Recently published research in the journal Psychology of Violence, from the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC), – “The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?” (pdf) conducted a survey of 791 young people aged 10-20 to find out the role of technology and social media in peer bullying.
The big take away from the study is that the negative impact of online bullying is "significantly lower" than bullying behaviors that occur face-to-face.
- "...That those seeking to prevent the most detrimental forms of peer harassment might focus less on cyberbullying per se and instead [consider] prevention programs that teach youth to handle negative feelings and to de-escalate tensions."
- “Compared with in-person incidents, technology-only incidents were less likely to involve multiple episodes and power imbalances.”
- “They were seen by victims as easier to stop and had significantly less emotional impact.” So, no, the idea that tech amplifies harm, is not supported by the data."
While many researchers have been concerned that cyberbullying could actually be worse than facing a victim offline and in person, the study actually provided opposite results.
"Technology-only incidents were less likely than in-person only incidents to result in injury, involve a social power differential and to have happened a series of times," Kimberly J. Mitchell, lead author of the study, said in a news release.
"Mixed episodes, those that involved both in-person and technology elements, were more likely than technology-only episodes to involve perpetrators who knew embarrassing things about the victim, happen a series of times, last for one month or longer, involve physical injury and start out as joking before becoming more serious. It is these mixed episodes that appear to be the most distressing to youth."
This study represents a big shift in thinking about social media bullying and should make everyone involved in working with kids and teens shift more focus on to the bullying behaviors that take place in the classroom, home and playground.