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May 26, 2014 07:02 AM EDT

Cyberbullying Also Prevalent in Poor, High-Crime Neighborhoods: Study


Cyberbullying isn't just limited to middle class or affluent neighborhoods. The problem equally persists in poor, high-crime neighborhoods, according to a Michigan State University study.

Researchers said that the "digital divide" is fictional at least when it comes to cyberbullying.

"We found neighborhood conditions that are indicative of poverty and crimes are a significant predictor of bullying - not only for physical and verbal bullying, but cyberbullying as well," said Thomas J. Holt, associate professor of criminal justice, in a press release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30 percent of American youth have experienced a bullying incident, either as victim or perpetrator. Victims face academic and mental health problems and more associated with suicidal thoughts.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, an estimated 2.2 million American students were harassed or cyberbullied in 2011, up from about 1.5 million in 2009.

For the study, researchers examined the survey results of nearly 2,000 middle and high school students. The researchers found that poor, crime-laden neighborhoods were a significant indicator of physical, verbal and cyberbullying than individual characteristics like self-control.

Holt said that teachers and school officials should be more associated with public campaigns on cyberbullying and increase awareness on bullying prevention to reduce the risk in deprived communities.

The finding is published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

2010 University of California Los Angeles study found that students, who are frequently bullied, perform poorly in academics. Researchers said that these victims view school in a more negative light that eventually leads to absenteeism.

They also said that students who fail to achieve good grades also run the risk of getting bullied. Being bullied on school grounds or after school hours on the Internet destroys student's concentration on academics.

"We cannot address low achievement in school while ignoring bullying, because the two are frequently linked," said Jaana Juvonen, a professor of psychology and lead author of the study, in a statement. "Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Some students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Teachers can misinterpret their silence, thinking that these students are not motivated to learn."

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