from Educators' eZine
Because cyberbullying lacks the physical hurt, skeptics feel it is not as harmful as traditional bullying. These skeptics must look at the psychological damage caused by cyberbullying. Allison, a ninth grader from Washington, D.C. repeatedly received hate mail on her instant messages, "It seemed like it was from girls who I thought were my friends. When I confronted them, they denied it and blamed it on someone else. I never knew who was really behind it. I got really paranoid and couldn't concentrate in school" (Wiseman, 2007).
Allison is not alone, as many victims feel trapped, frustrated and distracted. Victims may also experience depression, sadness, low self-esteem, anger, thoughts of suicide and stress. Sociologist Robert Agnew maintains that those who experience this stress or strain are more likely to participate in "deviant or delinquent" behaviors in order to cope (Hinduja and Patchin, 2006). This is especially important to note because of the potential for delinquent behaviors affecting peers, school work, family and the community.
So, there is little question that cyberbulling exists, but what are students' concerns regarding cyberbullying, why do they do it, and how comfortable are they in talking to others about it.
Subject and instrument A total of 59 eighth-grade students (24 males and 35 females) from a Midwest urban charter school completed a 25-question anonymous survey. Researchers gave students a brief explanation to the purpose of the 25 question survey and encouraged them to take their time, honestly answer the questions, and not identify themselves.
The study revealed that approximately 29 percent had been victims of cyberbullying and, incredibly, 24 percent had bullied someone online. In fact, of those who had admitted to being cyberbullied, 59 percent admitted to bullying someone as well. In addition, approximately 80 percent of all of the students reported that they aware of instances of cyberbullying.
When male and female experiences were considered separately, it was found that over 20 percent of males and over 34 percent of females had experienced cyberbullying. In addition, 29 percent of males and only 20 percent of females reported to have engaged in cyberbullying.
Table 1Percentages of students experiencing cyberbullying
Engaged in Cyberbulling
Aware of Cyberbullying
A Look at Cyberbully Victims
Of those that reported that they had been cyberbullied, over 50 percent reported the cyberbullying lasted on average 2-4 days, while approximately 30 percent lasted a week or longer. Over 41 percent of the time cyberbullying took place with instant messaging, chat rooms and blogs (MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, Bebo, etc). In addition, 35 percent reported that Email was used to cyberbully them.
Of those students that reported being bullied, 59 percent of the time they were teased or called names, 47 percent were lied about, 35 percent were threatened and 30 percent were sexually harassed. Almost half of those who were cyberbullied said additional bullying followed the initial episode. A total 35 percent of the victims kept the bullying to themselves while 30 percent told a friend, one person told a parent and, incredibly, no one told a teacher. However, anger, depression and hurt were the top three emotions experienced (averaging over 3 points on a 5 point scale).
A Look at Cyberbullies
In the meantime, cyberbullying students admitted to feeling moderately insecure, invaded, scared and isolated (averaging 2.4 points on a 5 point scale). The most reported reasons those that admitted to cyberbullying (14/59) gave were out of revenge (57 percent) and anger (43 percent) while 21 percent admit to cyberbullying because they did not like the other person. When asked how the cyberbullying take place, the results are similar to the ones reported by victims of cyberbullying: 43 percent by instant messaging or chat rooms and 36 percent by Emails or blogs. A total 86 percent of the cyberbullies admit to cyberbullying from home. Over 78 percent reported they were not confronted while only 2 people out of 14 report they were confronted by their parent(s).
All Students Reactions to Cyberbullying
Almost 80 percent of the 59 students surveyed are aware of cyberbullying, with nearly 100% of the girls and 65% of the boys admitting awareness. The survey results also showed that students feel extremely comfortable talking to their friends (4.4 points on a 5 point scale) about cyberbullying. Students feel moderately comfortable talking with parents and teachers (2.7 and 2.6 points respectively) and least comfortable talking to Principals (1.9 points). So when asked , "overall, how much of a problem is cyberbullying," 21 percent of the students reported it is not a problem, 17.5 percent feel it's a minor problem, 35 percent feel it's a common problem and 26.5 percent say it is a major problem.
This study confirms other studies (Opinion Research, 2006) on the prevalence of cyberbullying in that about a third (29%) admitted to being bullied with half of them reporting that additional bullying accompanied the initial episode. Research finds a correlation between bullies, cyberbullies and their victims. Physical bullies, compared to non-bullies, were more likely to be cyberbullies; while victims of physical bullying were more likely to be victims of cyberbullying (Li, 2006). Obviously not addressing the teasing, name calling and gossip at school lets it become more prevalent and dangerous in cyberspace. The researcher found 59 percent of victims were teased or called names, 47 percent were lied about and 30 percent were sexually harassed.
Schools need to educate students in how to handle bullying. It was found that 57 percent of the cyberbullying was out of revenge, while 41 percent of the time it was out of anger. In the same survey, some students advised "just ignore it" and hope it goes away. Before schools can expect teenagers to have "netiquette", using the Internet properly, and treat others well, they need to be taught appropriate non-harassment behavior. Within the past couple of years, programs and resources have been made available on how schools can deal with cyberbullying. Further information about these resources needs to get into the hands of parents and educators.
A third important issue is the failure of victims to inform a parent, teacher or other adult of the cyberbullying. Even though previous research indicated the number of teenagers who tell a parent or adult is already low (Wiseman, 2007; MSN UK, 2006) it was still unexpected to find that 16 out of the 17 of those admitting to being cyberbullied did not tell an adult. Those who were not bullied reported that they feel somewhat comfortable talking to their parent(s) about cyberbullying, while extremely comfortable talking to their friends. These findings, along with stories like Ryan Halligan (the 13-yr old who took his life), suggest the need to increase the awareness of parents and other interested adults such as teachers and school administrators.
With only 59 students from one Midwest eight grade, it is difficult to make significant generalizations. But, this study does seem to support the results of larger studies; including Cole, J. I., et al. (2001), Bullen, P., & Harre, N. (2000), (Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K.J., & Wolak, J. (2000), (Li, Q, 2006) and Opinion Research Corporation (2006) on the topic and does begin to look at the impact, reasons and almost total lack of communication on the topic that student have with both their parents and their educators. Thus, it highlights the need for schools to develop awareness programs and provide informational resources for keeping parent, teachers, administrators and students involved.
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