The research and a recommendation that traditional bullying should be the primary focus of prevention programs were presented at the American Psychological Association's convention in Orlando, Fla.
"Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem are largely exaggerated," psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, said. "There is very little scientific support to show that cyberbullying has increased over the past five to six years, and this form of bullying is actually a less frequent phenomenon."
Olweus cited several large-scale studies, including one involving approximately 450,000 U.S. students in grades three to 12.
In that study an average of 18 percent of students said they had been verbally bullied, Olweus reported, while about 5 percent said they had been cyberbullied.
About 10 percent said they had bullied others verbally and 3 percent said they had cyberbullied others.
Eighty percent to 90 percent of cyberbullied students were also exposed to traditional forms of bullying, Olweus said.
"These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few 'new' victims and bullies," he said. "To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of electronic media is only one possible form, and, in addition, a form with low prevalence."