Cyberbullying affects rich and poor alike

May 21, 2014
A study by Michigan State University's Thomas Holt suggests cyberbullying affects kids in affluent areas and poor areas alike. Credit: Michigan State University

Cyberbullying isn't just a problem in middle class and affluent areas. Teenagers in poor, high-crime neighborhoods also experience online bullying, finds new research led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

The study suggests the "digital divide" – the gap between people with access to online technologies and those without – may be nonexistent, at least when it comes to , said Thomas J. Holt, MSU associate professor of .

"We found neighborhood conditions that are indicative of poverty and crime are a significant predictor for bullying – not only for physical and verbal bullying, but cyberbullying as well," Holt said. "This is a very unique and somewhat surprising finding."

About 30 percent of American youth have experienced a bullying incident, either as victim or bully, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Victims are at greater risk for academic and and even suicide.

While still less prevalent than traditional bullying, cyberbullying is a growing problem. An estimated 2.2 million students in the United States were harassed or threatened online in 2011, up from about 1.5 million in 2009, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

For their study, Holt and colleagues analyzed the survey results of nearly 2,000 middle- and . The researchers found that living in poor, crime-plagued neighborhoods was a significant predictor of physical, verbal and online bullying – over and above individual characteristics like self-control.

Holt said engaging teachers and school officials to discuss bullying prevention in real and virtual spaces could help reduce the risk in low-income communities.

Public campaigns specifically targeting cyberbullying should also be stressed in schools and libraries. "Such a message is vital to ensure all forms of bullying are given equal emphasis," Holt said.

The study appears online in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

Explore further: Youth cybercrime linked to friends' influence

Related Stories

Youth cybercrime linked to friends' influence

June 23, 2011

Peer influence and low self-control appear to be the major factors fueling juvenile cybercrime such as computer hacking and online bullying, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

Cyberbullying and bullying are not the same: research

April 13, 2012

University of British Columbia research comparing traditional bullying with cyberbullying finds that the dynamics of online bullying are different, suggesting that anti-bullying programs need specific interventions to target ...

Online or off, bullying proves harmful

February 11, 2013

Children who are bullied online or by mobile phone are just as likely to skip school or consider suicide as kids who are physically bullied, according to a study led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

Recommended for you

People with alcohol dependency lack important enzyme

August 30, 2016

A research group under the leadership of Linköping University Professor Markus Heilig has identified an enzyme whose production is turned off in nerve cells of the frontal lobe when alcohol dependence develops. The deficiency ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.