New research is suggesting that adolescents underestimate the degree to which their peers are bullied. The online study of 1,454 adolescents ages 12-17, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, tried to gauge the differences between school bullying and cyberbullying and found that young people underestimate the bullying of their peers, particularly when it takes place online.
At least one incident of school bullying was reported by 77% of adolescents; 72% reported having been cyberbullied. But when young people were asked how much their peers may have had similar experiences in school and online, just 61% thought peers were bullied in school and 50% said peers had these experiences online.
“Even though we think of the online context of being this very public space where it’s easy to know what’s happening to others, we actually found out teens are not aware of how often cyberbullying occurs among their peers. We saw these underestimates, particularly online,” co-author Guadalupe Espinoza told a session at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in San Diego. Jaana Juvonen, a professor of developmental psychology and co-author, has conducted previous research on bullying.
The study didn’t use the term “bullying.” Instead, students were asked how frequently “mean things” happened to them in the past year; the study defined “mean things” as “anything that someone does that upsets or offends someone else.” It included behaviors such as insults, threats or sharing embarrassing photos.
Espinoza suggests that one reason for the online underestimate is the young people may think they’re the only ones facing cyberbullying. “It may be the case that cyberbullying is especially painful for youth if they think ‘I’m experiencing this alone. It isn’t happening to any of my peers. Why just me?” she says.
The research found that most of these young people have experienced bullying at school and on the Internet, but boys in particular underestimated such situations among their peers.
The study also attempted to find out more about the reasons for bullying, by asking the teens and pre-teens the most common reasons for these occurrences. Girls thought it was jealousy or looks, while boys said the most common reason was a prank.
You can read some of my other posts on bullying:
- How to help your child cope with a bully
- The Truth about Bullying and How to Protect Your Child
- Spanking your kid could hatch a bully? Don’t bet on it!
- Bullies Target Obese Kids
- Obese kids more apt to be bullied, study confirms