Counsellors' Phenomenological Experiences of Working with Children or Young People who have been Cyberbullied: Using Thematic Analysis of Semi Structured Interviews

Counsellors' Phenomenological Experiences of Working with Children or Young People who have been Cyberbullied: Using Thematic Analysis of Semi Structured Interviews

Catherine Knibbs, Stephen Goss, Kate Anthony
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2017010106
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There is currently a large body of quantitative evidence to support the prevalence of cyberbullying behaviours, however operationalising the term and measuring this consistently is proving difficult. Aim: The present study aimed to explore qualitatively how counsellors define, understand and work with this issue with clients. Method: Six child counsellors were interviewed about their experiences of working with clients who had been cyberbullied. Analysis: Data was analysed using Braun and Clarke's (2006) thematic analysis. Results: Seven themes emerged with three sub-themes arising from these. Discussion: The research provides a balanced argument for appropriate training and continuing professional development for counsellors and supervisors working with this issue.
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As counsellors working with children it is imperative that we understand our client’s worlds in a number of contexts. It is now recognised through research conducted both with children and parents that children spend more time online using electronic devices in comparison to watching television (Leggett 2016). Nordahl, Beran, and Dittrick (2013) suggest children spend 3-4 hours per day online with 84% of children aged 8-18 owning a smartphone. Research in the UK has suggested that out of 2000 children aged 5-18 there were 79% who live in a household where a tablet device is present and 63% own their own smartphone and these children also spend approximately 3 hours per day online outside of school hours (Leggett, 2016). Current research proposes that the high usage time of Internet-ready devices potentially increases the likelihood of opportunistic or targeted behaviour that could include or increase cyberbullying incidents (Pina 2016; Livingstone and Sefton- Green, 2016; Thomas, Connor and Scott, 2015).

Cyberbullying takes many forms and occurs over many devices, programs and applications. Popular online environments such as social media have become a part of everyday life such as going to school. This provides a situation in which research can be conducted on behaviours such as social norms and values that occur there (Boyd, 2014). The subject of cyberbullying often arises when children and young people present for counselling. According to Bentley, O’Hagan, Raff and Bhatti for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC, 2016, p. 41) the number of sessions where cyberbullying was mentioned rose by 13% over a mere 12 month period.

Cyberbullying is a term and behaviour that is difficult to define in isolation as it is multi-faceted and often co-exists in parallel with other cyber related issues. The boundaries between the terminology for cyberbullying and other cyber based issues can be difficult to separate and often have similar meanings, behaviours and impact making the distinction even more nuanced (Bauman 2014; Boyd 2014).

A meta-analysis of cyberbullying research (Kowalski, Giumetti, Scroeder and Lattanner, 2014), revealed 131 studies dating from 2004-2013 that looked at cyberbullying among youth. Not all research studies named the construct ‘cyberbullying’ with some investigating aspects of it or using overlapping terms, such as cyber harassment, Internet-bullying and online bullying. Furthermore, the overlap between traditional and online forms of bullying and victimisation have been compared to identify and explore the similarities and differences.

That the terminology is sometimes vague and is varied around cyberbullying, sometimes causes confusion or can lead to it not being identified as a particular typology of behaviours gave further reason for being interested in exploring this with other counsellors.

In this paper, we will use the following definition, amalgamated from a number of sources and derived from the authors’ combined long experience in clinical practice to provide the reader with our phenomenological viewpoint:

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that occurs through the medium of electronic devices and involves either direct or indirect aggression, harassment or vitriolic prose, images or videos or other uses of digital media intended to cause psychological and or emotional harm. These events can be singular, repetitive and can happen immediately, retrospectively or be delayed.

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