Cyberbullying

Moderated by Leah Wing

 

As information communication technology has become intricately woven into our lives, humans have harnessed their capacity for extraordinarily creative innovations to foster human connection across time and space.  Yet, sadly and perhaps not unexpectedly, we have also brought into new ICT forums our capacity for cruelty and domination through bullying.  Do different mediums of cyberbullying (text, picture, Internet, video) produce different impacts on victims?  Can one form be more damaging than another?  What gender and cultural dynamics impact cyberbullying?  What legislation, public policies, and educational and commercial practices are in place to prevent and handle cyberbullying?  What ODR platforms and software can or are addressing this problem?  How can the strengths of ICT, such as lessening isolation, be capitalized upon to reduce the effects of Cyberbullying?

 

New challenges and opportunities face our field to contribute to the prevention and handling of bullying through ICT avenues.  Join us for this conversation!

 

A final note:  It is requested that personal identifying details of actual cases are not shared and that anyone who believes that they have or are experiencing cyberbullying seek assistance from those whom they trust since this forum cannot serve as a source for handling such cases. 

 

One link among many which can be of help is:  

http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report/index.html

 

Moderator Bio:

Leah Wing is Co-Director, National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution http://odr.info is Senior Lecturer, Legal Studies Program, Political Science Department, University of Massachusetts/Amherst (US) and is founding director of the Social Justice Mediation Institute.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Conflict Resolution (2002-6) and has been a member of the editorial board of Conflict Resolution Quarterly since 2002.  Her publications concentrate on the critical examination of conflict transformation theory and practices in both the online and offline worlds and her most recent publication is “Online Dispute Resolution and the Development of Theory” co-authored with Dan Rainey in M. Waahab, D. Rainey and E. Katsh, Online Dispute Resolution: Theory and Practice (2012). 

 

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I agree with the comments made thus far.  As one of Leah's students, I also found plenty of research on cyber bullying and its many elements.  Therefore, I feel that the evolution of the Internet and other forms of social media have fostered bullying by providing many new outlets for potential bullies.  In an article I read on cyber bullying, one author called cyber bullying, bullying with more expensive equipment.  Online forums provide for a communal breeding ground for children to assault one another.  The biggest reasons why cyber bullying is becoming worse and more prevalent is due to its anonymity and ability for bullying to resurface at any time.  Many studies have shown that when people are in front of a computer screen, they lose inhibitions.  Simply put, bullying on line or over social media sites is not the same as the face to face interactions involved with school yard bullying.  In this sense, the internet serves to dehumanize and desensitize people. Because bullying over these social media arenas is so quick, it leaves little time for reflection.  Also, cyber bullying anonymously allows bullies to hide their identity and use the barriers of cyberspace in their favor. Bullying online is also so severe because it lasts forever.  A tweet or embarassing picture has the potential to never go away as many bystanders can become bullies by simply pressing a button or sending a text.  Once in cyberspace, bullying has so much potential to explode because of the many outlets it can be fed in to.   Most children do not take cyber bullying seriously and believe their not doing anything wrong.  Cyber bullying is also so much worse than school yard bullying because it invades personal space and can end up consuming your life.  In this new technological age, children are gaining access to cellphones, facebook accounts, etc. at an incredibly early age.  Bullying is most prevalent in children in middle school and I believe the power of social media outlets such as a cellphone, computer, etc. is just too much for them to handle.  They are too immature to handle the unsupervised power they now have.  Later in the week I will further discuss how parents must take a larger role in supervising their children's activities and I will also connect cyber bullying to US capitalist culture. 

I agree with you Richard,  in terms of the lack of ability to identify the effects and dangers of this phenomenon given the inexperience in this matter on behalf of those with the power to make change as well as the scarcity of testimonials on behalf of the victims. In my opinion, the effects of this form of bullying is more intensified because of the way it can reach a bigger audience therefore perpetuating its effects on an individual's self esteem. We are not discussing a F2F instance of bullying which lingers in the victim's mind as a memory of something that happened, cyberbullying instances are permanent and perpetually involves more and more people as they are viewing and commenting on these images via text messages or social networking sites (Facebook,Twitter, Instagram etc..)  Also as some researchers express, it is important to note that given the embarrassment and low self esteem victims possess throughout their experience, they most likely refrain from telling others about their experiences. Are there any resources available through which victims are able to report their experiences anonymously? 

