Purpose: Electronic communications technologies are affording children and adolescents new means of bullying one another. Referred to as electronic bullying, cyberbullying, or online social cruelty, this phenomenon includes bullying through e-mail, instant messaging, in a chat room, on a website, or through digital messages or images sent to a cell phone. The present study examined the prevalence of electronic bullying among middle school students.
Methods: A total of 3,767 middle school students in grades 6, 7, and 8 who attend six elementary and middle schools in the southeastern and northwestern United States completed a questionnaire, consisting of the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire and 23 questions developed for this study that examined participants' experiences with electronic bullying, as both victims and perpetrators.
Results: Of the students, 11% that they had been electronically bullied at least once in the last couple of months (victims only); 7% indicated that they were bully/victims; and 4% had electronically bullied someone else at least once in the previous couple of months (bullies only). The most common methods for electronic bullying (as reported by both victims and perpetrators) involved the use of instant messaging, chat rooms, and e-mail. Importantly, close to half of the electronic bully victims reported not knowing the perpetrator's identity.
Conclusions: Electronic bullying represents a problem of significant magnitude. As children's use of electronic communications technologies is unlikely to wane in coming years, continued attention to electronic bullying is critical. Implications of these findings for youth, parents, and educators are discussed.