A new report out of the University of Valencia in Spain finds that roughly one in four teens studied have been bullied by cell phone and/or the Internet at some point over the past year.
While these findings may sound reasonable, it is bound to raise eyebrows as it comes on the heels of a much larger, 25-country European Union study called EU Kids Online that reports the European cyberbullying average far lower, at 5 percent, with Spain being even slightly below that average.
The discrepancy could be the result of differences in how cyberbullying itself is defined. In Valencia, the researchers considered any amount of cyberharassment to be bullying, no matter how long or short it lasted. They defined "moderate bullying" as less than one "attack" per week and "severe intensity bullying" as more than one attack per week.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Psicothema, was only conducted in the Valencia region, and only using input from 2,101 teens ages 11 to 17. But still, among that population, researchers found that while 24.6 teens were bullied by cell phone and 29 percent by Internet, and most of them for less than a month, 4 percent of teens studied were bullied over the course of three to six months and 3 percent were bullied for more than a year.
"More cyberbullying tends to take place in the first years at school than in the last ones, both by mobile and Internet", says co-author and researcher Sofía Buelga. "The study shows that girls suffer more bullying than boys in most cases, particularly verbal bullying, invasions of privacy, spreading of rumors and social exclusion."
She adds that it is "very important to raise young people's awareness, since they are often not aware of the repercussions of their actions."
What I remember about being 11 and surrounded by other 11-year-old girls is that it is a mean age, perhaps the meanest of all, and it managed to be so without the help of cell phones and Facebook. Instead of another study on the frequency of bullying today, perhaps it's time to investigate the effects of modern bullying, and whether it is more or less pernicious than the spats of yore.