New US study looks into cyberbullying

Cyberbullying occurs less frequently than intimation of this type seen in real life. This is the finding of new research to be presented at the 120th annual convention of the American Psychological Association, which suggested online teasing is often an extension of the tactics seen through in-person bullying.

Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen in Norway noted claims that cyberbullying now represents the biggest problem of its kind in schools have been over-emphasised.

Mr Olweus stated: "There is very little scientific support to show that cyberbullying has increased over the past five to six years and this form of bullying is actually a less frequent phenomenon."

However, Mr Olweus pointed out the findings do not mean online bullying is not an issue that needs to be addressed, adding victims of such actions may also suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts as a result of this treatment.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Emma Short comments:

"This is an interesting study. Cyber harassment or bullying is often just one of several bullying behaviours employed, so making a distinction between cyberbullying and off-line bullying is not as straightforward as it might seem.

The other complicating factor in assessing prevalence is the difference in how cyberbullying is defined and measured by research in this field. Organisations like CyberMentors and BeatBullying have begun to talk about a decline in cyberbullying over the last year, but this is the first fall recorded, so it is not yet clear whether this represents a general trend.

"What is clear is the growing public voice challenging cyberbullying and the recognition of it as an antisocial behaviour that causes real psychological distress."