Girls just want to have fun – sometimes at the expense of others. (Photo: Colourbox)
Girls just want to have fun – sometimes at the expense of others. (Photo: Colourbox)

Girls gravitate toward online bullying

Swedish research has shown that teenage girls are more involved in cyberbullying than the face-to-face kind, both as perpetrators and victims.

Published

Males and females are equally likely to be involved in web bullying, or cyberbullying, unlike old-fashioned bullying, where males tend to dominate, according to a new study from Karlstad University in Sweden.

But girls are more likely to be on the receiving end of persecution via digital media than via real-life confrontations.

Linda Beckman studied the difference between web bullying and traditional bullying for her doctoral disseration. She thinks the dissimilar web habits between boys and girls might explain her findings.

Girls communicate more

“Research has shown that boys mainly play games and the like on the web. Girls communicate more than others and use social media and blogs where they can post comments and photos,” she says.

Social media provides more exposure, for better or for worse. (Photo: Colourbox)
Social media provides more exposure, for better or for worse. (Photo: Colourbox)

Beckman thinks there may be a link here. Maybe the sites that adolescent girls frequent generally entail a bigger risk of bullying.

“Greater interaction with others doesn’t automatically mean more bullying, but the risk of being bullied increases simply because you visit websites where others – perhaps with less benign intentions – are also active,” she says.

Anonymous on the web

Beckman’s dissertation is based on three surveys among more than 3,800 adolescents aged 13 to 15 in Värmland County. She also interviewed four focus groups consisting of 16 social workers and school nurses.

Anonymity and public exposure are two factors that she thinks make cyberbullying different from traditional bullying.

Perhaps it’s anonymity that leads to the increase in bullying?

“Yes, that’s been discussed as a possible factor. Now nobody is really anonymous, because IP addresses can be traced, even if a person hacks into another person's account," Beckman says.

“But it does make it possible to feel conveniently invisible, particularly with regard to children and adolescents who are likely to be reluctant to tell others what happened.”

Worst bullying with pics or videos

Previous research has indicated that teens feel that bullying with digital photos and video is worse than bullying face to face. Victims report that mobile phone conversations, texting and emails are generally less harmful.

Although cyberbullying has stirred up more notoriety and concern in recent years, most studies show that traditional bullying is still what’s most widespread.

Despite the differences, cyberbullying and regular bullying are two sides of the same coin, Beckman writes in her report.

Worst for those who give and get

Those who bully and get bullied, or bully victims, are a special group who are in a vulnerable situation, according to the researcher. 

Bechman’s research shows that this group was more likely than others to suffer from psychosomatic problems, or physical afflictions with no apparent physical cause.

Girls with disabilities – various impairments leading to school problems – were more likely to be bullied than other girls.

But people with these problems were also more apt to become bully victims, picking on others as well as being humiliated themselves.

“The strongest link was found for those who were involved the dual role, the bully victims, and particularly individuals in this category who were involved in traditional as well as cyberbullying. Bully victims are a particularly vulnerable group that is discernible from others in most respects and has a hard time of it,” says Beckman.

Anti-bullying in schools

Beckman also studied ways that schools can tackle the challenge of bullying.

“Cyberbullying challenges schools in multiple ways. My hope is that this dissertation prods schools to discuss the problem and see what they can do to unite their resources in curtailment efforts.”

“Providing kids with secure and safe schooling can bolster their mental health and improve their development and perspective with regard to society. Bullying is thus a particularly important problem for us to solve – whether it occurs online of offline.”

----------------------

Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

Related content