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CYBERBULLYING: A HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERN FOR THE ADOLESCENT, SCHOOL AND PARENT

By prettyandtwisted@gmail.com Sep 14, 2014 3372 Words
CYBERBULLYING:
A HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERN FOR THE ADOLESCENT,
SCHOOL AND PARENT

Abstract
Cyberbullying is an ever-growing societal problem among middle and high school age adolescents. The use of digital media in their lives has created the unintended consequence of a new form of bullying known as cyberbullying. This type of bullying comes in many forms, which may include the use of the Internet, cell phone, some online video games or cameras on cell phones. Each form of cyberbullying shares the same purpose, to cause emotional harm or embarrassment to another person.

Cyberbullying is linked to poor academic, social and

emotional prospects for both the victim and the cyberbully. Communities, school districts and parents are now focusing on this problem and the negative consequences of these actions.

The paper seeks to provide an overview of

cyberbullying and the current practices of addressing this behavior among adolescents.

Descriptors: cyberbullying, texting, sexting, hacking, online harassment

Cyberbullying
A health and safety concern for the adolescent, school and parent

Jessica Logan’s parents would never have guessed that their intelligent eighteen-year old child was concerned about receiving a barrage of hate mail and texts intended to destroy her self-worth. Jessica never discussed the fact that she sent nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend via her cell phone. Her boyfriend forwarded the nude photos to his high school friends. This was the start of the downhill spiral of Jessica’s life. She never told her parents about the verbal abuse she was receiving at school. The words such as whore, skank and slut were so hurtful to her that she tried to avoid going to school, or if she had to go, she hid in the bathroom trying to avoid her acquaintances she once thought were her friends. Jessica’s parents discovered all of this while grieving for their only child after her suicide. (Zetter, 2010)

This paper seeks to explore the relatively new form of bullying, known as cyberbullying, and how this new phenomena is affecting our adolescents in the United States. An analysis of current trends will be explored as well as possible strategies to remediate cyberbullying will be discussed. Recommendations will be included for parents of adolescents as well as school personnel who are facing this new phenomenon.

Traditional Bullying

Behavior that has the intention of causing physical or emotional harm to another repeatedly over a span of time is the definition of bullying commonly used by practitioners in the field of adolescent psychology (Raskauslas & Stoltz, 2007). Bullying behavior can be direct or indirect. Direct bullying can be physical or verbal in nature including hitting and name-calling. Indirect bullying seeks to cause harm by spreading rumors and gossip that socially isolate a person or by ruining their reputation. School personnel and parents are familiar with the overt signs of direct bullying as they are relatively simple to identify and address. Indirect bullying in the form of rumor and innuendo are more difficult to stop because of the anonymity created by how fast rumors spread among adolescents. Rumors and gossip spread quickly and this form of bullying takes on severe consequences for adolescents (Raskauslas & Stoltz, 2007).

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying also has severe consequences for the victim as well as the perpetrator. This new form of bullying is defined as the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. (Anonymous, 2011) Media used to cyber bully include the use of the Internet, email, and Instant Messaging (IM). Cell phones are also used to send hostile messages via texting, sexting or embarrassing photos.

Examples of cyberbullying include sending intimidating or hateful emails or Instant Messages (IM), text messages to the victim. Cyberbullies send embarrassing photos out into the digital world (Zetter, 2010). It is not uncommon to find these individuals hacking into someone else’s email or Instant Messaging account pretending that they are the owner of the account. Once they are in the account, they are able to send harassing emails or messages of either a sexual or degrading manner, without worrying about being exposed. The use of phones with a camera attachment is becoming a noted means of cyberbullying. Pictures are taken without the permission of the victim in moments of privacy, or videos are taken of a graphic nature, example witnessing a car wreck, a fight or an arrest. (Raskaulas & Stoltz, 2007)

The term sexting (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010; Hinduja & Patchin, Sexting A Brief Guide for Educators, 2010) is not a conventional word for adults today, but for those teens that have cell phones; the term is all too familiar. Sexting is defined as the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images or video via a cell phone (Hinduja & Patchin, Sexting A Brief Guide for Educators, 2010). A typical sexting incident would involve a teenager taking nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves and sending those pictures to other people via their cell phone. One unintended consequence of sexting is often the images are sent out where the person who took the picture has no control of who is looking at their pictures ((Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010; Hinduja & Patchin, Sexting A Brief Guide for Educators, 2010).

Indirect cyberbullying seeks to destroy relationships or reputations through rumors and innuendo. This attack is just as personal and specific to a person as the other type of bullying. The indirect bully covers his attacks with anonymity. Cyberbullies participate using the indirect method use an alias or hack into another person’s account. (Raskaulas & Stoltz, 2007)

Prevalence

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) commissioned a study by Harris Interactive to explore the prevalence of cyberbullying among middle and senior high students in the United States. The survey objectives were to determine what experiences adolescents’ had with cyberbullying; to understand their reactions to cyberbullying, as well as how do adolescents define this phenomenon. (Feinberg & Robey, 2009)

According to the research, 43% or 4 in 10 adolescents indicate they have personally experienced some form of cyberbullying in the last year. This phenomenon is more prevalent with females (51%) than males (37%). High school age adolescents have experienced this more (46%) than middle school students (35%). The most common age group would be with the adolescents in the 15-16 year old range and is more prevalent with females than males (Harris Interactive, 2007).

