School Safety

Lower Rates of Cyberbullying in Schools Where Phones are Allowed

A recent "data point" from the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics stated that schools where cellphone use was allowed reported less cyberbullying than schools where the devices were prohibited. The two-page brief didn't offer any theories about why this would be so.

According to the agency, a 2016 School Survey on Crime and Safety asked principals about the rules in their public schools regarding whether students were allowed to access their phones during the school day. Across all schools, two-thirds (66 percent) had such rules in place. Those also had a higher rate of daily or weekly cyberbullying — 16 percent — versus 10 percent at schools where cell phone use was allowed.

When the results were broken out by race and ethnicity of students, those schools with a majority of white students followed the same pattern — higher rates of cyberbullying when phone use wasn't allowed. However, schools with a majority of nonwhite students showed no discernible difference — 11.6 percent of daily and weekly cyberbullying when phones weren't in use compared to 12.4 when they were in use.

Lower Rates of Cyberbullying in Schools Where Phones are Allowed

Frequency of principal-reported cyberbullying in schools where cell phones are allowed or not. Source: "2015-16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2016" from the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics

The data was pulled from the 2016 School Survey on Crime and Safety, which asked principals about the prevalence of a number of security-related measures and incidents in their public schools. That included questions about how frequently cyberbullying occurred either at school or away from school among their students. The survey took a nationally representative sampling of more than 3,000 K-12 schools in every state and the District of Columbia.

Overall, the rate of cyberbullying has increased against a comparable survey done in 2010. During that period the share of schools with principals reporting daily or weekly cyberbullying grew from 8 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2016.

The brief is openly available on the NCES website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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