Richard Shaughnessy said:

Ashley made some good points by acknowledging the gender differences in cyber bullying. According to researchers, as Ashley has noted, males are more often likely to use their fists whereas the females' weapons are more likely to be their words and behind-your-back manipulations. I like your point concerning the need for more protocols to be implemented to nip this growing problem in the bud, but can it be argued that the people in charge of addressing this problem (principals, teachers, parents, legislation) are not aware of how common this problem actually is because of the furtive nature of cyber bullying? I think that in order for the people in the position of power to actually make a change, they first need to address ways to identify victims because it is extremely common for victims to choose to suffer alone than to "tattletale".
Ashley Berger said:

Hi Daniel,

I am a student of Leah's who is specifically looking at who bullies in a student environment. What I have found is that girls are more likely to bully online and via text because boys traditionally take a more active and direct approach to problems. However, you're question about bullying in the workplace struck me because it is definitely a behavior that now as children grow up with exposure to the internet and technologies, they will grow up with the idea that cyber bullying is acceptable. I would argue that if more protocols are not put in place for the younger generations, this behavior will grow and develop with them and it is a behavior that they will bring into the workplace. I appreciate you posting this comment, and it is definitely a subject I'm going to look into throughout the week.

- Ashley



Daniel Rainey said:

Thanks for hosting this, Leah.  I think Bill is right about the essential "us-them" or "the other" element in cyber-bullying, and indeed in bullying generally.  It seems most of the discussion around cyber-bullying is focused on school environments and younger users of technology.  Is there much research or writing about cyber-bullying involving adults, workplace, etc.?

A quick side note (off-topic a bit but somewhat relevant and I wanted to share), I was able to work with the Soliya Project (www.soliya.net) which is online classroom environment developed to connect those living in the "Western World" with people living in what is commonly referred to as the Arab-Muslim world. Originally, and still somewhat, the focus of the program was connecting Israeli students with Palestinian students by utilizing technology to help individuals overcome the wall.

I wanted to add this to the conversation, because it is an instance where ICT is being used to specifically aid others in breaking through the "us-them" mentality. The classroom is moderated by trained facilitators (my role) who receive specific training on dispute resolution methods and intergroup dialogue awareness (i.e. power imbalances, gender differences, cultural competency, etc.). Anyways, I guess I just wanted to share an instance where technology is being used to overcome stereotypes and real-world bullying by inviting individuals to participate in a moderated online discussion.

To focus more on the topic a hand, I understand we cannot moderate all emails sent, chat room conversations, etc. However, I do dream of the day when such bullying has a place to be reported, researched, analyzed and defined. I also dream of the day when online mediators are being utilized (more often than not to address cyber-crime) and such behavior isn't simply be ignored, passed along, or accepted as "okay." Questions I often ponder: will laws be passed to protect victims of cyber-bullying at school, work, on social media sites, etc? Will there be separate laws for adults and juvenile like the current justice system has in place? And if so, before bullies are sent off to court adult or juvenile)for breaking the "law," might this be an area/opportunity for ODR to flourish? And lastly, can and will online restorative justice models be created and implemented to address these situations? RJ has been seemingly successful, could it have the same success in an online forum?

Please excuse my scattered thoughts, I'm not a parent (yet) but have been entertaining a 3 month old and five year old from Italy these past few days and I'm exhausted and my brain seems a little scattered from so much "acting like a kid and having tons of fun doing it time." I'll try to get it tomorrow after they leave and have (hopefully) more coherent thoughts. Cheers.

