Cyberbullying: A Case Study at Robert J. Mitchell Junior/Senior High School

Cyberbullying: A Case Study at Robert J. Mitchell Junior/Senior High School

Michael J. Heymann (SUNY Plattsburgh, USA) and Heidi L. Schnackenberg (SUNY Plattsburgh, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3619-4.ch015
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Robert J. Mitchell Junior/Senior High School is a small institution located in central New York. Although generally minimal behavior problems occur at the school, currently cyberbullying is on the rise. One of the students, James, was recently a victim of cyberbullying. A picture of him was posted on a social networking site, which initiated a barrage of cruel text messages and emails. Although James didn’t tell anyone about the incident, another student complicit in some of the bullying, Sarah, confessed to him. Sarah and James then went to their teacher, Mr. Moten, to tell him about the bullying and that they thought another student was responsible for creating the social networking site and posting the picture. Without the benefit of a school or district cyberbullying policy, Mr. Moten then attempts to figure out what to do to help James and stop the harassment.
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Setting The Stage

Like most schools, Robert J. Mitchell has its share of behavior problems. However, in general, it is a safe and comfortable place for students to attend school. Recently, the school has seen a rise in incidents of bullying, specifically cyberbullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center (2011) defines this phenomena as the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Cyberbullying can occur in a variety of ways, including “derogatory remarks, insults, threats or harmful rumors” (Arseneau, 2011). According to Labarge (2010), the seven most frequently used technologies by cyberbullies include social networking sites, SMS (Simple Message Service) or “texting,” email, blogs, software, dating and other member sites, and cellular phones. Statistics show that 43% of teens have been cyberbullied in the last year (National Crime Prevention Council, 2011). Such a high frequency of this injurious behavior is concerning because according to Shariff (2009), victims of cyberbullying, and even the bullies themselves, are more likely to suffer from mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Some individuals who are victims of cyberbullying have had suicidal thoughts and some have even committed suicide (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).

Given the serious nature of the effects of cyberbullying on its victims, it comes as no surprise that cyberbullying has an enormous impact on students in schools. Hinduja and Patchin (2010) report that cyberbullying victims can feel too afraid to attend school, have problems with academics, and experience other forms of violence during and between classes. Beran and Li (2007) state that students who were bullied both in cyberspace and at school experienced difficulties such as low grades, poor concentration, and absenteeism. In 2006, Li found that in a survey of 264 junior high school students, males were more likely to be bullies and cyberbullies than females. Perhaps most alarming, cybervictims do not generally report their experiences to anyone, except potentially some trusted friends, so often adults and teachers do not know that it is occurring (Li, 2007; Slonje & Smith, 2008).

Because victims of cyberbullying do not speak for themselves, schools, organizations, and even state governments have begun to put programs and laws in place to protect them. According to Dooley (2011):

More than 35 states have anti-bullying laws specifically mandating school districts adopt anti-bullying policies. Fifteen states now have some type of cyberbullying law on the books, with another seven pending legislation before their state legislators. Missouri and California have passed the strongest laws protecting victims of cyberbullying while handing down the harshest punishment to the cyberbully. Each year more and more states are passing laws protecting children and adults alike from these types of attacks.

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