to use it responsibly and positively", concluded Buelga.

To read the study, click here.