+ Cyber Bullying Affects One in 10 Students

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A new study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that many children in grades 6 through 10 have either bullied classmates or been bullied by them, sometimes through cell phones, according to Peter West, reporter for Health Day.

The study, released in the Journal of Adolescent Medicine, analyzed data from the World Health Organization’s 2005/2006 survey of human behavior in school-aged children.

They found that 20.8 percent of respondents reported being perpetrators or victims of physical bullying in the past two months; 53.6 percent were victims of verbal bullying; 51.4 percent were victims of relational bullying which involves social exclusion, and 13.6 percent were victims of cyber bullying on a computer, cell phone or other electronic device.

Study author Ronald Iannotti, staff psychologist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says “Bullying definitely remains prevalent and seems to peak in middle school.  Middle school years are difficult.”

The study didn’t look for an increase or decrease in school bullying over the years, but some experts believe the rate has stayed stable or even declined over the past decade.

This study is one of the first to examine the recent phenomenon of cyber bullying.

Physical bullying” was defined as hitting, kicking, pushing, shoving and locking a classmate indoors.   “Verbal bullying” included calling someone mean names, making fun of/ teasing in a hurtful way, and saying mean things about a person’s race or religion.  “Relational bullying” was defined as spreading rumors or socially excluding others.

Trends Revealed by the Study:

  • Verbal bullying was the most prevalent of the four major forms of bullying.
  • Boys are more likely to be involved in physical and verbal bullying.
  • Girls are more likely to spread rumors and ostracise a victim.
  • Bullying tends to decline as children get older, with the bullying taking place in middle school, especially seventh and eighth grades.
  • Compared with whites, balck adolescents were more likely to be bullies, and less likely to be victims.
  • Hispanics were more involved in physical bullying than whites but more likely to suffer cyber bullying.

A big part in determining hostile behavior seems to be how many friends a child has.  For physical, verbal and relational abuse, kids with lots of friends are at higher risk of becoming bullies.

Cyber bullying is bullying through a computer or other communication device.  It is still a small phenomenon.  Researchers found that eight percent had received harassing computer pictures or messages; six percent were bullied by cell phone.  More boys were cyber bullies; more girls were cyber victims.

The size of a child’s social circle didn’t affect their involvement in electronic bullying.  But affluence seems to increase the risk, probably because wealthier families have more computers and cell phones available.

Says Frederick Zimmerman, associate professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, “There’s been a lot of recent emphasis on cyber bullying, but the fact is that there is a lot less of it than in-person bullying.  Parents can certainly help by being aware of what their kids are doing alone in their rooms.”

Good Parental Support Makes a Difference

No foolproof way exists to stop middle-school bullying.  But the researchers concluded that good parental support helps children avoid abusive behavior. 

Parents serve as role models, good and bad, says Iannotti.  Furthermore, kids who come from loving homes and feel good about themselves are less likely to want to harass someone, and are less likely to appear weak to potential bullies.

Zimmerman feels parents should be on the lookout for signs of bullying and victimization — but shouldn’t overreact.

Most kids shrug  it off and bounce back, he says. 

sole source: article by Peter West, HealthDay Reporter at Yahoo.com.  More information, visit National Institutes of Health at  http://www.nih.gov/

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