Tech That, Bully!: Defeating Cyberbullying With Its Own Weapons

Tech That, Bully!: Defeating Cyberbullying With Its Own Weapons

Maria Rosa Miccoli (Idego Psicologia Digitale, Italy), Giulia Gargaglione (Idego Psicologia Digitale, Italy), Simone Barbato (Idego Psicologia Digitale, Italy), Lorenzo Di Natale (Idego Psicologia Digitale, Italy), Valentina Rotelli (Idego Psicologia Digitale, Italy) and Valentina Silvestri (University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch046

Abstract

Cyberbullying is inducing significant socio-cultural problems and psychological disorders, which require a rapid solution. Cyberbullying is an extension of the traditional bullying that involves the typical behaviors of bullying perpetrated through the use of various technologies, electronic devices in particular (e-mail, instant messaging applications, media, etc.). While providing differences between traditional bullying and cyberbullying, this review aims at investigating how the new media can be used to prevent such phenomenon and investigating its psychological impact on victims. The focus will be on tools and interventions that are capable of identifying online bullying, on existent treatments with special regard to strategies that take advantage of technologies to fight cyberbullying. In particular, the web will be considered as a mean to assist a vast number of people; moreover, the role of virtual reality as a tool to help victims overcoming psychological distress within safe and protected environments will be object of discussion.
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Background

Cyberbullying is defined by Bauman, Underwood and Card (2013) as an extension of traditional bullying that involves the typical behaviors of bullying perpetrated through the use of various technologies, electronic devices in particular (e-mail, instant messaging applications, social media etc.).

Another valuable definition is provided by Belsey (2004). Belsey (2004) defines cyberbullying as a form of violence that “involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging (IM), defamatory personal Websites, and defamatory online personal polling websites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others”.

Nowadays, cyberbullying is inducing significant socio-cultural problems and psychological disorders, which requires a rapid solution. In recent years, cyberbullying has grown and now it is getting plenty of attention due to the increasingly massive use of digital devices. According to Tokunaga (2010), 97% of young Americans are connected through the Internet, while 20-40% of young people have been victim of online bullying harassment at least once in their lifetime.

Kowalski (2014) argues that cyberbullying entails relevant psychopathological risks: victims report increased depressive symptoms (Jung et al., 2014) and social anxiety; perpetrators are more likely to show aggressive behavior, due to their lack of emotional self-regulation (Kowalski, Limber & McCord, 2018). This unconventional form of bullying towards peers is also linked to suicidal attempt among adolescents (Patchin and Hinduja, 2006). Indeed, some researches showed that certain psychological factors are crucial predictors for both being a cyberbully or a victim. As Alim (2016) reports, low self-esteem is linked to a lack of confidence in one’s ability and therefore it is quite easy for a cyberbully to leverage on this to afflict the victim; depression and suicidal ideation are side effects of being a designated victim (Alim, 2016). Cyberbullying not only implies high risks for teen-agers’ health (Nixon, 2014), but also substantial economic costs for the families of victims for cleaning up their children online reputation of: legal fees, safety measures, psychological counseling, public relation assistance. In a Reuters post, Amy Tannery (2016) reports that a new insurance policy has been also developed in the United States in order to mitigate the financial cyberbullying consequences.

Before deepening cyberbullying, the differences between bullying and cyberbullying will be object of discussion in order to delineate an accurate overview of the phenomenon.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cyberbullying: Attitude of overcoming from people that use informatic and web communication to denigrate their peers. It can be extended beyond physical contexts given the lack of boundaries which characterizes the world wide web.

Embodied Conversational Agent: Characters which are generated by informatic tools and they show properties which are specific of face to face human communication.

Digital Psychology: It is a multidisciplinary (Behavioral Economics, Psychology, Digital Communication, and Information Technology) approach to psychology which integrates the study of human beings with the research on new technologies.

Virtual Reality: A virtual environment that simulates reality in which human being can be immersed through tools like glasses and visors. Depending upon different tools, the user can receive and respond to different stimuli.

Peer Support: A situational process in which respect and support principles characterize the relationships involving people with common experiences.

Artificial Intelligence: A multidisciplinary field of research and engineering which studies the human functions that can be emulated by different types of machines.

Bullying: Arrogant attitude of people who oppress their peers through acts of physical and verbal violence. It is diffused mostly in scholar and juvenile contexts.

Machine Learning: A method of data analysis based on setting automatic learning in technological tools to create analytical systems which are able to detect complex data.

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