9th March 2012

Almost half of young Australians surveyed report being bullied face-to-face, online or both, a new QUT study of more than 3000 school students has found.

The study, involving 3112 students from grades 6 to 12 in nearly 30 schools across Australia, found that 'traditional' or face-to-face bullying was twice as prevalent as cyberbullying.

About 30 per cent of students reported they had been 'traditionally' bullied compared to 15 per cent of students who said they had been cyberbullied.

Of that proportion, 7.5 per cent of students were victims of both face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying. The remaining 55 per cent of young people were not involved in bullying.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Marilyn Campbell, from QUT's Faculty of Education, will present the findings at the Youth Violence Symposium, hosted by Griffith University, from March 19 to 20 in Brisbane.

She said students who were traditionally bullied perceived it as crueller and reported it had a bigger impact on their lives than students who had been cyberbullied.

However, cyberbullying victims reported significantly higher levels of social problems, anxiety levels and depression than those who were bullied face-to-face.

"Although cyberbullying is less common, it seems to be more impactful on a young person's mental health than face-to-face bullying," Professor Campbell said.

"With the 24/7 nature of technology, access to a wider potential audience and the power of the written word and images, cyberbullying has more detrimental effects."

She said girls were more likely to rate both types of bullying as having more impact on their lives than boys and younger students more than older students said cyberbullying was more hurtful.

The researchers included Professor Des Butler from QUT, Dr Barbara Spears from the University of South Australia, Professor Phillip Slee from Flinders University, and Professor Sally Kift from James Cook University.

The study also examined cyberbullies' mental health and their perception of the harm they caused to others.

Professor Campbell said 8 per cent of students surveyed had admitted to bullying, although three-quarters of them thought their actions had no impact on victims.

"That shows a major lack of empathy. We've got to look at these kids and what is being done to help them and the kids they're hurting," she said.

The research, which was funded through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, also found that bullies suffered higher levels of social difficulties and mental health problems than young people who were not bullied.

Professor Campbell said Australia should look to countries such as Norway.

She said it had implemented a fully-funded, large-scale, antibullying program called KiVa that had reduced bullying by 20 to 40 per cent.

"There has to be more evidence-based interventions to teach students that bullying is not fun - it is mean and hurtful," she said.

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Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, stephanie.harrington@qut.edu.au

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