In this section, we will discuss four important factors concerning cyber bullying. These factors are, gender variation, effects of cyberbullying, the anonymity factor, and the impact at school.
Abby, 13, recently entered therapy after being repeatedly harassed by her peers. Abby stated, "The other day, this girl I didn’t recognize left a message on my Instagram that said ‘go to my IG, bitch.’ My friend Becca was over, so we checked it out. This girl had a list on her Instagram of the school’s ‘Biggest Hos’, or promiscuous students, and my name was at the top of the list! I thought, who spends their time doing something like that! But it really hurt. I don’t want to go back to school, because now everybody has seen my name on that list."
As you know, Instagram is popular among students, as are numerous other such sites. Cyberspace has certainly changed the lives of adolescents today; how they talk to their friends, how they do homework, and even how they pick on each other.
4 Factors of Cyberbullying
♦ # 1 - Gender Variation
Cyberbullying, or internet bullying, such as happened to Abby, is also on the rise, especially in middle school. A first important factor concerning this increasing trend is gender variation in cyberbullying. A recent study indicated that up to 21% of eighth graders self-reported being cyberbullied recently.
Girls self-report more incidents of cyberbullying than boys. Nearly one third of the eighth grade girls surveyed reported being bullied online in the past two months, compared with 10% of the boys. 17% of the eighth grade girls surveyed indicated they had participated in cyberbullying in the past two months, compared to ten percent of the boys.
♦ #2 - Effects of Cyberbullying
A second factor concerning cyberbullying concerns the effects of cyberbullying. As you are well aware, the effects of bullying in an online medium can be just as significant as face to face aggression and perhaps more so because of the vast number of students that can be reached.
One of the earliest examples of this is the case of Ghyslain Raza, a student from Quebec. During his 10th grade year, Raza used school video equipment to film a sequence of himself emulating a Star Wars fight scene. Raza forgot to erase the tape he initially used. Classmates found this tape, and uploaded the footage to the internet as a prank. The video was downloaded millions of times, enough for the media to dub Raza the "Star Wars kid". Raza was so humiliated that he sought counseling and left his school.
♦ #3 - Anonymity Factor
In addition to gender variation and the effects of cyberbullying, a third factor concerning cyberbullying is the anonymity factor. Anonymity on the internet often encourages the student carrying out the abusive behavior, because of the difficulty in tracing the behavior back to the bully.
Perry Aftab, founder of an online nonprofit called WiredSafety.org, interviewed a 13-year-old from New Jersey who had the hobby of making death threats against strangers online. The boy would gather information about his victims from chat rooms or personal websites, then threaten the strangers as if he knew them. The student stated to Aftab, 'I would never do anything in real life. I'm a good kid. But I can do it online because it doesn't matter.'
Understandably, this anonymity also increases the terror for the victims of cyberbullying. Angie, age 14, stated, "The other day I got a dm from someone I didn’t recognize. I thought it was a friend using a different name, so I asked who it was. They responded with this creepy teasing, and links to porn sites. It sounded like they knew about me. I ended up blocking them so they couldn’t talk to me, but I didn’t know who they were or what they were trying to do. It really scared me!"
♦ #4 - Impact at School
A fourth factor concerning cyberbullying is the impact of cyberbullying at school. According to psychologist Sue Limber, victimization online can lead to other types of victimization. Victims of cyberbullying may find themselves ostracized at school as a direct result of the online torment. Often, the bullying at school and online are directly related.
One group of seventh-grade Vancouver girls was recently caught in an instant messaging game where the girls would vote on who would be their next school target for ostracism. Unfortunately for teachers, while many forms of physical and relational bullying can be observed directly on school grounds, cyberbullying is invisible unless someone comes forward. This makes the job of addressing this victimization very difficult.
I find that an initial reaction from many parents who find that their child is an online victim or victimizer is to cut off the student’s internet access. However, as you know, experts have agreed that severing a student’s online access is not a sound solution.
According to Brittany Bacon, an FBI-trained WiredSafety.org volunteer, the internet is no longer just an advantage for students. Students are now at a disadvantage if they do not have access to the internet. Bacon suggests that instead, parents should reinforce the process of students learning boundaries and manners in cyberspace, just as they should in other areas of society.
♦ Five Steps to Internet Safety
For parents who are highly concerned about their child’s internet life, I recommend the following First Five Steps to Internet Safety:
-- 1. Before you let your children go online, learn how to use the social media sites yourself.
-- 2. Be aware of what your children do online. Does your son or daughter have an Instagram account? Does she or he engage in group chats? Use direct messaging? Is s/he in any facebook groups with peers?
-- 3. Keep a good ongoing dialogue with your children. This will help them feel comfortable telling you if something bad happens online.
-- 4. Instruct your children in good ‘etiquette’. Emphasize that what they would not do offline, they should not do online either.
-- 5. Display trust in your children. Snooping and secretly reading your child’s emails may make you feel better temporarily, but these are obstacles to openness. Strive for a balance of safety and openness. This allows students the benefits of the internet, while protecting them from most of its dangers. Set firm rules about sites and behavior you find unacceptable ahead of time.
In this section, we have discussed four important factors concerning cyber bullying. These factors are, gender variation, effects of cyberbullying, the anonymity factor, and the impact at school.
In the next section, we will discuss two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying. These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bauman, S., & Newman, M. L. (2013). Testing assumptions about cyberbullying: Perceived distress associated with acts of conventional and cyber bullying. Psychology of Violence, 3(1), 27–38.
Low, S., & Espelage, D. (2013). Differentiating cyber bullying perpetration from non-physical bullying: Commonalities across race, individual, and family predictors. Psychology of Violence, 3(1), 39–52.
Mishna, F., Cook, C., Gadalla, T., Daciuk, J., & Solomon, S. (2010). Cyber bullying behaviors among middle and high school students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(3), 362–374.
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