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:
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).
Replies are closed for this discussion.
Cameron and Mira,
Thanks for the fantastic insights. I imagine it would be harder to gather data on the bullies (I can't imagine many school kids wanting to be labeled a bully when asked) but it's so interesting to see the impact of these behaviors in an online environment. I'm very interested in the 'chicken or egg' effect here as well, e.g. did the victims have low self-esteem before the bullying or purely as a result of the bullying? Thanks again for all the information, this is certainly a topic to keep in mind as social media continues to grow.
Cameron Wolf said:
There have been a couple of studies to try to find a link between certain personality traits and cyber-bullying. A study done by the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital found, "Cyber aggressors reported lower levels of reactive aggression compared to traditional-only and combined aggressors. Combined aggressors demonstrated the poorest psychosocial profile compared to all other aggressor groups. For victimization, cyber-only and combined victims reported higher levels of reactive aggression and were more likely to be cyber aggressors themselves compared to traditional-only victims and non-victims. Findings suggest that there may be unique aspects about cyber aggression and victimization that warrant further investigation." (J Youth Adolesc.)
Other studies I have read show unhealthy beliefs and unclear social standards in the family environment have a strong correlation to antisocial behavior (including cyberbullying and bullying), as well as bonds or attachment to deviant peers and others in involved in antisocial behavior. However, the inverse is also true, when high parental support is present in a child's life there is a much lower risk of a child becoming a physical or cyberbully.
From what I have read Mira is spot on in her analysis. A Spanish study showed the victims of cyberbullying show lower self-esteem and more depressive symptoms than those adolescents who have not suffered any cyberaggression. A different study indicated that being a victim of cyberbullying predicted higher degrees of depression and lower degrees of self-esteem in both victims and cyberbullies. Being a victim of cyberbullying, however, did not predict higher degrees of loneliness or social anxiety.
Most studies done only look at that victims of cyberbullying because they are much easier to find and more willing to share. I look forward to see what scientist and psychologists can find when studies looking more at the actual bullies of cyber bullying.
Mira Rotter said:
I have not found research on personality types and bullying, but I personally believe those who have less self-esteem and low self-confidence are more prone to be a bully over the internet, text messages etc. I think this because it is less confrontational than traditional bullying, and these people may not have the courage to confront another in such a public way. This being said I do agree with your point that school bullies do turn into cyber-bullies once the school day or year is done.
Ariel Baty said:
This is also my first time participating in Cyberweek. This is an incredibly relevant topic, thank you for hosting. I think the stats presented so far in posts are fascinating, as is the shift of power that occurs with cyber bullying (Bill’s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ example is great). Does anyone know if there has been a conclusive study about personality types more prone to bullying online, not just boys versus girls but a more detailed profile? I would hypothesize that those who are more uncomfortable with face to face confrontation would utilize cyber bullying more often than their peers, but then again, there’s nothing to stop a bully at school from being a bully online either.
As the many responses to this thread indicate, Cyberbullying is a serious issue which requires attention, particularly in the school context. More commonly than ever I see heartbreaking news clips about students who are driven to suicide because they have been targeted and victimized online. I attribute this phenomenon two things.
The first is a lack of awareness by the bullies. I think bullies use the online experience to attack others because it is easy, for them it is fun, and it doesn't take any courage. But another major contributing factor is they are experiencing a disconnect where they don't realize their actions have real life consequences.
The other problem I want to raise, and the issue I'll spend the majority of my post addressing, is that there are perhaps First Amendment concerns which restrict schools' abilities to punish cyberbullying. I will address this as an extreme generalist. The First Amendment in the school context is an area of the law that is extremely messy. I won't post a law review article here and won't claim to be an expert on the subject, but I can provide the basic framework of the students' right to freedom of speech in the school context and its relation to the problem schools have in instituting punishment for cyberbullying.
Over forty years ago, the Supreme Court created a framework to analyze student speech within the education context in Tinker v. Des Moines. Under this framework, schools can place limitations on students speech if that speech “materially disrupted or caused substantial disorder within the school, or invaded the rights of others.” The problem here is this test was not intended to extend far enough to punish a student who is at their laptop at home attacking someone on facebook.
There are three other distinct Supreme Court cases which create related frameworks to address the First Amendment in the school context, in Morse, Fraser, and Hazelwood, but Tinker remains the prevailing standard.
