FRIDAY, Sept. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) — As kids transition from elementary to middle school, they are increasingly the targets of cyberbullies, according to a recent study.

But the researchers studying U.S schoolkids in grades 5 through 8 found that verbal and physical bullying declines as students get older.

Because bullying patterns vary, bullying intervention and prevention strategies must address all types of bullying as well as differences in bullying among boys and girls, the researchers said. The study was published recently in School Psychology Quarterly.

“School-based interventions need to address the differences in perpetrator and victim experiences,” said study author Cixin Wang, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside’s Graduate School of Education.

“The key is to use individualized specific interventions for bullying, not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Wang said in a journal news release.

Researchers examined three semesters of data compiled on 1,180 students at schools in the Midwest. The investigators looked at the amount and type of bullying that took place as well as the number of students victimized. They also considered variables such as the children’s gender, grade and whether or not English was their native language.

The study revealed that students who were bullied could be classified into four groups:

  • 11 percent were frequent victims.
  • 29 percent were occasional victims of traditional bullying, such as verbal or physical bullying.
  • 10 percent were occasional victims of traditional bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Half were infrequent victims of bullies.

The bullies themselves were also grouped into three categories: 5 percent bullied frequently; 26 percent were occasional traditional bullies; and 69 percent bullied infrequently.

Although the amount of bullying decreased over time, the authors found that it surged between fifth and sixth grade when the students in the study moved from elementary to middle school.

Overall, the study found that girls were more often the targets of cyberbullying and verbal and relational bullying than boys. Boys, however, were more likely to be physically bullied.

Whether or not students spoke English as a second language did not appear to have an impact on whether or not they were bullied, the findings showed.

The study authors said schools could help prevent bullying among students through the following strategies:

  • Focus bullying prevention and intervention programs on students in sixth and eighth grades, teaching them social-emotional learning skills and healthy ways to cope with new peer groups and social hierarchies.
  • Consider different bullying interventions for boys and girls. Strategies targeting girls should focus on relationship issues and how to use social media responsibly. For boys, interventions should focus on physical bullying.
  • Schools and parents should also talk to students about cyber safety. Children should be supervised when using the Internet and mobile devices so they learn how to avoid being victimized. Any reports of bullying should be taken seriously.