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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To add onto Ashley's point this type of bullying is hard to put either a parent, or school official in charge of the repercussions and monitoring of the children on their computers or cell phones.  The research that I have found has been pointed fingers in every direction.  Parents believe that school administration should handle it, and school administration believe that other authorities, like the police should handle this.  This is exemplified by the quote I was able to pull from an article quoting a principal of a middle school.

 "'There is absolutely NO reason for any middle school student to be part of a social networking site,' he wrote. If children were attacked through sites or texting, he added, 'IMMEDIATELY GO TO THE POLICE!'" – Principal Orsini" (http://www.mediate.com/articles/RuleCbl20100628.cfm

Parents and educators alike do know this is happening, but it is unclear who is responsible for taking action.  


Ashley Berger said:

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?

Leah - This is one of the best cyberbullying discussions I've seen.  Really impressive.  Thank you.

Best Quote: "If children can get away with cyber bullying in middle and high school, arguably this will feed into a behavior that causes workplace cyber bullying as they get older." Ashley Berger

Bill Warters is really insightful with this comment that a cyberbully will:  "..use his/her technical skills to equalize or retaliate for other perceived wrongs."

I found this really helpful: Daniel Rainey and Bill Warters explaining the old view of bullying as us/them and the target as different from or "other" from the group.

Milos Dilkic is realistic with the comment that bullies derive entertainment "very good joke" from the bullying

Possible Red Herring - specifying that girls more likely to bully online/text, whereas boys are direct with confrontation.  Also we should consider passive agressive behaviour as another possible category of cyberbullying (similar to the withheld promotion).

Excellent Suggestion - Ombudsman office for school disputes about bullying. 

I agree with Leah that we need more analysis of techno bullying in the workplace.  Ashley Berger's comment that premature results are showing cyberbullying taking place alongside F2F bullying - I agree completely.  Same personality, just different medium expressing the same message (with possible amplification).

Fears of "forever comments" and "forever photos" - I am encouraging sites to stop archiving so much stuff.  It isn't the responsibility of these social sites to keep the chit/chat forever. 

There were two more reported teen deaths from cyberbullying.  I read the Irish newspaper article this morning.  Our court system here in Canada is looking for more good journal articles on cyberbullying to refer to in their judgments.  I would like our judges to be "courtroom ready" on the topic of cyberbullying and good research/experts are essential.

I am encouraging:

-parents to ask if their school has a cybermentor program

-schools and social sites to have easy2use anon mechanism to report cyberbullying

-developing roving consultants who understand the essence of conflict to help guide schools and employers as the cyberbullying incidents flare up.  Training is essential, but when those situations flare up, an outside consultant is often needed.

 

In development - more study needed on extent of listening in on electronic chit/chat by family members/partners etc. , reading their messages without their knowledge. 

 

Hey everyone,

My name is Maire, I'm 20 years old and I'm also one of Leah's students. Reading through all these posts about gender and stereotypes has caused me to start thinking about the social context we bring with us to cyberspace and how bullying has reflected that.

I believe I can speak for the majority of American females when I say there is an extreme pressure to be beautiful. In our current social context, women believe that their self-worth is dependent upon their skinny, attractive bodies and men are made to believe that those are the things they should value about women. As a result of this mindset, women constantly believe there is someone out there much more beautiful than them, which leads to a vicious cycle of self-deprecation.

In a society where women constantly feel inadequate and unwanted, it is no surprise that women are the majority of the bullies and victims in cyberspace. In an attempt to eliminate the "competition," women will attack other women in an environment where they do not have to see their victim or the pain their words are causing. In a sense, cyberbullying allows a woman to dehumanize her victim and deem the victim as one less person she needs to compete with in order to have a male call her beautiful and establish her self-worth. It is ironic and extremely telling that Facebook, the most popular social media site in the world, was originally created to compare the "hottest" of the female student body at Harvard University. As once a victim of cyberbullying and reacting cyberbully, this reflection has caused me to realize that when my mother said, "They are jealous, just ignore them," I should have listened rather than tell her she did not understand. 

