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Health & Parenting

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Survey: 1 in 4 Teens Bullied at School

Students Who Are Subjected to School Bullying and Cyberbullying Report More Depression and Suicide Attempts
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 18, 2011 -- One in four high school students in a recent survey said they were victims of school bullying, and nearly 16% said they were victims of cyberbullying.

Researchers questioned more than 20,000 ninth- through 12th-graders in and around Boston in an effort to better understand the overlap between school bullying and cyberbullying and the potential impact of both.

Almost 16% of teens reported being victims of cyberbullying -- via the Internet, texting, or some other communication technology -- within the previous year; 26% reported being bullied at school during the same period.

Cyberbullying was more common among girls than boys, with 18% of girls and 13% of boys reporting being victims during the previous 12 months.

Bullying and Cyberbullying Common

It is not too surprising that girls tend to engage in cyberbullying more than traditional types of bullying, says Shari Kessel Schneider, MSPH, of the nonprofit research group Education Development Center, Inc.

"Studies show that girls tend to choose less confrontational bullying than boys, with social manipulation and exclusion more common," Schneider says.

Among the major findings from the survey:

  • 33% of gay, lesbian, and other non-heterosexually identified teens reported being victims of cyberbullying, compared to just under 15% of teens who identified themselves as heterosexual.
  • 47% of teens who reported being victims of both forms of bullying also reported having symptoms of depression, compared to 34% of those who reported being victims of cyberbullying only and 27% of those reporting being bullied only at school.
  • Victims of both forms of bullying were also most likely to report having attempted suicide, with 15% saying that they had tried to kill themselves, compared to 9%, 4%, and 2%, respectively, of teens who reported being cyberbully victims, school bully victims, or those who were not victims of bullying.

Cyberbullying victims also reported poorer school performance than students who were not victims, and less attachment to the school they attended.

The study was not designed to prove that bullying causes poor grades, depression, or suicide. But the strength of the association shows the need for school-based prevention efforts, Kessel Schneider says.

The survey, published in the Nov. 17 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, was funded by the independent philanthropy group MetroWest Health Foundation.

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