Interventions to address cyberbullying will only be effective if they also consider the dynamics of traditional forms of bullying.

Schools and parents play an important role in educating children about cyberbullying. Credit: Pasco County Schools (Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0).

Bullying is a major public health problem, with systematic reviews supporting an association between adolescent bullying and poor mental wellbeing outcomes. In their Lancet article “Cyberbullying and adolescent well-being in England: a population-based cross sectional study”, Andrew Przybylski and Lucy Bowes report the largest study to date on the prevalence of traditional and cyberbullying, based on a nationally representative sample of 120,115 adolescents in England. While nearly a third of the adolescent respondents reported experiencing significant bullying in the past few months, cyberbullying was much less common, with around five percent of respondents reporting recent significant experiences. Both traditional and cyberbullying were independently associated with lower mental well-being, but only the relation between traditional bullying and well-being was robust. This supports the view that cyberbullying is unlikely to provide a source for new victims, but rather presents an avenue for further victimisation of those already suffering from traditional forms of bullying. This stands in stark contrast to media reports and the popular perception that young people are now more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than traditional forms. The results also suggest that interventions to address cyberbullying will only be effective if they also consider the dynamics of traditional forms of bullying, supporting the urgent need for evidence-based interventions that target both forms of bullying in adolescence. That said, as social media and Internet connectivity become an increasingly intrinsic part of modern childhood, initiatives fostering resilience in online and every day contexts will be required. We caught up with Andy and Lucy to discuss their findings: Ed.: You say that given “the rise in the use of mobile and online technologies among young people, an up to date estimation of the current prevalence of cyberbullying in the UK is needed.” Having undertaken that—what are your initial thoughts on the results? Andy: I think a really compelling thing we learned in this project is that researchers and policymakers have to think…