Profile: Cyberbullied Victims and Non-Victims (Harris Interactive, 2007) Total

Statistics on Those

Statistics on Those

Sample

Who Experienced

Who Never

(n=824)

Cyberbullying

Experienced

(n-380)

Cyberbullying
(n=444)

Percent

Percent

Percent

Male

51

43

57

Female

49

57

43

13

21

17

23

14

19

18

20

15

19

24

16

16

22

26

18

17

19

14

22

Middle School

26

22

30

High School

74

78

70

Gender

Age

Level in School

Characteristics

Parents and school personnel often ignore the signs of cyberbullying or attribute behavioral changes to some other cause. Indicators may include depression, sad, angry or frustrated behavior. Often adolescents who are victims of such behavior have difficulty attending school or school functions and withdraw from their families and friends. It should come as no surprise that becoming a victim of cyberbullying can lead to many school related problems including delinquency, school violence and poor academic performance. (Hinduja & Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2007)

Studies have found that victims of bullying in general experience low self -esteem, lack social networking with peers; difficult times relating to parents and experiencing behavior problems at school. Due to this lack of social integration with peers and low self-esteem victims of cyberbullying are more likely to seek approval and acceptance online, making them especially vulnerable to manipulation and harassment (Feinberg & Robey, 2009).

Cyberbullies report greater instances of victimization by traditional bullies and tend to have less desirable relationships with parents or guardians (Feinberg & Robey, 2009). Perpetrators of

cyberbullying use the Internet frequently and are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors’ such as fighting, property crimes (Juvonen Ph.D. & Gross Ph.D. , 2008) stealing, drug use, truancy,

dropping out (Hinduja & Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2007) These antisocial behaviors often extend into adulthood increasing the probability that perpetrators will commit at least one crime in Adulthood. Both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying have been found to exhibit psychosocial difficulties related to behavior, alcohol use, smoking, depression and detachment from school. Often, victims are also perpetrators of cyberbullying (Feinberg & Robey, 2008).

Studies have linked undesirable psychological, emotional, and behavioral consequences to cyberbullying incidents. Victims of cyberbullying have been found to report increased feelings of anger, frustration, depression (Hinduja & Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2007)), anxiety and emotional distress Victims who internalize negative feelings stemming from being bullies are more likely to distance themselves from school, which negatively impacts school performance. Academic performance may decline due to a decreased ability to concentrate and increased school absences stemming from illness, detention, or truancy (Bhat, C.S, 2009).

A recent study by Commission by Cox Communication, conducted by John Walsh in April of

2009, showed that 9% of teens between the ages of 13-19 sent sexually explicit pictures via text or email and 3% chose to forward pictures on to someone else. (Walsh, 2009) According to the study, a recent development in this phenomenon is the prosecution of teenagers as criminals who choose to either send or forward sexually explicit photos. (Walsh, 2009) There have been adolescents convicted of being sex offenders, convicted of disorderly conduct as well as malicious intent. This is a controversial area of the law, where many juvenile experts believe that it should not be a party to the legal system, but subject to consequences and sanctions in keeping with their age. The idea that an adolescent faces serious prison time due to sexting pictures of their former girlfriend or boyfriend, leaves many thinking there has to be another way (Walsh, 2009).

In 2006, Patachin and Hinduja, performed an analysis of 2,423 randomly sampled adolescents using the subject social media MySpace. The purpose of the study was to determine to what extent the adolescents were posting personal information or discussing personal information on this web site. From the study, it was determined that the majority of participants were using common sense when posting information on their personal pages, but that a small but important group were discussing or displaying information that included swearing, drinking, using drugs or alcohol. School districts responding to this study started implementing announcements and flyers warning about the abuse of their private information (Patchin, Trends in Adolescent Online Social Networking, 2009)

MySpace also changed their safety measures to better protect their users. In addition, MySpace has implemented procedures that inhibit sex offenders from creating profiles. In July of 2007, MySpace deleted 29,000 profiles belonging to registered sex offenders. The authors Patachin and

Hinduja, include the highlights from the research project to include: that More Youth restricted access to their profiles, profiles did include pictures, but there were fewer inappropriate pictures, few adolescents listed

their school, and a significant number of the adolescents had abandoned their profiles (Patchin, Trends in Adolescent Online Social Networking, 2009)
Consequences

Adolescents should understand the responsibility and the consequences for every behavior or action. They need to be aware of the consequences of expressing their opinion, on a blog or their posting a comment or replying on a website.

The consequences of such actions need to be

highlighted and have the children identify what possible action can occur with each issue. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

Under the Student’s Guide to Personal Publishing by Justin W. Patachin and Sameer Hinduja, adolescents must be aware of the following:

1. Audience: For those who publish anything, including pictures, or videos or personal opinions, once they leave your phone, computer etc, it is virtually impossible to control who sees your information. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

2. Anonymity: Trying to disguise who you are is almost impossible these days as each computer has a “digital footprint”. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

3. Permanence: Even though you may have forgotten your posting several years earlier,

this kind of information can be seen for years on the Internet. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

4. Copyright:: It’s illegal to copy, use or publish anything under someone’s name other than the author. If it isn’t your personal creative piece, even pictures or words, and not providing credit for their work, or without getting permission to use their work, is against the law. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

5.