I think that Bill made some important remarks on the power of the youth and what type of youth is considered to bully through the use of technology. I think it is interesting to consider who is doing the cyberbullying. Is this technological era advocating for the revenge of the “nerds”? Are children relying on the internet and their cell phones to belittle someone because the technology is simply available or because they think bullying behind these devices will keep their identity hidden? I am curious to see the statistics involving children who bully via text or on the internet rather than in face-to-face context because they believe they will not get caught? According to the National Crime Prevention Council, “Nearly half of teens said that cyberbullying happens because the cyberbully doesn’t perceive any tangible consequences (47%) or feels he or she would not get caught (45%). This study also stated that  About four in ten teens (43%) report that their parents usually know what they are doing online, but do not have any rules about their activity. Twenty-seven percent report that their parents have no idea what they are doing online. About 31 percent report that their parents have rules about their online activity, however, eight percent report that they find ways around their parents’ rules while 23 percent report that they follow the rules (NCPC). Technology advancement programs that allow parents to monitor what sites are visited on the computer are on the rise, as well as cell phone data. If we increase these monitoring programs will children decrease their cyberbullying? I believe if children and teens were being identified as cyberbullies by their parents or other adults, then these extreme cases of harassment would begin to fluctuate. The need to identify who the bully is behind the computer or the cell phone is extremely important.

 

 *http://www.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/bullying/Teens%20and%20Cybe...



Bill Warters said:

Leah, one thought that comes to mind in terms of difference is that skills with social media tools or technology is a "newer" source of power for youth that might have had less luck with sports or popularity contests. When you look as who is doing the bullying, one subtype may well be the kid who can out maneuver others and use his/her technical skills to equalize or retaliate for other perceived wrongs. According to stopcyberbullying.org, this would be one type among others.

They argue here that four types of cyberbullies include:

  • The Vengeful Angel
  • The Power-Hungry or Revenge of the Nerds
  • The “Mean Girls”
  • The Inadvertent Cyberbully or “Because I Can”


Does this make sense to others? Are "nerds" more likely to bully in our modern connected world?
Leah Wing said:

 let's begin the conversation with asking what constitutes bullying via technology?  What are some of its characteristics that are similar to and different from face-to-face (F2F) bullying?

Dan raises a very important point about workplace cyberbullying.  I read a recent report on employee experiences with workplace bullying in higher education that had alarming statistics (ie: nearly one-half (48%) of survey participants reported having witnessed workplace bullying in the past two years.  The reports' statistics reflected only 'bullying' as the category, having not included a cyberbullying question in the study.  With such a high percentage of adults experiencing bullying in a workplace where technology is prevalent, wouldn't techno-bullying be likely? 


Echoing Dan's question--have others read any research on techno-bullying in workplaces?

Daniel Rainey said:

Thanks for hosting this, Leah.  I think Bill is right about the essential "us-them" or "the other" element in cyber-bullying, and indeed in bullying generally.  It seems most of the discussion around cyber-bullying is focused on school environments and younger users of technology.  Is there much research or writing about cyber-bullying involving adults, workplace, etc.?

Hey all, 

 

I just wanted to get some info out there regarding legislation and what the state governments are doing at their respective levels in order to prevent and punish acts of cyber bullying.

I would like to first point out and make clear that there presently is no federal law against bullying or cyber bullying in the U.S. The federal government instead allows certain cases that could very easily be deemed cases of bullying to be heard as discriminatory harassment cases.

Here's one page that I found very helpful in terms of federal law: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/federal/index.html 

 

Federal laws often struggle in being passed due to the opposition from civil rights groups who aim to protect the individual's rights to free speech. The main worry typically expressed is that any potential law against cyber bullying could in turn lead to violations of these First Amendment rights. In addition to that cyber bullying struggles to gain footing on the federal level because many hold the belief that it should continue to be handled at the state and local levels and is not an issue that the federal government should get involved with. From this viewpoint, cyber bullying is seen as simply an extension of regular bullying for which almost all states have laws for. 

Here is a link to a page I found with great specifics on State Bullying/Cyberbullying laws: http://www.cyberbullying.us/Bullying_and_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf

 

So, there seems to be a common belief that regular bullying laws are enough to cover infractions of cyber bullying. Thus, many states bind acts of cyber bullying under the laws that are in place for regular bullying. Very few states have specific laws that address cyber bullying itself (only covered in 15 states under bullying laws). Many on the other hand refer to it as electronic harassment (covered in 45 states under bullying laws). 

