Cyberbullying: A Challenge for Educators and Parents

December 04, 2011 | Applesauce
By Dr. Ellen Black

Cyberbullying: A Challenge for Educators and Parents

Leveraging the strengths and capacity of technology provides educators and parents with extraordinary opportunities. Access to information and the ability to communicate globally has never been more accessible. While embracing the capacities and opportunities technology and social networks offer, both educators and parents must also recognize the dark side of such power. Cyberbullying is a contemporary phenomenon that is damaging many lives. It is defined as “intentionally and repeatedly inflicting harm using email, cell phones, instant messaging, and/or Web sites by individuals or groups (4,11)." Cyberbullies post personal and/or destructive information, impersonate others, and harass on line (8).

While bullying has existed in every generation, the ability to afflict such anonymous damage to others has not. The damage that results from cyberbullying is pronounced, often because information remains online (5), and current research documents the implications of this damage and the personal cost for our young people. This research indicates that victims may suffer from a sense of vulnerability, depression, alienation, suicidal thoughts (5,7,10), eating disorders, chronic illness, alchohol and drug abuse, sleep disorders, and drop in school performance (1,7). News accounts also regularly document the suicides of young people and the contribution of cyberbulling to those deaths.

According to Price and Dalgleish, the majority of cyberbullying happens between primary and secondary school (9). At the time in which young people are transitioning to adulthood, surviving puberty, and developing their own identity, there is now no safe place from aggression. Therefore, cyberbullying victims do not feel safe at home and feel trapped everywhere (11).

Research also indicates that online bullying increases when parental monitoring does not exist or is limited (7). Many parents have not developed the skills needed to monitor or supervise their children's internet, mobile, or other social networking activities (3). Some parents and educators may not want to know what is going on; however, ignorance is NOT bliss. The cost is too great at the personal and organizational level, and there are intentional and purposeful steps for parents to take. Families should establish rules and guidelines for technology use. For example, limiting website access and creating parental access to all accounts children use have been shown to reduce the risk of online bullying. Also, schoolwide approaches that include faculty training have been found to be effective in reducing the incidences of cyberbullying (2,3,6). Training should include the development of technology and social networking guidelines (6). Additionally, parents and teachers should pay attention to changes in behaviors, moods, and performance levels.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me” is an old ditty that happens to be a lie. Technology is a tool that has the power to both improve and damage lives. We need to be vigilant as educators and parents to protect our young people and train them to use technology to advance the kingdom of God rather than to wound others.


References

1. Aricak, T., Siyahhan, S., Uzunhasanoglu, A., Saribeyoglu, S., Ciplak, S., Yilmaz, N., & Memmedov, C. “Cyberbullying among Turkish adolescents.” CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(2008): 253-261. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0016.

2. Grigg, D. W. “Cyber-aggression: Definition and concept of cyberbullying.” Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 20 no. 2 (2010): 143-156. doi: 10.1375/ajgc.20.2.143.

3. Jäger, T., Amado, J., Matos, A., & Pessoa, T. “Analysis of experts' and trainers' views on cyberbullying.” Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 20 no. 2 (2010): 169-181. doi: 10.1375/ajgc.20.2.169.

4. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. “Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide.” Archives of Suicide Research, 14 no. 3 (2010): 206-221. doi: 10.1080/13811118.2010.494133.

5. King, A. V. “Constitutionality of cyberbullying laws: Keeping the online playground safe for both teens and free speech.” Vanderbilt Law Review, 63 no.3 (2010): 845-884.

6. Maher, D. “Cyberbullying.” Youth Studies Australia, 27 no. 4 (2008): 50-57.

7. Mason, K. L. “Cyberbullying: A preliminary assessment for school personnel.” Psychology in the Schools, 45 no. 4 (2008): 323-348.

8. Pearce, N., Cross, D., Monks, H., Waters, S., & Falconer, S. “Current evidence of best practice in whole-school bullying intervention and its potential to inform cyberbullying interventions.” Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 21 no.1 (2011): 1-21. doi: 10.1375/ajgc.21.1.1.

9. Price, M., & Dalgleish, J. “Cyberbullying experiences, impacts and coping strategies as described by Australian young people.” Youth Studies Australia, 29 no. 2 (2010): 51-59.

10. Slovak, K., & Singer, J. B. “School social workers' perceptions of cyberbullying.” Children & Schools, 33 no. 1 (2011): 5-16.

11. Twyman, K., Saylor, C., Taylor, L. A., & Comeaux, C. “Comparing children and adolescents engaged in cyberbullying to matched peers.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 13 no. 2 (2010): 195-199. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0137.

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