Electronic Aggression among Adolescents: An Old House with a New Facade (or Even a Number of Houses)

Electronic Aggression among Adolescents: An Old House with a New Facade (or Even a Number of Houses)

Jacek Pyzalski
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-209-3.ch016
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The chapter is focused on the problem of electronic aggression (conducted via the Internet or mobile phones) in the context of young people as potential victims and perpetrators of such aggression. The text addresses two main issues: the potential novelty of electronic aggression and its potential distinctive features and the diversity of electronic aggression acts (with a proposal of typology). The first aspect is analyzed through the new model – ABACUS that could be used to compare electronic and traditional aggression. The chapter presents also a typology of electronic aggression based on the victim’s identity and his/her relationship with a young person who is a perpetrator. The presented theories and discussions are illustrated with new data from two Polish projects on students and teachers experiences with electronic aggression.
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The fact that new communication technologies (mostly Internet and mobile phones) can be used as tools to conduct hostile acts is obvious for both the scientific community and the general public. The cases where the electronic aggression attacks led to disastrous effects particularly among young people e.g. suicidal attempts are causing much alarm in the popular media. Those emotional transmissions often reinforce an oversimplified and exaggerated picture of the phenomenon of aggression conducted via ICT (electronic aggression), as well as its causes and effects. This attitude sometimes affects scientists as well with a kind of “moral panic” about the phenomenon. Not neglecting the potential negative consequences of electronic aggression, I stand on the position that in order to obtain a real picture of this phenomenon, two main areas should be scientifically explored and discussed. First, we should find out to what extent electronic aggression is qualitatively new, comparing to traditional aggression (where the new technologies are not involved) in terms of influencing factors, psychological and social mechanisms and potential consequences. The answer is interesting for scientists, but is also of importance for practitioners involved in prevention and intervention in electronic forms of aggression. Still the aggression where the new media are used as tools is an important topic, since in the modern society media “emerged as a social institution, assuming many of the functions formerly served by traditional social institutions such as the church, school, government and family” (Silverblatt, 2005, p. 35.). This may be reinforced by the extensive usage of new media by young people and their significant role in development of young people (Living and Learning with New Media, 2008). Taking this into account, the media used to conduct aggression may cause a serious danger particularly for the contemporary young generation.

The second important issue concerns the diversity of electronic aggression acts that have one thing in common – a usage of new communication technologies as a tool to conduct hostile acts. In reality, it is vital to develop a typology that will enable us to make some order in electronic aggression variety. Some kind of typology should be developed since electronic aggression acts differ substantially when the psychological and social mechanisms involved as well as their consequences are considered.

In this chapter we will start from the overview of terms and definitions concerning the aggressive acts conducted through new communication technologies. Here we will also look closer at the features that various authors typically attribute to electronic aggression. Although electronic aggression is not exclusive for children and adolescents most of the chapter is based on research in this age group. That does not limit the validity of majority of presented interpretations to electronic aggression in other age groups.

Afterwards, a new theoretical model useful for the analysis of distinctive features of electronic aggression will be presented (ABACUS model). The proposed model underlines that a particular act of electronic aggression may be more or less distinctive according to how many “new” features are present. It also shows that all features referred to sometimes as typical for electronic aggression may be present while acts of traditional aggression are conducted. Despite this some mechanisms lying behind those electronic aggression features are novel in the context of electronic aggression due to specific qualities of computer mediated communication (CMC) and online interactions in a broader sense; this back up a position that electronic aggression is a qualitatively different phenomenon comparing to traditional aggression.

Then the need for typology of electronic aggression will be underlined and the proposal of such typology based on the victim’s identity and his/her relationship with a perpetrator will be presented and discussed in terms of their potential harmful effects.

The discussion will be illustrated by partial data from two research projects described briefly at the end of the chapter1.

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