The trend seems to be to push the enforcement and preventive measures of bullying and cyber bullying as low as they can possibly be pushed. Federal government emphasizes the need for states to handle the matters, who in turn push the importance of policy to the local levels, specifically schools and local organizations. From what I can see, this "bottom up" approach seems to be the main procedure/technique for handling legislation involving bullying as well cyber bullying specifically. 

 

This was just an overview from what individual research I have done myself. Comments or questions or any corrections are more than welcome!

Do you think many adults are even aware that this is becoming so common? I know my own parents are just becoming familiar with texting and cell phone use themselves, so they would have to be pretty tuned in to realize cyber bullying is going on, much less know how to react to it and help remedy it. Is there something we can do to make the older generations more aware of this problem so they can be on the lookout for signs to help those kids that are being cyber bullied and don’t want to speak up?

I think this a very good start for discussion the role of parents and how they must be more involved.  To be frank, I think most adults have no clue that cyber bullying is as prevalent as it actually is.  Many parents are shocked when they hear about the actions of their children over social media and have no solution to fix it.  Most times, parents are too late to take action when it comes to supervising their children over technological outlets.  In our world today, children use technology at an incredibly early age and a rapid rate.  Research has shown that 1 in 3 teens send 3000 text messages per month.  Cellphone ownership has also increased for children ages 12 to 17 from 30% in 2004 to 75% in 2010.  Children are gaining access to these cyber bullying tools at an incredibly young age and honestly it is too much power for an immature student to handle.  If parents are going to allow their children to gain access to cellphones, computers, etc. at a very young age, they must also feel an obligation to monitor them.  As of now this is not the case as research has shown that only 38% of youth report having an adult who monitors their online activity.  Children are also not likely to tell their parents what is going on as about 9% of adolescents report online victimization to adults.  This allows for cyber bullying to be that much worse as many are forced to deal with the pain and embarrassment alone.  Overall, I agree with Katie and believe that parents need to play a bigger role in their children's technological activities.  I would also go as far as advocating for schools to hold information sessions for parents and students alike on the dangers and ways to prevent cyber bullying. 

Katie French said:

Do you think many adults are even aware that this is becoming so common? I know my own parents are just becoming familiar with texting and cell phone use themselves, so they would have to be pretty tuned in to realize cyber bullying is going on, much less know how to react to it and help remedy it. Is there something we can do to make the older generations more aware of this problem so they can be on the lookout for signs to help those kids that are being cyber bullied and don’t want to speak up?

Hi Leah. Your sharing of the Washington State ombuds materials reminded me of a free cyberbullying prevention curriculum for middle school students offered by the Seattle public schools.  While it is a small amount of data to go on, I wonder if these two resources constitute a pattern suggesting that the Seattle area, given that it is a hub of technological early adopters, is more advanced in their thinking regarding cyberbullying?

I recall an interesting video about South Korea "The Most Wired Place on Earth" and it showed 2nd graders singing a netiquette song in the school as part of their early learning.  

Adding to Conor's point, some states specifically define cyber-bullying in easy to understand language. Referring to the same website Conor used, Wisconsin specifcally defines cyber-bullying as a Class B misdemeanor. Other examples of this type of crime include prostitution, indecent exposure, operating with intoxicated, and some types of assault. This parallel shows that cyber-bullying is something that states are working to take very seriously. I believe that this is a step in the right direction and also proves that lawmakers are not taking this new epidemic lightly.

Conor Nolan said:

Hey all, 

 

I just wanted to get some info out there regarding legislation and what the state governments are doing at their respective levels in order to prevent and punish acts of cyber bullying.

I would like to first point out and make clear that there presently is no federal law against bullying or cyber bullying in the U.S. The federal government instead allows certain cases that could very easily be deemed cases of bullying to be heard as discriminatory harassment cases.

