The damage cyberbullies do can be worse than in-person bullying, with rumors spreading much more quickly to a potentially wider audience.
Surveys around the world are finding that online forums are becoming hotbeds of bullying, with teens and tweens increasingly using social networking sites to engage in bullying.
In a study on cyberbullying conducted in February by Norton Canada, a staggering 66 percent of the 507 parents polled said that their child had been a victim of a cyberbully attack, while 16 percent admitted that their child was the bully.
The survey found that tweens, 8-to-12-year-olds, are the most victimized age group.
A survey conducted by the U.S. National Crime Prevention Center, found that over 40 percent of U.S. teenagers with Internet access reported being bullied online during the past year. Similar statistics were also found in the United Kingdom.
Last year, an EU study found that, 6 percent of Internet-using teens, ages 9–16, reported having received nasty or hurtful messages online, while 3 percent reported sending such messages to others.
Chat rooms, social networking websites, e-mail, cell phones, and instant message systems are platforms used by bullies with chat rooms being the most common forum for cyberbullying, according Cyber Bully Alert, which reported that 45 to 57 percent of all bullying incidents originate in chat rooms.
Facebook and MySpace are also hotbeds for cyberbullying incidents, according to Cyber Bully Alert, saying that they will soon overtake chat rooms as the top source of cyberbullying problems worldwide, according to the site.
Worse Than Hitting
Dr. Marilyn Campbell, a child psychologist at the Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia, said that cyberbullying has become a global problem.
A study by the Institute concluded that cyberbullying could actually be more detrimental to children than face-to-face tormenting.
“We actually think that the consequences of cyberbullying could be even worse than normal schoolyard bullying, mainly because it is the power of the written word we can read over and over,” Campbell said.
A study on the effects of rejection on adults, released by the University of Michigan last March, found that the brain is not clearly able to differentiate the pain of emotional rejection from physical pain.
The pain and torment that cyberbullied kids feel can leave mental and emotional scars. Cyberbullied kids are more likely to show depressive symptoms, have suicidal thoughts, and develop psychotic symptoms in early adolescence, say researchers.
In several cases cyberbullying has lead victims to commit suicide. One of the more high profile cases was that of U.S.-teen, Megan Meier in 2006. Megan’s suicide three weeks before her 14th birthday was attributed to cyberbullying through MySpace.