Cyberbullying and Social Networking Sites

Cyberbullying and Social Networking Sites

Gilberto Marzano (Rezekne Academy of Technologies, Latvia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8076-8.ch003
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Media pay considerable attention to episodes that involve children and adolescents and the internet. Usually, the excessive time spent on social networking sites is highlighted as the principal source of risk for cyberbullying as well as for the various types of cyber addictions that can develop. Anonymity is reported to be one of the principal factors that favor cyberbullying, whilst sexting and homophobia are indicated as being among the principal circumstances that bring victims to commit suicide. In this chapter, some relevant aspects of the use of social networking sites will be illustrated and some notions regarding how the internet works will be introduced. Other questions, such as the spread of cyber hate and online incivility will be discussed, and a case of the incautious use of Facebook by a higher public education institution will be reported. Many concepts highlighted here will be useful in the following chapters in which strategies for the prevention of cyberbullying will be considered.
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Over the last two decades, the growth of the internet in every field of contemporary society has been spectacular. The impact of digital media has been without precedent. Internet users can, at the same time, be both content consumers and content producers, directly addressing a large number of other potential users. To all effects, they are prosumers (producers and consumers), to use the term coined many years ago by Toffler (1980).

Young people are often portrayed as being ever connected and spending their time exchanging messages with virtual mates, and various negative effects of social media have been broadly underlined (Smith, Morgan, & Monks, 2017; Turner & Lefevre, 2017; Vossen & Valkenburg, 2016). On the other hand, many educators exalt the positive contribution of social media to learning, since it offers exceptional opportunities for the lifelong learning process and for building personalized educational paths. Digital Social Learning has been attracting the interest of many researchers, who share the notion that “learning is a social activity” where individuals achieve their learning goals by interacting with each other (Hamid, Waycott, Kurnia, & Chang, 2015; Liao, Huang, Chen, & Huang, 2015).

A large segment of the total users of the internet are children, adolescents, and university students, and they tend to view the internet as their primary means of socialization.

The Pew Research Center indicates that a full 95% of the USA teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online almost invariably (Anderson & Jiang, 2018). Eurostat (2016) has observed the situation to be similar in Europe (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The proportion of people making daily use of the internet in 2016, by age and by formal educational attainment

Source: Eurostat, online data code: isoc_ciegi_ac and isoc_ci_ac_i

Figure 2 shows that roughly half (51%) of the USA teens, aged 13 to 17, claim they use Facebook, notably fewer than use YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat.

Figure 2.

The most popular online platforms among teens

Source: Pew Research Center, survey conducted March 7-April 10 2018

In the last few years, the nature of the internet has passed from stationary connection to always-on connections, and young people represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity. Their way of using technology often signals future social changes (Madden et al., 2013; Agosto, Abba, & Naughton, 2012). Nowadays, youngsters are more likely to use smartphones than laptops, and this is influencing their social relationships. Moreover, the massive use of smartphones often has the effect of decreasing their attention to the contents exchanged. Emails and online messages are read and answered hastily, reacting quickly, and sometimes without fully understanding the meaning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dark Web: Also called darknet , black web , or black net , is a part of the internet that is accessible only through specific software such as the Tor (“The Onion Routing” project) or I2P (“Invisible Internet Project”) browsers and which often doesn’t use standard communication protocols and ports.

Internet Incivility: Behavior that can include being rude, discourteous, impolite, and lacking in respect, as well as violating workplace norms of behavior.

WWW: The acronym for World Wide Web. It was the name of the first internet browser created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, namely a communications model that, through the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), enables the exchange of information over the internet. WWW is not a synonym of the internet, but only the combination of all the resources and users that, on the internet, are using the HTTP.

Sexting: The sending and receiving of sexually explicit messages, especially using mobile phones.

Internet: A massive network of networks.

Deep Web: Also called invisible web or hidden web , is the huge (90%) un-indexed part of the World Wide Web containing contents that are inaccessible to conventional search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Bank accounts and emails are examples of deep web contents. The dark web and the deep web aren’t synonyms.

Internet Relative Anonymity: Since anonymity is not granted on the internet, the expression relative anonymity should be preferred.

Internet Protocol (IP): The set of rules that defines how a digital device sends and receives data on the internet.

Trolls, Trolling: Terms used to refer to those who deliberately try to cause distress to others online through disruption, often anonymously.

social networking sites: Web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

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