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Cyberbullying can be more harmful than the physical kind, research suggests

If there's anyone left in the world who thinks online bullying isn't as harmful as the physical kind that happens live and in person, a new Michigan State University study says that it's not just as bad – it's worse.

"We should not ignore one form of bullying for the sake of the other," Thomas Holt, an associate professor of criminal justice and one of the study's authors, said in a release. "The results suggest we should find ways to develop school policies to combat bullying within the school environment and then figure out how to translate that to the home, because the risk goes beyond the schoolyard."

The study, published in the International Criminal Justice Review, looked at data from more than 3,000 students in grades 3 through 11 in Singapore. The survey data found that 27 per cent of students who were bullied online skipped school or thought about skipping compared with 28 per cent who were sent bullying text messages and 22 per cent who were physically bullied.

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As well, students who were bullied online were more likely to report suicidal thoughts – 28 per cent compared with 22 per cent – than students who were physically bullied. Of those students bullied through cellphones, 26 per cent reported suicidal thoughts.

After B.C. teen Amanda Todd committed suicide last fall, Canada's justice and public safety ministers said that while there are some provisions in the Criminal Code to fight cyberbullying, more needs to be done to deal the problem.

Last month, the Senate's human rights committee called for a unified, national strategy to fight cyberbullying.

Parents should carefully monitor what their kids are doing online, Holt said, and must also "carefully educate their children on the risk of bullying victimization via mobile phones and ensure that they can speak to one or both parents about negative experiences."

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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