Cyber Bullying

Cyber Bullying

Jo Ann Oravec (University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch148
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Abstract

“Cyberbullying” comprises a wide spectrum of behaviors that have negative and often devastating impacts upon their targets (or “victims”). This article is intended to analyze research trends on cyberbullying as well as related concerns involving online harassment, online reputational damage, and cyberstalking. Its focuses are as follows: (1) analyze the conceptual work and research that have emerged on the technological and social aspects of the issues, with an emphasis on social media scenarios; (2) present insights as to how cyberbullying and reputational damage can best be mitigated, given current mental health insights and technological know-how; and (3) discuss why cyberbullying is of continuing importance to business, government, non-profit, and educational audiences. The article includes reflections about the moral and personal dimensions of cyberbullying. Cyberbullies can often combine anonymous interactions with personally-identifiable ones to make it appear that more than one individual is participating, potentially intensifying the negative social impacts involved.
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Introduction

“Cyberbullying” comprises a wide spectrum of behaviors that have negative and often devastating impacts upon their targets (or “victims”). This article is intended to analyze research trends on cyberbullying as well as related concerns involving online harassment, online reputational damage, and cyberstalking. Its focuses are as follows: (1) analyze the creative and innovative conceptual work and research that have emerged on the technological as well as social and ethical aspects of these issues; (2) present insights as to how cyberbullying and reputational damage can best be mitigated, given the technological capabilities and emerging know-how of technical specialists, educators, and organizational consultants; and (3) discuss why cyberbullying is of continuing importance to a broad business, government, non-profit, and educational audience. The article also includes reflections about the moral and personal dimensions of cyberbullying.

Bullying incidents are intricate and frustrating phenomena from whatever contexts they emerge, face-to-face or online. Cyberbullying often involves words and pictures that are considered as protected speech under various national and local laws, often providing cover for those who are attempting to abuse or unsettle a victim (Fraser, Bond-Fraser, Buyting, Korotkov, & Noonan, 2013; Oravec, 2012). The prevalence of cyberbullying is difficult to determine, given the privacy with which many cases dealing wth juvenile offences (as well as offences in workplace settings) are handled. In their “Scoping Review on Studies of Cyberbullying Prevalence Among Adolescents,” Brochado, Soares, and Fraga (2016) found the following:

Most of the studies tend to assess cybervictimization experiences. However, even considering the same perspective, the same country, and the same recall period, a high variability in the estimates was observed. As a main conclusion, the way in which the prevalence of cyberbullying is estimated is influenced by methodological research options.

Added to the difficulties in studying cyberbullying is the observation that some individuals who are victimized may not display signs of damage or even choose to respond to the bully. Other individuals may be extremely harmed by comparable words and pictures; some may choose to fight back while others become depressed or even suicidal. Generally, cyberbullying consists of repetitive behavior that has a particular focus on a victim; the bully’s attacks can be shielded from video from others who could possibly intervene. As related in Bonanno and Hymel (2013), “Cyberbullying also takes place on a virtual playground that makes it possible to victimize a peer within the sanctity of one’s own home, at any time of the day or night, in complete anonymity, and with maximal exposure and hence potential embarrassment for the intended target” (p. 646). Kamali (2015) adds an angle relating to the growing assortment of networked devices: “the perpetrator can employ varied means (e.g., cell-phones, texts, blogs, Internet, social media, etc.)” in conducting the bullying (p. 43). Anonymity can give some protection to bullies in shielding them from observation in whole or part of their bullying (Barlett, Gentile, & Chew, 2016). Cyberbullies can also combine anonymous interactions with personally-identifiable ones to make it appear that more than one individual is involved in the attacks, potentially intensifying the negative social impacts of the bullying.

Equipping individuals in workplace, community, and educational contexts to be aware of cyberbullying issues may enable them to become more sensitive and empathetic as well as more effective as the front line of defense against these phenomena. It will also help them to mitigate bully-related problems in their organizational and community roles and provide an “early warning system” for the new forms of bullying various technological changes may engender (such as drones and virtual reality). Emerging research efforts may also enhance understanding of cyberbullying as well as empower citizens and organizational participants in their efforts to mitigate it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cyberstalking: Repetitive and personally invasive surveillance and monitoring of a target or victim, often with unsettling forms of unwanted contact. Cyberstalking is often associated with adult behaviors more than those of children or young adults ( Kamali, 2015 ).

Serial Cyberbullying: Individuals who engage in bullying who have chosen more than one target or victim, either simultaneously or sequentially. Serial bullying has been widely documented in non-computer assisted forms of bullying as well as online varieties. It has also been observed among children and young people ( Carter, 2015 ).

Bystanders: Individuals who have access to information about current or potential bullying or harassment incidents, whether or not they choose to respond. In online contexts, information that is received by bystanders may be fragmented and highly confusing.

Victim: The intended target of the online abuse. The term “victim” can it itself have negative implications for those for whom it is applied, with connotations of “opportunistic victimhood” and assumptions that the target somehow is benefiting from the abuse or did something to attract it intentionally.

Mobbing: Group member cooperation and collaboration in bullying. From the victim’s perspective, mobbing compounds the negative power of abusive behavior with the sense of exclusion from the group, producing a form of “psychological terror.” From the mobbers’ perspectives, mobbing may make the participants feel less guilty about their behaviors since their peers and comrades are also engaging ( Leymann, 1990 ).

Online Reputational Damage: Injury to the online profiles and compiled reputational information about an individual. This injury can be conducted through such means as doctoring photographs and manipulating online information in a negative way ( Oravec, 2013 ).

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