SUNDAY, May 5, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- About 16 percent of U.S. high school students are victims of cyberbullying, according to a new study.
The study also found that many high school students spend hours a day playing video games or using a computer for something other than schoolwork.
Researchers analyzed data collected from more than 15,000 public and private high school students who took part in a yearly survey on risky youth behaviors in 2011. They found that one in six of the students said they had been a target of cyberbullying within the past 12 months.
Girls were more than twice as likely to be targeted than boys -- about 22 percent versus 11 percent -- and whites were more than twice as likely to be victims as blacks, according to the study, which is being presented Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
"Electronic bullying of high school students threatens the self-esteem, emotional well-being and social standing of youth at a very vulnerable stage of their development," study author Dr. Andrew Adesman said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
"Although teenagers generally embrace being connected to the Web and each other 24/7, we must recognize that these new technologies carry with them the potential to traumatize youth in new and different ways," said Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.
"As technology continues to advance and computers become that much more accessible, cyberbullying will continue to grow as a hurtful weapon against kids and teens," he said.
Parents may have no idea what's going on, another expert noted.
"Electronic bullying is a very real yet silent danger that may be traumatizing children and teens without parental knowledge, and [it] has the potential to lead to devastating consequences," principal investigator Karen Ginsburg, also of Cohen Children's Medical Center, said in the news release. "By identifying groups at higher risk for electronic bullying, it is hoped that targeted awareness and prevention strategies can be put in place."
The researchers also found that 31 percent of high school students spent three or more hours a day playing video games or using computers for something other than schoolwork. This was more common among boys than girls (about 53 percent versus 27 percent).
Because this study is being presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The National Crime Prevention Council has more about cyberbullying.