A lower court, though, has applied Tinker to restrict the speech of a cyberbully. The Fourth Circuit in Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools from 2011, determined the school's suspension of a student for creating and posting a website that ridiculed a fellow student did not violate that student's free speech. That court reasoned Tinker's materially disruption test was met because though Kowalski's speech originated off campus, she had targeted an individual at her school and could reasonably have expected her speech could cause a disruption at school.
An important part of the reasoning in this case, though, was that this particular speech was very vulgar and offensive. That made it easier for that court to justify restricting that student's speech. But it is still possible to bully someone without using offensive language, whether it is teasing or a cruel nickname or whatever the case may be. And under those circumstances schools may be more limited in how they can punish a student.
Also, there is a substantial policy concern at issue. Traditionally when a student does something like cyberbullying it is up to their parents to impose discipline. But the more schools are permitted to address something like cyberbullying the more they are permitted to reach beyond the school gate and into the homes of their students.
Like I said, it is a very messy area of the law. The debate is far beyond settled.
Thanks Joel! It will be very interesting to see what, if any, action the appellant courts will take if the decision is questioned. It might not be out of the question for the Supreme Court also to look into the case since cyberbullying has become such a widespread problem in the last few years and does not seem to be going away.
Great discussion......and it has been a great #CyberWeek2012
More research is needed on these aspects of cyberbullying:
1. sexual side of it/sexual demands
3. threats (serious ones are often made just prior to target having contact with others)
Milos Dilkic - helpful comments "Yes, I am from a culture where bullying is seen as a way of having fun". "Another term being recently adopted in Serbia is MOBBING". This ties in with Richard Shaughnessy's point that bullies often like an audience.
Maire Callanan brought up the interesting question of trolls. Some are harmless, some aren't. Freedom of speech is broad, but doesn't cover cyberbullying.
Here is the link to Pam Vogel with a reference to the online Human Monitoring Service (HMS). This is the first I have heard of HMS, but we are looking for effective online cyberbullying monitors - where the program alerts you to a problem situation.
Great point by Mira Rotter that "Once this sense of anonymity is taken some of the draw of online bullying might decrease". (emphasis mine)
Presentations - be aware that the most difficult persons won't show up for a presentation.
We need to stop blaming the target for the abuse, eg for being online. The aggressors need to be put on behaviour conditions, and provided with the programs they need, while they continue their education.
Online anon reporting mechanisms, including on school websites are essential.
I wouldn't suggest mediation in any cyberbullying case. These aren't situations where you "makeup" and it is over. A serious cyberbullying situation must be monitored on an ongoing basis, for further hostilities.
Thanks Bill, this is great stuff!
Bill Warters said:
My collection of interesting cyberbullying prevention resources can be found here in a scoopit collection I built for a workshop at the ACR Conference in New Orleans. If you look at the slides, there are various games and online initiative mentioned towards the end that are particularly relevant. One game that I think deserves a look addresses social media practices more generally in schools and it is called BeSeen from Carnegie Mellon University.
Leah asked us to consider the following questions:
1. What tools already are available which can be useful in preventing and responding to cyberbullying?
2. What are the types of tools that are still needed? Let's be creative and think outside the box!
N.B. This is a compilation of all sites that people have shared during this week’s forum discussion on Cyberbullying. I thought it might be helpful to have them all in one place. Feel free to add to the list and thanks to all who have researched and shared these useful links!
Cyberbullying in the workplace research article:
Crimes Against Children Research Center, U. of New Hampshire:
Working to Halt Online Abuse:
Re: parental controls on computers, cell phones and consoles: http://www.haltabusektd.org/resources/index.html
Scoop It! Cyberbullying Prevention:
Not In Our Town:
Office for Victims of Crime:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (USA):
Internet Protection, PCs N Dreams:
Shaheen Sharif’s Define the Line: http://definetheline.ca/dtl/
Misdirections in dealing with bullying:
free Cyberbullying prevention curriculum for middle school:
"The Most Wired Place on Earth" (some South Korean 2nd graders singing a netiquette song) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/living-faster...
