FRIDAY, May 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Even though they have less access to online technologies, poor teens are as likely as middle-class and rich teens to be victims of cyberbullying, according to a new study.
The findings suggest that there is no economic "digital divide" when it comes to cyberbullying, said lead author Thomas Holt, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.
"We found neighborhood conditions that are indicative of poverty and crime are a significant predictor for bullying -- not only for physical and verbal bullying, but cyberbullying as well," he said in a university news release. "This is a very unique and somewhat surprising finding."
Holt and his colleagues analyzed survey results from nearly 2,000 middle and high school students and found that living in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods was associated with a strong risk of physical, verbal and online bullying.
The study is scheduled to be published in the July-August issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice.
Getting teachers to discuss prevention of all types of bullying may help reduce the risk among poor teens, Holt said. He added that public campaigns specifically targeting online bullying should be emphasized in schools and libraries.
"Such a message is vital to ensure all forms of bullying are given equal emphasis," Holt said.
About 30 percent of American youth have either bullied others or been victims of bullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of U.S. students who reported being harassed or threatened online rose from 1.5 million in 2009 to 2.2 million in 2011, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.
SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, May 20, 2014