Cyberbullies target kids already being picked on - rather than new victims
Cyberbullying has largely affected children who were already being picked on rather than creating new victims, according to researchers.
In recent years, helplines for children have reported huge increases in the number of online victims, who are often abused and taunted through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
But a study found that 99pc of children would have been bullied regardless of new technology, as the internet merely gave bullies another outlet to torment victims.
Academics at the University of Warwick questioned 2,700 pupils aged between 11 and 16 from secondary schools in Britain, to determine whether cyberbullying finds new victims. They also wanted to find out if online abuse was worse psychologically for victims than traditional playground bullying.
Although nearly one in three of the children said they had been bullied, just 1pc were only bullied online, the study found.
Cyberbullying was found to lower self-esteem and increase depression as seriously as traditional bullying.
When youngsters were bullied by multiple means, such as being beaten, socially excluded, or victimised online, the psychological impact was worse. Being able to target victims online allowed the reach of bullies to extend into their homes.
Prof Dieter Wolke, of the department of psychology at the University of Warwick, said: "Many media reports have portrayed that cyberbullying is an epidemic, suggesting many new victims are created. Our findings show that very few new victims are created.
"The same bullies that confront their victims in school and know them face to face also now use cyber tools to bully their victims and extend their reach to outside school. However, being directly victimised and relationally excluded are still the main forms of bullying."