In one of the biggest studies of its kind, researchers have discovered that while cyberbullying is a problem, the incidence of face-to-face bullying is still more prevalent in schools.
Researchers from the University of Oxford studied the results of confidential questionnaires from 110,000 15-year-olds across England.
And they discovered that less than 1 percent reported only being bullied online regularly, while more than 1 in 4 (27 per cent) reported only being bullied via face-to-face methods.
It also found that of those bullied online, 9 out 10 were also bullied face-to-face, suggesting that cyberbullying was an additional tactic used by bullies, and that both forms must be tackled simultaneously.
"Despite common perceptions and the growth of the online world for teenagers, our study finds that cyberbullying, on its own, is relatively rare, with face-to-face bullying remaining the most common among teenagers," lead author Dr Andrew Przybylski, from the University of Oxford, said.
"Cyberbullying is best understood as a new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways, rather than pick on new victims."
Cyberbullying includes repeated personal attacks via text messages, emails, websites, social media and instant messaging. While face-to-face bullying included name-calling, being teased or excluded, being physically or verbally attacked, being made fun of for your weight or sexuality and having rumours and lies spread about you.
The respondents were asked to rate how often they were bullied over a two month period, with at least two times or more being regarded as regular bullying.
Nearly a third (30 percent or 33,363 teens) of the respondents reported some form of regular bullying – one in three girls and one in four boys.
Combing the number of bullying incidents from teenagers who faced frequent online, traditional or both types of bullying, the most common form of bullying was teasing or name-calling (12 per cent) and having false rumours spread about them (9 per cent). The least common forms of bullying were physical and cyberbullying both at 2 per cent of respondents. While 2 per cent reported being sent mean messages online or having pictures taken and shared online without their consent.
With bullying shown to impact negatively on teenagers' mental wellbeing and life satisfaction, the researchers have called on schools to urgently tackle all forms of bullying.
"Bullying is a major public health problem, and our findings support the urgent need for interventions that target both forms of bullying in adolescence," co-author Lucy Bowes, from the University of Oxford, said.
"Initiatives that will help teenagers become resilient in everyday and online contexts will be important if we are to help them overcome the negative mental health impacts bullying may have, such as increased risk of poor mental health and lower life satisfaction."
The findings were published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, or know someone who might be, contact BeyondBlue.org.au (call 1300 224 636), LifeLine (call 13 11 14 or chat online after hours).