Bullying may be a practice that has been around since the beginnings of human history, but with the increasing access that people have to technology a new medium is now used by aggressors. Cyber bullying is an act that involves using computers, cell phones and other sorts of media to consistently harass others. The object of the bullying, to cause physical or psychological damage to another, is the same, but the perpetrators have changed. Girls are both more likely to use cyber means to bully and they are also more likely to be the targets. Because the practice is so new, there are no prevention programs which specifically target cyber bullying. Also, because this type of aggression occurs in a private setting, it more often goes unnoticed by parents and other concerned adults. Researchers need to further understand the nuances of cyber bullying and determine the best methods to combat the practice.
The act of bullying is as old as humanity. It has gone by many different names and has seen various levels of acceptance, but whatever people call it the act remains the same. It has been justified as hazing, entry into a club or organization, since there has to be some way to include new members. Leaders, from nation heads to teachers, have bullied the members of their groups through misuse of given authority. Sometimes the practice has been sanctioned because it is either seen as a rite of passage or because the bullied is seen as weak.
It has been stated that "It is a fundamental democratic right for a child to feel safe in school and to be spared the oppression and repeated, intentional humiliation implied in bullying" (Smith & Brain, 2000). While right may be too strong a word to use in this instance, it is at the very least the expectation of every child that they will be safe at school. The statistics say that a majority (75%) of school age children have experienced an act of bullying during the academic year, and at least 10% have been the target of extreme bullying (Sassu, Elinoff, Bray, & Kehle, 2004).
Unfortunately, the practice of bullying has embraced the information age. Since it is now possible to have access to people around the clock, bullies have begun using electronic media to either increase or enhance activities against victims. Research shows that "58% of kids admit someone has said something mean or hurtful to them online; 53% of kids admit to having said something mean or hurtful to someone else online; and, 42% of kids have been bullied online" (iSafe, 2010). Although schools and other concerned groups have tried to stop the practice, it is becoming more of a problem over time. What cyber bullying is, how it has spread, who the bullies are, who the victims are, how the practice is viewed, and some possible solutions are the focuses of this research paper.
Since cyber-bullying is a new issue, few studies have specifically addressed the problem. Bullying research does include mentions of the process by which cyber bullying is accomplished, and most articles include definitions with similar components. Due to the scarce nature of resources it is necessary to include generic bullying information that can be extrapolated to the cyber bully phenomenon. This parallel data includes motives for bullying, characteristics of bullies, and the characteristics of people who observe bullying. All of these factors are consistent across the entire spectrum of bullying types.
The data was gathered via peer-reviewed articles on the ProQuest and Questia database sites along with reputable web sites which provided statistical information. All sources are properly cited in the text and referenced at the end of the paper. Texts used were properly vetted for their stringent use of reviewed statistics.
Data analysis was not necessary due to the nature of the paper.
Cyber bullying has been defined as "involve[ing] the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, blogs, online games and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others" (Belsey, 2004). The use of technology to remotely attack someone in a negative way (Smith & Brain, 2000), has only existed in theory for approximately the past decade because of the availability of new electronic media. However, its roots can be traced further back to people using the telephone for harassing 'prank' calls (Belsey & Brain, 2000).
The advantage of cyberbullying is that it can be conducted remotely. Even an individual who seems strong when closely viewed can be a viable target when the bullying can be conducted remotely (Agatson, Kowalski & Limber, 2007). A bully has long been seen as someone who either has a physical or social advantage (Smith & Brain, 2000) over the target, but that does not have to be the case anymore. Traditionally popular children may be actually be at a greater risk with cyber bullying because the perpetrator feels safe when typing something into a keyboard.
The proliferation of cyber bullying has followed the advances that have made communication so readily available to every member of the public. Most teens have a cell phone, and many elementary school age students do also. Parents see this as a method by which they can keep their children safer. The access that GPS features and ease of contact give to parents is seen as a major contributor to the prevalence of these devices in secondary school society. Cyber bullying can be conducted as "a threatening email; a nasty instant messaging session; repeated notes sent to the cell phone; a website set up to mock others; borrowing someone's screen name and pretending to be them while posting a message; or forwarding supposedly private messages, pictures or video to others" (iSafe, 2010). Whatever the medium, the resulting threat remains the largest part of the bullying contract.
The profile of individuals are engaged in the practice of bullying has changed somewhat from the time when most interactions were face-to-face. Traditionally "Boys, for example, typically engage in direct, overt bullying behaviors, including physical assaults or verbal taunts and threats. Girls often use more indirect, discreet means to bully others, such as intentionally leaving someone out of activities or spreading rumors" (Sassu, Elinoff, Bray, & Kehle, 2004). These same traits are common among cyber bullies also, but the trend seems to be that girls can be more aggressive online than they are at school (Ybarra, Diener-West & Leaf, 2007), and girls are the more targeted gender when it comes to online bullying (Li, 2006; Agatson, Kowalski & Limber, 2007). The assumption is that girls are more verbal so they feel more comfortable using the electronic medium Also, girls are also more likely to report bullying so that could skew the numbers, making it seem that more girls than boys are being harassed (Li, 2006).
Even though the bully profile changes somewhat, the victims, and the way they react to bullying, remains the essentially the same (Smith & Brain, 2000). Victims of bullying are more likely to have discipline problems both at home and at school (Sassu, Elinoff, Bray & Kehle, 2004). Of course, internet bullying is not as prevalent as physical interactions (Williams & Guerra, 2007), so it is not taken as seriously by activists, and the negative effects have not been as closely studied. It is a fact that bullying of both types has been the primary cause of victim suicide on several occasions (iSafe, 2010). Unfortunately, the fact of victim difficulties caused by cyber bullying has not been met with subsequent prevention programs (as has physical bullying) because it is difficult to quantify and treat.
Often the problem is that this type of bullying has not been viewed with the same level of seriousness as physical bullying (Wolak, Mitchell & Finkelhor, 2007). Since bullying is seen to "occur when a student is repeatedly harmed, psychologically and/or physically, by another student or a group of students" (Sassu, Elinoff, Bray & Kehle, 2004), cyber bullying often does not meet the strict definition of the practice. One group of researchers (Wolak, Mitchell & Finkelhor, 2007) who studied cases of cyber bullying believed that many reports of cyber bullying in fact did not meet the definition of bullying. Though these incidents were harassment and needed to be dealt with, they were often did not meet the standard set for a bullying interaction. However, other researchers (iSafe, 2010; Ybarra, Diener-West & Leaf, 2007) would have included what the previously mentioned researchers called harassment as bullying. Since the research community cannot agree on a definition of cyber bullying, it is difficult to initiate effective programs to combat the practice.
Bullying can be seen as an all-encompassing word that does not fully include all of the nuances that exist in the practice. Cyber bullying is a special case that has changed what researchers think…