“While research findings suggest that up to one in four children report being cyberbullied, the impact of this negative behaviour is often hidden from parents, carers, teachers and the broader community” (Burgess & McLoughlin, 2012).
Burgess and McLoughlin (2012) claim there is now considerable research reporting on the sometimes severe, long-term physical and psychological damage to children resulting from several forms of social aggression and abusive behaviour. The traditional or face-to-face bullying in schools is still a serious problem, however as “social technologies and digital modes of communication are adopted among children and adults, new forms of bullying are emerging” (Burgess & McLoughlin, 2012, p. 1). A range of aggressive behaviours are carried out by means of cell phones, email, internet chat and online social networking spaces.
Cyberbullying in New Zealand: The facts
Burgess and McLoughlin (2012) name a few predictors of cyberbullying behaviours. There are a number of contributing factors that are particularly relevant to understanding how and why aggression occurs in cyberspace. These factors include: Linking traditional face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying, Cultural differences in episodes of cyberbullying and victimisation, Time spent using the technology, Beliefs about online anonymity and Gender as a factor in cyberbullying.
In a study conducted by Green et al. (2013) teachers and senior staff from schools around New Zealand completed an online survey regarding their experiences with, perceptions of, and attitudes towards bullying. They found that “More than half of respondents (57%) indicated that they believed cyberbullying was mainly conducted by girls, 41% believed it was conducted equally by boys and girls, and only 2% believed it was conducted mainly by boys” (Green et al., 2013, p. 8). Gender is a factor in cyberbully. Cyberbullying is an indirect form of bullying through the use of the media and females have been found to engage in cyberbullying more than males due to the verbal and relational aggression that is more dominant among girls. Burgess and McLoughlin (2012) state “While males tend to use direct forms of aggression, such as face-to-face physical and verbal confrontations, females are more likely to employ indirect forms, such as social exclusion and gossip” (p.5). Vandebosch (2014) claims that “Victims of cyberbullying have often been observed to be: more often involved as victims in traditional bullying and as perpetrators and bystanders of cyberbullying” (p. 248). It was found that there was a relatively high victimisation degree amongst early adolescents of both genders however, girls indicated more victimisation. Therefore Vandebosch (2014) confirms the point that cyberbullying is being conducted mainly by girls. Vandebosch (2014) states cyberbullying behaviour between the ages of 12-15 is relatively high and the involvement of girls as the perpetrator seems to draw level with or even outrun boys in cyberbullying. Perpetrators say that they cyberbully because it makes them feel powerful, popular and better than other students. Cyberbullying can also occur as a result of boredom, jealousy, fun or to vent anger and frustration. Perpetrators my want to protect themselves from being picked on by others or may want to get back at somebody.
So what should be done?
Although strategies are in place to help prevent cyberbullying and parents, and teachers are informed. Vandebosch (2014) goes in another direction and mentions the role of police as important actors to tackle cyberbullying among youngsters. Due to the fact the cyberbullying mainly takes place outside of schools hours and mainly from the home setting, “it may not always be so evident for schools to mediate between, for instance, the victim and the perpetrator (and their respective parents). Hence, the (local) police might fulfil this role” (Vandebosch, 2014, p.254). It is important for the police to be involved especially when the situation of cyberbullying is serious and victim’s lives are at risk. This can be seen as a criminal offence as many victims harm themselves and even commit suicide. This criminal offence is unknown to a lot of teens.
Here are some websites that can inform and help parents, teachers and students with cyberbullying
I have seen so many cases on the news of cyberbullying that has resulted in suicide. It saddens me that you teens seem to think the only way to put a stop to this form of bulling is to end their lives. However, I do understand that victims may feel embarrassed to inform friends, teachers, police officers or even parents, but this is way I think that schools need to teach about cyber safety and inform students about the dangers of cyberbullying and how it can be prevented so that they do not feel embarrassed or alone in the situation. It is important that we are careful about what we say and show to other people online as a way of putting others down, embarrassing or bullying them. In a video by Dr Phil he says that “you may think that you are sitting on your couch throwing a tantrum, but you are creating a record that doesn’t go away”. This means that for many people who are perpetrators of cyberbullying, it is easy for them to take out all their frustrations and anger out on someone through an electronic device but the consequences can be serious and be against the law. This is the short video clip titled “Dr. Phil Warns Cyberbullies about Possible Legal Consequences”.
Burgess, J., & McLoughlin, C. (2012). Investigating cyberbullying: Emerging research and e-safety strategies within families and communities. Communities, Children and Families Australia, 6(1), 1-12.
Green, V. A., Harcourt, S., Mattioni, L., & Prior, T. (2013). Bullying in New Zealand schools: A final report. Retrieved from http://www.victoria.ac.nz/education/pdf/Bullying-in-NZ-Schools.pdf
Vandebosch, H. (2014). Addressing cyberbullying using a multi-stakeholder approach: The Flemish case. In. S. van der Hof, B. van den Berg & B. W. Schermer (Eds.), Minding minors wandering the Web: Regulating online child safety (pp. 245-262). The Hague, Netherlands: Asser Press.