Free Speech:

In the United States, under our Constitution, we are protected by the First

Amendment, giving each citizen the right of free speech. This right does not include defaming others by saying mean spirited comments with the intention of ruining their reputation. (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010)

Recommendations for Parents

It is critical to learn and watch for signs that their child may be involved in cyberbullying. Using the digital media, it is common that perpetrators seek the anonymity of posting comments or

pictures on the Internet. Parents need to be able to see what their child is doing online and with their cell phones. A child’s refusal to talk about what they’re playing or participating in online is a warning sign that should not be ignored. Placing the computer in a area that all family members access will help in this regard, additional software that parents can access to see what their child is doing online is recommended. Adolescents and their parents should have a clear understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not as it pertains to online communication. Clear consequences must be established and enforced to alert the Cyberbullies what actions they will expect to receive. Parents of victims need to be keenly aware of changes in mood or behavior such as refusing to use the computer, cell phone, as well as their engagement in school activities. Parents should always strive to keep the lines of communication open between their child and themselves. If a child feels they can openly discuss these issues with their parents or guardians, the incidents of cyberbullying will decrease. Adolescents are often hesitant to confide in their parents about cyberbullying because they worry their parents will limit their Internet and cell phone usage (Juvonen & Gross, 2008). It does not appear to be helpful to restrict these technologies from adolescents. The unintended consequence of limiting access to digital media is to cause further strain between parents and child. Parents, along with their children, should identify the problem, how it started, what their contribution to the issue may be and to develop a plan to extricate themselves from it. If the child is a victim of cyberbullying, and if the parents are known, the bully’s parents should be contacted. If they are unknown, the school personnel should be contacted. In those circumstances where illegal activities have occurred, law enforcement should be contacted. (Hinduja & Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2007)

Recommendations for School Personnel

In a nationally representative sample of 824 middle and high school students aged 13 through 17, participated in an online survey (National Crime Prevention Council, 2007)

From the chart, 64 percent reported that they are extremely/very likely to refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
cyberbullying.

Over 44% reported that they are likely to tell a friend to stop

Several notable areas: less than one-quarter are extremely/very likely to report

cyberbullying to an adult (25%), to tell a victim they are sorry (19%) and to send a message to someone who is cyberbullying that it is wrong (19%). (National Crime Prevention Council, 2007)

Teens believe that cyberbullying and social media behavior should begin at the individual level. Teens want to block people who are Cyberbullies and are inappropriate on social media websites. They also believe that cyberbullying prevention is especially effective at the school level. (Hinduja & Patchin, Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response, 2007). Administrators and teachers must state unequivocally that bullying of any kind will not be accepted. A zero-tolerance policy that incorporates all forms of harassment into the definitions of school violence is imperative. Cyberbullying often occurs after school, and historically school

personnel did not intervene in events that went beyond the school day.

This new way of

communicating demands that teachers, parents and the children speak in one voice about this issue. Speaking as one voice will prevent Cyberbullies from attempting to misunderstand the message Developing a positive school climate where aberrant behavior is not considered acceptable, and that the norm is positive interactions between peers is critical to minimizing Cyberbullies. Promoting a positive school culture that values academics, strong friendships, close ties between the community, family and school is essential. .

Conclusion:

The digital phenomenon opens the world to the adolescent student. At the same time, the opportunity is also there for those who wish to create ill-will among students, to create environments where victims are afraid to go to school, or to even speak out about what they’re experiencing. It is truly a safety issue for the teenager who is experiencing being tortured by Cyberbullies, anonymous people, or people familiar to the victim. School violence, in any form, impacts the wellbeing of all affected adolescents. Each group, including parents, school personnel and the adolescents must work together to determine what are the rights and privileges of using digital media and what are the consequences for that violation. Establishing common language for everyone to hear and know is one step toward minimizing this behavior. All interested parties must know that bullying of any kind will not be accepted and furthermore will be dealt with expeditiously.

Adolescents’ who believe that school officials or parents have little to no control over bullying, often take matters into their own hands. Policies written into a school handbook is only the start, a dynamic process that everyone is aware is crucial. Taking matters into their own hands encourages further bullying, violence and a (Patchin, A Students Guide To Personal Publishing, 2010) negative school environment. All parents, school personnel and students need to be aware of the consequences of these behaviors and what actions will be taken. If a student reports an incident, and the school staff or parent does nothing to address the issue, only reinforces to the student that the adults are helpless or incapable of assisting them. When the bullying involves any legal realities, the parents or the school should not hesitate to contact law enforcement.

The term cyberbullying is relatively new to parents and school systems. As our society increases its use of digital media, it is imperative that schools and parents develop effective methods to keep their children safe and progressing in school. Children who do not feel safe, feel threatened cannot perform well, cannot focus on achieving their goals.

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