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Beran, T., Li, Q. (2007). The relationship between cyberbullying and school bullying. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 1, 15-33.

Bullying usually occurs before an audience of peers and on the school playground (Craig & Pepler, 1997; Olweus, 1993). Researchers consider bullying to be exposure, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students (Olweus, 2003). These negative actions are considered intentional, whereby individuals inflict injury or discomfort upon someone else (Olweus, 2003). Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technology such as mobile phones, video cameras, e-mails, and web pages to post or send harassing or embarrassing messages to another person (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). Different types of cyberbullying have been reported ranging from flaming to cyberstalking. Flaming is sending angry, rude, vulgar messages about a person to an online group or to that person via email or other text messaging. Online harassment is repeatedly sending offensive messages via email or other text messaging to a person. Cyberstalking is online harassment that includes threats of harm. Denigration is sending harmful, untrue, or cruel statements about a person to other people or posting such material online. Masquerade is pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material that makes that person look bad. Outing is sending or posting material about a person that contains sensitive, private, or embarrassing information, including forwarding private messages or images. Exclusion is cruelly excluding someone from an online group. Previous research has shown that children who are bullied at school suffer internalizing problems such as anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and insecurity (Frost, 1991; Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Olweus, 1989). Children who are bullied may display externalizing problems such as impulsiveness and hyperactivity (Camodeca et al., 2003; Johnson et al., 2002). In a national sample of American youth, 30% reported feeling extremely upset and 24% frightened as a result of receiving harassing on-line messages (Finkelhor et al., 2000).

Method: Participants included 432 students in grades 7–9 in Canadian schools. To determine whether students experienced cyberbullying they were first read the standard definition of bullying developed by Olweus (1996): Harassment occurs when a student, or several students, says mean and hurtful things or makes fun of another student or calls him or her mean and hurtful names, completely ignores or excludes him or her from their group of friends or leaves him or her out of things on purpose, tells lies or spreads false rumors about him or her, sends mean notes and tries to make other students dislike him or her, and other hurtful things like that. When we talk about harassment, these things happen repeatedly, and it is difficult for the student being harassed to defend himself or herself. We also call it harassment, when a student is teased repeatedly in a mean and hurtful way. But we don’t call it harassment when the teasing is done in a friendly and playful way. Also, it is not harassment when two students of about equal strength or power argue or fight. To determine the relationship between cyberbullying and school bullying, students were asked ‘Do the people who harassed you by using technology also harass you in other ways (not using technology)?’ Students were then asked: ‘Do you use technology to harass others?’ To determine whether bullying is related to difficulties at school, students were asked if they missed school, had difficulty concentrating, or if their marks dropped because of bullying.

Results: 58% had experienced cyberbullying once or twice or more often whereas 26% reported bullying others in cyberspace once or twice or more often. Also, more than a third of students reported being bullied both in cyberspace and at school once or twice or more often. Students who were bullied in cyberspace were likely to bully others in cyberspace and be bullied at school. Students who were cyberbullied were likely to miss school, obtain low marks, and have poor concentration. These difficulties were also reported by students who experienced both cyberbullying and school bullying. For those students who admitted bullying others in cyberspace, no difficulties at school other than poor concentration were reported.

Discussion: More than half of the students in the sample had experienced some cyberbullying, and more than a quarter of students reported bullying others in cyberspace at least once. Also, more than a third had been bullied both in cyberspace and at school. These forms of bullying are interrelated. Students who are bullied through technology are likely to use technology to bully others. It is possible that children who are bullied retaliate against the aggressor. Considering that the majority of bullying occurs before peer witnesses, their role must be considered to be a key component in intervention programs.