Most importantly, I believe cyberbullying has a lot to do with the American identity. As a capitalist society, the US pushes the belief that wealth and success go hand in hand, which has shaped a nation where bullying is unintentionally instilled as a survival tactic from a young age.  Although most people will not admit it, the underlying reason for people to engage in social media is for acceptance, praise and competition. People create a Facebook page or engage in social media sites in order to self-promote and prove to themselves and others that they are the best. 

Since this is a forum with many contributors from around the world, do people believe that the social context they live has shaped the way people bully?  

Leah, thank you for inspiring impulse.

Krista, thanks for the summary. It is great to have such reflection. Yes, I am from culture where bullying is seen as way of having fun. The main problem is that media (should i say society)(TV, radio, internet) encourages such actions. There are plenty of sites and programs (broadcasting) to "entertain" people sending mean messages and simulating situations to harm people (one of this says: "Call your friend. Tell him that his house has being demolished while hi was absent. Have fun!") Agree that this way of "communication" is very old. I remember from childhood when people used phones and randomly called people from white pages just to disturb. The media has being broaden. Another term being recently adopted in Serbia is MOBBING. Mobbing Act is in force from 2010. http://paragraf.rs/propisi/zakon_o_sprecavanju_zlostavljanja_na_rad... This is connected to workplace (mobbing prevention at workplace) Perharps this term is more adequate for bulling adults. Thus we have CYBERMOBBING when adults are in subject? This is just about language and diversifying two things for avoiding misinterpretation (bulling children and young people, mobbing adults). Us and them? Those two days I am intensively thinking how much I am the one, bully, especially unconsciously (with no intention to hurt or harm). What is the urge to do it? What I gain from it? What position/interest I take, search for? Understanding the other side (would like to add the other side of ones self) is core starting point to prevent further actions and stop (reduce) maintaining this kind of "communication".

Thank you all for being inspirational.

Miloš



Krista Grace Jessacher said:

Leah - This is one of the best cyberbullying discussions I've seen.  Really impressive.  Thank you.

Best Quote: "If children can get away with cyber bullying in middle and high school, arguably this will feed into a behavior that causes workplace cyber bullying as they get older." Ashley Berger

Bill Warters is really insightful with this comment that a cyberbully will:  "..use his/her technical skills to equalize or retaliate for other perceived wrongs."

I found this really helpful: Daniel Rainey and Bill Warters explaining the old view of bullying as us/them and the target as different from or "other" from the group.

Milos Dilkic is realistic with the comment that bullies derive entertainment "very good joke" from the bullying

Possible Red Herring - specifying that girls more likely to bully online/text, whereas boys are direct with confrontation.  Also we should consider passive agressive behaviour as another possible category of cyberbullying (similar to the withheld promotion).

Excellent Suggestion - Ombudsman office for school disputes about bullying. 

I agree with Leah that we need more analysis of techno bullying in the workplace.  Ashley Berger's comment that premature results are showing cyberbullying taking place alongside F2F bullying - I agree completely.  Same personality, just different medium expressing the same message (with possible amplification).

Fears of "forever comments" and "forever photos" - I am encouraging sites to stop archiving so much stuff.  It isn't the responsibility of these social sites to keep the chit/chat forever. 

There were two more reported teen deaths from cyberbullying.  I read the Irish newspaper article this morning.  Our court system here in Canada is looking for more good journal articles on cyberbullying to refer to in their judgments.  I would like our judges to be "courtroom ready" on the topic of cyberbullying and good research/experts are essential.

I am encouraging:

-parents to ask if their school has a cybermentor program

-schools and social sites to have easy2use anon mechanism to report cyberbullying

-developing roving consultants who understand the essence of conflict to help guide schools and employers as the cyberbullying incidents flare up.  Training is essential, but when those situations flare up, an outside consultant is often needed.

 

In development - more study needed on extent of listening in on electronic chit/chat by family members/partners etc. , reading their messages without their knowledge. 

