Research on Cyberbullying: Key findings and practical suggestions
Cyberbullying can be defined as
‘bullying through email, instant messaging, in a chat room, on a website or gaming site, or through digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone. Although sharing certain features in common with traditional bullying, [...] cyber bullying not only looks and feels a bit different than traditional bullying, but presents some unique challenges in dealing with it’ (1).
Cyberbullying is a relatively new research topic, following the rapid increase in use of mobile (cell) phones and the internet. Several characteristics distinguish cyberbullying from other forms of bullying, such as:
- Students who are victimized have no place to hide, and can be targeted anytime and anyplace.
- Cyberbullying can involve a very wide audience (e.g., through the circulation of video clips on the internet), although the bully may not be aware of the audience’s reactions.
- Students who cyberbully others are relatively protected by the anonymity of electronic forms of contact, which can safeguard them from punishment or retaliation.
- As with some indirect traditional bullying, students who cyberbully do not usually see the response of the victim, changing the satisfactions or inhibitions normally generated by bullying.
Extent of the Problem
Studies, mostly over the last five years, provide varying accounts of the number of students experiencing cyberbullying, mainly resulting from differing samples of participants and methodological techniques. As a rough approximation, the number of children who report being cyberbullied is a significant minority, perhaps about one third of those who are victimised through traditional forms (2). This equates to around 1 in 10 children having experienced being cyberbullied.
Unlike traditional bullying, many incidents of cyberbullying occur outside of school (2), which could be expected given that many schools place restrictions on mobile phone and internet use during school hours. Although much of this cyberbullying is reportedly done by school peers, cyberbullying is an issue not only for schools, but also for families and communities (3).
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