The longitudinal study – led by Professor Sheryl Hemphill from Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) School of Psychology in collaboration with Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Deakin University – followed almost 800 Victorian students from primary through high school to investigate rates of bullying perpetration and victimisation, predictors and consequences.
Measuring bullying behaviour in Years 9 and 10, the unique study examined a range of behavioural and mental health outcomes in Year 11.
Findings showed that students who were victims (but not perpetrators) of cyber bullying in Year 10 were more likely to be depressed and engage in self harm in Year 11. In contrast, students who were bullies (but not victims) in Year 10 were more likely to steal and engage in violent behaviour in Year 11.
Nine per cent of Year 9 students and 7 per cent of Year 10 students both engaged in cyber bullying and were victims of cyber bullying. The study also showed that five per cent of Year 9 and 10 students engaged in cyber bullying. Of these, more students reported being victims than perpetrators, and girls were more likely to be cyber bullied than boys.
Professor Hemphill said cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon, so we haven’t been sure of its long-term effects.
“This ongoing study shows cyber bullying does have serious consequences for students who are bullies, victims or both,” she said.
“The findings of our study show a unique association between cyber bullying and self-destructive patterns of behaviour.”
“The study will continue as the children enter into adulthood, and findings will impact on the ways we think about prevention of bullying.”
Professor Sheryl Hemphill is available for interview. Please contact Sara Coen, Communications and Media Officer, on 03 9953 3360.