Here's one page that I found very helpful in terms of federal law: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/federal/index.html 

 

Federal laws often struggle in being passed due to the opposition from civil rights groups who aim to protect the individual's rights to free speech. The main worry typically expressed is that any potential law against cyber bullying could in turn lead to violations of these First Amendment rights. In addition to that cyber bullying struggles to gain footing on the federal level because many hold the belief that it should continue to be handled at the state and local levels and is not an issue that the federal government should get involved with. From this viewpoint, cyber bullying is seen as simply an extension of regular bullying for which almost all states have laws for. 

Here is a link to a page I found with great specifics on State Bullying/Cyberbullying laws: http://www.cyberbullying.us/Bullying_and_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf

 

So, there seems to be a common belief that regular bullying laws are enough to cover infractions of cyber bullying. Thus, many states bind acts of cyber bullying under the laws that are in place for regular bullying. Very few states have specific laws that address cyber bullying itself (only covered in 15 states under bullying laws). Many on the other hand refer to it as electronic harassment (covered in 45 states under bullying laws). 

The trend seems to be to push the enforcement and preventive measures of bullying and cyber bullying as low as they can possibly be pushed. Federal government emphasizes the need for states to handle the matters, who in turn push the importance of policy to the local levels, specifically schools and local organizations. From what I can see, this "bottom up" approach seems to be the main procedure/technique for handling legislation involving bullying as well cyber bullying specifically. 

 

This was just an overview from what individual research I have done myself. Comments or questions or any corrections are more than welcome!

http://eprints.qut.edu.au/26670/3/26670.pdf

This premature study discusses with certain limitations that cyber-bullying in the workplace is likely to occur alongside F2F bullying. What this says to me, is that bullying should be stopped in all it's forms and at this point, an emphasis should not be placed on one over the other. This survey also did not address what the prevalence of respondents use of technology was throughout a work day. A problem with all research surrounding this topic is that the amount of time that technology has played this large a part in the day to day life of virtually every human in a modernized sphere is not that long. Technologies have advanced largely in the past 20 years to a point that we are now unable to live without them, but also that length of time is not enough for researchers to present qualitative and quantitative research.
Leah Wing said:

Dan raises a very important point about workplace cyberbullying.  I read a recent report on employee experiences with workplace bullying in higher education that had alarming statistics (ie: nearly one-half (48%) of survey participants reported having witnessed workplace bullying in the past two years.  The reports' statistics reflected only 'bullying' as the category, having not included a cyberbullying question in the study.  With such a high percentage of adults experiencing bullying in a workplace where technology is prevalent, wouldn't techno-bullying be likely? 


Echoing Dan's question--have others read any research on techno-bullying in workplaces?

Daniel Rainey said:

Thanks for hosting this, Leah.  I think Bill is right about the essential "us-them" or "the other" element in cyber-bullying, and indeed in bullying generally.  It seems most of the discussion around cyber-bullying is focused on school environments and younger users of technology.  Is there much research or writing about cyber-bullying involving adults, workplace, etc.?

I think it is very fair to allege that adults don't realize the escalation of the problem. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/style/28bully.html?pagewanted=1&a...

This NYT article touches on parents reactions to educators and school authorities reaction to cyber-bullying. This is a very grey area because, as this article states, some parents believe that if the incident did not happen on school grounds, it cannot be grounds for a school sanction. Other parents think that officials should have even more authority over the matter. This will continue to be a grey area until officials and lawmakers decide and put into place specific statutes that detail how to deal with cyber-bullying in specific instances. What parents and older generations need to mainly understand is that once something is typed online, it doesn't go away. That comment is there forever, it doesn't disappear like a bruise or a mean word said on the playground. The black and white typing of a racial slur, of a comment about someone's sexuality, the possibilities are endless.

Katie French said:

Do you think many adults are even aware that this is becoming so common? I know my own parents are just becoming familiar with texting and cell phone use themselves, so they would have to be pretty tuned in to realize cyber bullying is going on, much less know how to react to it and help remedy it. Is there something we can do to make the older generations more aware of this problem so they can be on the lookout for signs to help those kids that are being cyber bullied and don’t want to speak up?

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