Question: Are the consequences of cyber bullying the same as those of traditional bullying?
Answer: At this point, it seems like the answer is no. Since cyber bullying (bullying via electronic devices, such as the Internet or cell phones) is a relatively new form of bullying, it has not yet been well researched. A study released in September 2010 gives us some preliminary answers, however, and indicates that cyber bullying may be quite different from traditional bullying.
For one, cyber bullying appears to occur less commonly than other forms of bullying. About 14% of adolescents in 6th through 10th grades reported being a victim or perpetrator of cyber bullying. In contrast, 54% of the students reported being involved in verbal bullying, 52% in relational bullying and 21% in physical bullying. It is worth noting, however, that this data was collected in 2005-2006 (even though it wasn't published until 2010). Given the increasing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, it's possible that cyber bullying has become much more common in recent years.
Secondly, the study found that cyber bullying may affect levels of depression differently than traditional forms of bullying. With more traditional forms of bullying, both victims and the bullies themselves reported similar levels of depression. However, in this study, victims of cyber bullying were more depressed than the cyber bullies. The researchers believe that there is an increased level of depression among those who are cyber bullied because in these situations victims may experience an anonymous attacker who instantly disperses fabricated photos throughout a large social network; as such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized, or helpless at the time of the attack.
All in all, at this point cyber bullying seems to have unique features from traditional types of bullying. Therefore, what scientists can tell us about the consequences and signs of bullying may not apply to the rapidly expanding issue of cyber bullying.
Wang, Jing, Nansel, Tonja R., and Iannotti, Ronald J. Cyber and traditional bullying: Differential association with depression. 2010. Journal of Adolescent Health. Accessed on October 21, 2010: http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X%2810%2900343-5/abstract