Cyberbullying: Definition, Description, Characteristics, and Consequences

Cyberbullying: Definition, Description, Characteristics, and Consequences

Michelle F. Wright
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5733-3.ch016
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Although children's and adolescents' use of technology has many benefits, there is also a darker side to youths' electronic interactions: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has become a major focus of not only youths, educators, and researchers, but also among the general population due to high profile cases of cyberbullying victimization involving suicide and the increasing prevalence of these behaviors. Due to the ability to remain anonymous, the cyber context offers flexibility to cyberbullies, allowing them to harm their potential victims without the constraints and many of the repercussions associated with traditional face-to-face bullying. Cyberbullies can also target the victim or victims quicker, more often, and involve multiple bystanders in the bullying situation. The purpose of this chapter is to review research on cyberbullying by drawing on studies from a variety of disciplines and utilizing a variety of research designs.
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Cyberbullying involves the use of electronic technologies to harm others using hostile, embarrassing and intimating repetitive behaviors (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2007; Ybarra, West, & Leaf, 2007). Described as an extension of traditional face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying includes an imbalance of power between the bullying (Olweus, 1999). Furthermore, cyberbullying behaviors usually involve deliberate and intentional acts that are carried out with malicious intent. Like traditional face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying behaviors have face-to-face equivalents, such as spreading a rumor, harassment, physical threats, social exclusion or rejection, humiliation, gossiping about a victim to get others not to like the person, and verbal insults. There are also physical forms of cyberbullying, such as hacking. Other cyberbullying behaviors involve making anonymous phone calls, theft of identity information by pretending to be someone else, distributing explicit videos via various websites, and harassment using instant messenger, social networking websites, and text messages through mobile phones (Wolak et al., 2007; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). Happy slapping (e.g., slapping someone while filming the attack and then posting the video online for others to see) and flaming (e.g., posting mean or controversial information online to purposefully get others to respond) are other forms of cyberbullying behaviors (Smith et al., 2008). Cyberbullying involves various technologies, with the most frequently utilized to harm others including instant messaging tools and social networking websites.

Many studies have been conducted to understand what aspects of electronic technologies breed cyberbullying. One proposal is that electronic technologies provide cyberbullies with the means to hide their identities, furthering the power differential between the victim and the bullying (Wright, 2013; Ybarra et al., 2007). Being able to remain anonymous through many electronic technologies relates to children’s and adolescents’ perpetration of cyberbullying (Dehue, Bolman, Vollink, & Pouwelse, 2012; Wright, 2014a; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). In her research, Wright (2013; 2014a) found that adolescents and young adults who felt more confident in their ability to remain anonymous through electronic technologies engaged in more cyberbullying. Furthermore, electronic technologies provide the ability for cyberbullying to occur frequently and be repeated with ease, prolonging the harassment (Wright, 2014a; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

School Climate: The quality and character of school life, which includes norms, values, interpersonal relationships, social interactions, and organizational processes and structures.

Face-to-Face Bullying: When young people harass, humiliate, embarrass, intimidate, and/or threaten another young person offline.

Peer Attachment: The feelings and beliefs that one’s peers will be there when needed.

Cyber Victimization: When young people experience harassment, humiliation, embarrassment, intimidation, and/or are threaten via information and communication technologies by another young person.

Information and Communication Technologies: This board term encompasses communication device or applications, such as computers and cellular phones.

Parental Mediation of Technology Use: The strategies parents use to control, supervise, or interpret information and communication technology content for their children.

Face-to-Face Victimization: When young people experience harassment, humiliation, embarrassment, intimidation, and/or are threaten offline by another young person.

Cyberbullying: When young people harass, humiliate, embarrass, intimidate, and/or threaten another young person via information and communication technologies.

Parental Involvement: Involves the participation of parents in their children’s activities.

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