Understanding Cyberbullying and Where We Go From Here

Understanding Cyberbullying and Where We Go From Here

Sabrina Brandon Ricks (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4912-4.ch018
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Cyberbullying has become a recent threat to the K-12 age group over the past couple of decades. Per the author, this chapter addresses ways to define cyberbullying, the history regarding when it emerged and current societal challenges, recognition and advancements of regulations, and the introduction of local laws, challenges with enforcing regulations, and recovery efforts to ensure students can move forward in a healthy and safe school environment. There are a few case studies throughout the chapter that demonstrate the dangers of cyberbullying and further exemplify the aforementioned points. Finally, the chapter offers information that allows readers to grasp the concept of cyberbullying, understand the current state of affairs and determine how each individual, including students, parents, school employees, and others, can play a role in recognizing, addressing, and preventing this issue.
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Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that began to gain attention at the turn of the 21st century with online messaging programs. According to Hinduja and Patchin (2014), approximately 34% of students have reported the experience of cyberbullying. Additionally, 90% of students have found that cyberbullying is a common problem among young people (Hinduja, 2018a). Continued research has provided the understanding that cyberbullying is a behavior that mainly affects school-age individuals and therefore, will be the focus of this chapter. Although some adults experience cyberbullying, the research in that area is limited and workplace bullying is a stronger focus for adults rather than those under the age of 18 (Piotrowski & King, 2016). Unfortunately, bullying is another behavior that school-age individuals experience with nearly 1 in 5 (21%) students reporting this information (NCEC, 2018). Both bullying and cyberbullying can lead to increased anxiety, sleep difficulties, depression, lower grades, self-harm and suicide (Center for Disease Control, 2018). It is useful to clearly understand the differences between bullying and cyberbullying.

Although bullying and cyberbullying are topics that have both received increased attention over the past decade, both are different, and the distinction highlights how cyberbullying tends to impact youth more. There is a difference between what adults experience and how they are protected and what the youth are experiencing and how they are protected. Andrea Adams (1992), from Great Britain, was one of the first pioneers to address that bullying is a problem in the workplace and bring it to the forefront for the nation and world to notice. According to Adams (1992), bullying in the workplace has to do with repeated mistreatment that leads to psychological, emotional, and physical distress. Although workplace bullying has been defined differently by many researchers, after extensive research, it is defined here as repeated mistreatment of an employee that includes social exclusion, isolation, not greeting, ignoring the victim’s presence, humiliation, demeaning, belittling, excessive deadlines, excessive monitoring of work, few or no tasks, threats, insults, and criticisms, all which may lead to high levels of stress and other health-endangering factors (Ricks, 2015). This definition does not include physical abuse, which includes behaviors that have escalated beyond workplace bullying and into workplace violence such as hitting, punching, shoving, and the like (Vickers, 2002). Although workplace bullying is a serious infraction that has been more widely researched since the turn of the 21st century, there has been even more attention focused on cyberbullying, which has been affecting school-age children and some adults in the workplace. Seeing as though cyberbullying impacts both youth and adults, the attention to this topic has received even greater attention.

Although, workplace bullying is not the focus of this chapter, this foundation provides the groundwork for how cyberbullying could also be threatening and dangerous to many. The remainder of this chapter will focus on these themes: 1) defining cyberbullying, 2) history, 3) the main focus of the chapter, 4) law, and 5) solutions, recommendations, and the future.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cyberbully: An individual who targets someone via electronic communication and directs aggressive, negative, demeaning, and belittling comments towards another individual that creates a hostile and intimidating online experience.

Mass Shooting: Three individuals were killed at one location, not including the shooter.

Cybervictim: An individual on the receiving end of a cyberbully who is directing aggressive, intimidating, and hostile behavior and cannot stop the cyberbully or comfortably enjoy engaging in social means via electronic communication.

Cyber Sexual Bullying: When one student sends another student a photograph via electronic means that depicts one student in the nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit. This photograph causes the receiving student to feel fear and/or physical or mental health impacts and affects their academic performance at school.

Cyberbullying: The use of electronic communication, such as web pages, blogs, social networking, texting, and emailing, via electronic devices, such as personal computers, lap tops, tablets, and cell phones to repeatedly harass and torment an individual which may lead to health endangering factors, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and potentially suicide attempts.

Target: This is used interchangeably with victim to mean an individual on the receiving end of bullying or cyberbullying who is unable or unwilling to defend oneself.

School Bullying: This is when an individual, bully, who targets someone at school in person and makes this target the core of jokes, excessive teasing, belittlement, humiliation, makes mean statements and calls the target names, and engages in other negative and mean behaviors.

Victim Blaming: Assigning blame and responsibility to the individual on the receiving end of cyberbullying who becomes disengaged as a result.

Suicide Ideation: This is the thought of committing suicide, by making a mental plan, considering how to execute it, and repeatedly ruminates the idea into a considerable reality.

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