How Middle School Principals of Small Rural Schools Address Cyberbullying

How Middle School Principals of Small Rural Schools Address Cyberbullying

Christina M. Force (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, PA, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJCBPL.2016010102
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Abstract

Cyberbullying affects almost half of the teenagers in America (National Crime Prevention Council [NCPC], 2010). The effects of cyberbullying can be detrimental to teens and may include withdrawal from school activities, illness, depression, eating disorders, or suicidal ideations (Dehue, Bolman, & Vollink, 2008; Mason, 2008). In order to effectively deal with this issue, it is imperative that front-line middle school principals are prepared to address this growing problem. The purpose of this study was to examine how middle school principals of small rural schools address cyberbullying and their beliefs on its effect on the school climate and students. This study examined what middle school principals have experienced with regard to cyberbullying and the ways in which principals have responded to incidences of cyberbullying. A qualitative design using an exploratory multiple case study approach was utilized for this study. The results of this study describe how middle school principals in a small rural setting address cyberbullying and its impact on the school environment.
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Introduction

Bullying is a serious threat to school safety and the well-being of today’s children. Cyberbullying has also emerged as a threat to today’s youth (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2012; Stockdale, Hangaduambo, Duys, Larson, & Sarvela, 2002). According to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC; 2010), cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all teenagers in America. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic means to harm or threaten individuals (Chibbaro, 2007; Cyberbullying Research Center, 2012; Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Strom & Strom, 2005). E-mail, text messaging, cell phones, chat rooms, web pages, instant messaging, and various social networks are some of the tools that cyberbullies employ in their attempt to intimidate and humiliate their victims (Campbell, 2005; Chibbaro, 2007; Smith et al., 2008; Strom & Strom, 2005; Szader, 2012).

Cyberbullying is similar to traditional bullying in that one person exerts control or power over another weaker individual (Cossin, Cowie, de Bettencourt, Lemme, & Naylor, 2006; Hines, 2011). Today's youth have access to a variety of technologies such as cell phones and the Internet that can be used for cyberbullying, which in turn may cause victims to experience pain and embarrassment (Mason, 2008). Cyberbullying can have detrimental effects on its victims and may include withdrawal from school activities, illness, depression, eating disorders, or suicidal ideations (Hindjua & Patchin, 2012; Mason, 2008; Willard, 2006). The ramifications of cyberbullying on students may impact the way a principal leads a school as he or she attempts to address incidences of cyberbullying and its effect on school climate.

Principals take on an important leadership position in school and play a pertinent role in setting the climate of their school (Portin, Alejano, Knapp, & Marzoff, 2006). A positive school climate reduces the number and frequency of cyberbullying incidences principals may encounter in their schools (Hinduja & Patchin, 2012). The purpose of this study was to examine how middle school principals of small rural schools address cyberbullying and its effect on their school’s climate and students.

Cyberbullying has become widespread and may have devastating consequences for its victims; therefore, it is vital that all efforts be made to curtail such activities (Brady & Conn, 2006). School districts have many varying views on how cyberbullying should be dealt with, especially if it occurs outside of school. The seriousness and increasing prevalence of cyberbullying calls for more research focused on the middle school level as this age group prefers the anonymity that cyberbullying provides (Campbell, 2005; Kowalski & Limber, 2007; Olsen, 2011). In addition, there are few studies focused on the role of the middle school principal in small, rural settings.

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