 

Maire - your reflections on the role of gender socialization and its connections to cyberbullying is insightful and shows how cyberbullying probably can't be fully understood if it is looked at without considering the context and interpretations of the individuals involved. While your thoughts explore reasons why young women may resort to cyberbullying based on pressures they feel, I think gender socialization also drives many boys and young men toward online meanness. One of the most glaring (and painful to see, from my vantage point as a profeminist man) recent examples was the cyberbullying that Anita Sarkeesian experienced when she sought funding for her work exploring gender portrayals in video games.

Clearly, gender and socialization matters, and gender norms that box people in and encourage them to lash out at others in order to feel good about themselves need to be changed.

Maire Callanan said:

Hey everyone,

My name is Maire, I'm 20 years old and I'm also one of Leah's students. Reading through all these posts about gender and stereotypes has caused me to start thinking about the social context we bring with us to cyberspace and how bullying has reflected that.

I believe I can speak for the majority of American females when I say there is an extreme pressure to be beautiful. In our current social context, women believe that their self-worth is dependent upon their skinny, attractive bodies and men are made to believe that those are the things they should value about women. As a result of this mindset, women constantly believe there is someone out there much more beautiful than them, which leads to a vicious cycle of self-deprecation.

Fascinating discussion, all.  I'd also like to share a link to the website set up by my friend Shaheen Sharif called Define the Line: http://definetheline.ca/dtl/ -- very interesting discussion of the legalization of cyberbullying, which is out of sync with the social realities behind bullying (e.g. few aggressors think of themselves as cyberbullies, because they almost always have a justification for their actions in mind).  Per Conor's link, there's some interesting resources at http://www.stopbullying.gov/ -- check out this video on "misdirections" (http://www.stopbullying.gov/videos/2012/08/misdirections.html) which specifically identifies conflict resolution as a mistaken approach to dealing with the problem.

Just some more thoughts…

 

Some clear issues with bullying legislation:

-Reactionary rather than preventative

-Focuses on punishing bullies instead of curbing the behavior all together

 

Although federal and state recognition is of great significance, I believe it is incredibly important that the focus of bullying prevention be handled at the local level (including in schools, local organizations, and specifically at home). As suggested in earlier posts, I also believe the role of the parents is highly under emphasized in the scheme of things and should be brought to the forefront of bullying prevention.

 

I don’t believe legislation alone is the answer to the bullying and cyber bullying problem, but it would be a significant step (punishment may deter some from bullying but not all).

 

Education and prevention must start from the bottom up.  The make up of this “bottom level” is centered around family and the schools these children attend…so why not place the emphasis of bullying education in these powerful spheres of influence? Why do legislators often overlook the topic of bullying…it is a clear societal problem… why is there not a stronger call for federal or state action demanding such educational programs?

I think Mat brought up an interesting question when he mentioned, “will laws be passed to protect victims of cyber-bullying at school, work, on social media sites, etc?” I think some my peers are advocating for legislation and/or new school rules to be put in place and enforced to stop cyberbullying. Or possibly putting limits on the scope of social media and technology that young teens have access to. This is not a belief I share. I do not feel punishment, legal action, and/or deciding what kids get to use each kind of technology on a case to case basis will take care of this problem. Trying to take legal action on a middle schooler for such behavior seems silly and unproductive to me and that money I believe is better spent elsewhere. 

I believe we must use the early education systems to teach how damaging and hurtful these technologies can be. From my research it seems that most cyberbullying occurs in middle and high school, so why not address it in primary and elementary school? Allow me to explain myself using something simple like the seatbelt. When I was growing up I was taught the first thing to do when you get in a car is to buckle your seatbelt. After years of having that message put in my head when I get in the car I just instinctively buckIe up. As is the case with the friends that I drive with, and most in my generation. I have been educated on the dangers of not buckling up through my parents, teachers, police officers, etc. and as a result I buckle without thinking about it. I think it is time for schools to start seriously thinking about teaching young kids the danger that cyberbullying poses not only to themselves but also their fellow classmates, and if we continue this message throughout the education process I believe we will see a severe drop in cyberbullying cases. 



