How bullying differs from cyberbullying

The dynamics of traditional bullying and cyberbullying are not the same, new research has found. In findings to be presented at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting in Vancouver, it was suggested that programmes designed to tackle behaviour of this kind should make use of specific interventions that target aggression through the internet.

Jennifer Shapka, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, noted there is currently an assumption that initiatives aimed at preventing teasing in school also take into account actions carried out via the web.

However, Ms Shapka explained young people do not tend to link cyberbullying to that which goes on in the playground, adding: "As such, we shouldn't assume that existing interventions will be relevant to aggression that is happening online."

According to her findings, kids say that 95 per cent of online actions are intended as a joke, with just five per cent meant to do real harm to those on the receiving end.

Dr Emily Lovegrove commented: "Existing research also suggests that young people think that the bulk of teasing they do is also only a joke so that factor would not, in itself, preclude similar anti-bullying strategies being helpful.

"Nothing will actually stop all bullying. However, cyberbullying already differs in that the police can be involved - and will instigate legal action against perpetrators if need be.

"Tackling the bullies is unlikely to effect change - they gain enjoyment and status from putting others down. I would suggest that tackling any type of bullying issue will be more successful if we concentrate on helping victims understand the rules of engagement when bullying occurs and provide them with the social and emotional skills they need to help them cope."