For info on gender and Cyberbullying see the following sites:
Research, resources & school & community presentations by Drs. Hinduja & Patchin:
Education & strategies (including videos) for combating & handling Cyberbullying:
Resources, videos, strategies for teachers, young people, & parents on bullying (including Cyberbullying):
Visual of path from reporting Cyberbullying to support:
Bill Warters’ collection of interesting resources: http://www.scoop.it/t/cyberbullying-prevention
A game that addresses social media practices more generally in schools: http://www.playbeseen.com
Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital research on cyberagression: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20680425#
I agree with Ashley's suggestion of placing different Ads or Apps on social media pages warning others about the "dangers and effects of cyber-bullying." This way if people are ignorant to cyber bullying at least this will expose them to it and may prevent them from doing harmful things to others. Also I feel that it would be extremely vital and helpful for students to hear from other students who have been bullied. Personally, it is my belief that people will not be able to understand or connect with you unless they can relate to you. If students were to have other students speaking to them then about their bullying experiences, then they will probably be more likely to listen.
Ashley Berger said:
After reading Leah's two questions, I agree that other venues need to be put in place for prevention of cyber-bullying. I think that things like Apps and even maybe Ads on the side of social media pages describing the dangers and effects of cyber-bullying would be useful as an almost subliminal means to creatively convey the anti cyber-bullying message. I also think that by involving students to share experiences and function as student guest lecturers in elementary and middle schools could have a profound effect on the prevention. I also believe that students as well as parents and faculty should be educated in doing interactive skits where they can play many different roles and feel what it feels like to be in everyone else's shoes. It would also be helpful for others to view this from a third person perspective so they can see examples of what it really means to bully or be bullied.
Maire Callanan said:
I think there should be gatekeeping mechanisms put in place to structurally determine education as one important strategy for preventing cyberbullying. Once people are educated about the causes and effects of cyberbullying, there will be a greater and more consistent cry for reform by people of all ages. Ultimately, gatekeeping mechanisms, such as legislation, will be created as a result of public pressure.
However, although I believe that education and legislation are necessary to combat this problem, I'm also concerned about the effects of these gatekeeping mechanisms. It should be emphasized that education is only one strategy for preventing cyberbullying. By referencing the shield the first amendment provides, it is apparent that legislation often prohibits innovation. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is an issue that will never go away. Technology is changing everyday and elementary school children can have unlimited access to social media and the internet by simply being on their phones. Because technology is changing so quickly, legislation and gatekeeping mechanisms should evolve as quickly as technology. I'm worried that if mechanisms are put in place, it will leave out a lot of other venues where people can cyberbullying, such as iPhone apps, and will ultimately have little effect on the goal we are trying to achieve. Furthermore, I'm concerned about the large role of school administration in preventing cyberbullying and holding individuals responsible. In a number of suicides caused by cyberbullying, the media reports that the victim and his or her family contacted administration a number of times about the bullying the child received. In these cases, administration either did nothing, did not enforce punishments on the bullies or did not act appropriately to make sure the victim was not continually bullied. In the end, I think that the first step is definitely education. However, before mechanisms are put in place to prevent cyberbullying, there must be research about the potential problems that these mechanisms can cause.
Leah Wing said:
There have been quite a number of calls for educating parents and children (especially beginning at an early age) as one important strategy for preventing cyberbullying. Are there gatekeeping mechanisms that ought to be put in place (and if so where?) for helping to structurally determine that this happens? For example, should teacher education and principal certification programs within Schools of Education require exposure to curriculum on cyber/bullying? Are there other public policies that can be put in place that require schools to have policies about teacher and parent training on cyer/bullying in order to receive public funds? What other gatekeeping mechanisms might help and what are some concerns you have about having such mechanisms?
Angeramis Tejeda said:
Some more resources include:
http://www.childnet.com or http://www.digizen.org.
Childnet International has some wonderful resources for kids, parents and teachers that focus on cyberbullying.
This site is dedicated to helping CB victims deal with this huge problem of defamation, and cyberstalking on the internet. Information about how to manage social networking cites and reporting abuse is indicated with the site as well as offering free email advice about how to deal with CB related issues.
Thanks for the insightful and engaging contributions shared all week in this discussion forum. Hopefully, the ideas exchanged here will spark further research and tool development to prevent and respond to Cyberbullying. Your creativity and dedication are needed on this important topic.
Join us for the the 12th International Online Dispute Resolution Forum--information will be posted at http://odr.info and for Cyberweek 2013!