Cameron Wolf said:

I think Mat brought up an interesting question when he mentioned, “will laws be passed to protect victims of cyber-bullying at school, work, on social media sites, etc?” I think some my peers are advocating for legislation and/or new school rules to be put in place and enforced to stop cyberbullying. Or possibly putting limits on the scope of social media and technology that young teens have access to. This is not a belief I share. I do not feel punishment, legal action, and/or deciding what kids get to use each kind of technology on a case to case basis will take care of this problem. Trying to take legal action on a middle schooler for such behavior seems silly and unproductive to me and that money I believe is better spent elsewhere. 

I agree with Conor’s point that legislation, principals, teachers, parents and other people in the position of power often overlook the topic of cyber bullying. One of the main reasons why this is the case, I believe, is the unfamiliarity that these elders have with not only detecting this new form of bullying, but also their  ignorance as to its legitimate effects.

In a study of 264 middle schoolers only 64.1% of the students believed that adults in schools tried to stop cyberbulling when informed. Although the majority of the adults intervened, the remaining 35.9% of adults failed in assessing the problem and using their authoritative position to make a positive change. Conor and Cameron raised excellent points in suggesting education for young children to learn of the harmful effects that cyber bullying poses- but how about educating adults as well? Adults, when in middle school, experienced the traditional “school yard” bullying where a simple punch to the face would result in a noticeable black eye. These physical effects are not caused by mean IM messages or hurtful text messages. The secretive nature of this type of bullying does what it’s supposed to do- be hidden from adults. I believe that elders in the position of authority need to learn of the repercussions of cyber bullying so that they can better react to the problem when informed. I also encourage programs to be implemented to educate them so that they can stop most cases of cyber bullying before it even happens. This will make them be, as Conor said, more preventative as opposed to reactionary whenever possible.

A number of contributors have pointed to the lack of awareness or of effective action even in the face of awareness of cyberbullying.  Why would this take place--why would we allow cyberbullying to continue?  In the spirit of what Maire and Miloš suggested, might this have to do with our cultures?  They are conflict-ridden and competitiveness abounds.  But surely there are positive impulses and values in our cultures as well.  Therefore, what is missing that will bring more urgency and serious attention to cyberbullying so that interventions and prevention measures will be more effective and holistic?

I agree with you, Conor. While current legislation is a good start in recognizing that cyber-bullying is a problem but by only having punishment protocols in place for this kind of behavior won't put an end to the cycle. I think a stronger emphasis needs to be put on parents to teach their children about internet etiquette when they are introducing them to these technologies. I would also agree with Cameron's point that we don't need to put a limit on the internet for children, but educate them how to act when they are cyber communicating with their peers. Like a D.A.R.E. program, in which children learn at a young age that drugs and alcohol are bad, an educational lecture should also be introduced to them alongside activities like this. If children don't learn from their elders, teachers, and parents, they will have no knowledge of how to act online towards one another and carry over their F2F behaviors over to the online sphere.

Conor Nolan said:

Just some more thoughts…

 

Some clear issues with bullying legislation:

-Reactionary rather than preventative

-Focuses on punishing bullies instead of curbing the behavior all together

 

Although federal and state recognition is of great significance, I believe it is incredibly important that the focus of bullying prevention be handled at the local level (including in schools, local organizations, and specifically at home). As suggested in earlier posts, I also believe the role of the parents is highly under emphasized in the scheme of things and should be brought to the forefront of bullying prevention.

 

I don’t believe legislation alone is the answer to the bullying and cyber bullying problem, but it would be a significant step (punishment may deter some from bullying but not all).

 

Education and prevention must start from the bottom up.  The make up of this “bottom level” is centered around family and the schools these children attend…so why not place the emphasis of bullying education in these powerful spheres of influence? Why do legislators often overlook the topic of bullying…it is a clear societal problem… why is there not a stronger call for federal or state action demanding such educational programs?

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