With the increasing popularity and ubiquity of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., cyberbullying has found itself at the forefront of bullying conversations for the last few years. Cyberbullying is defined as the harassment of a person through the use of an electronic device (i.e., cell phone, computer, gaming system). Posts and messages can be sent instantaneously and can be seen by countless others in the blink of an eye. It can take many forms: a hateful or threatening text message, a disparaging post on social media, a lewd or embarrassing photo that was not meant to be shared, or exclusion from a game on Xbox.
However, this preoccupation with cyberbullying was turned on its head after the release of a recent study. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire analyzed interviews with 791 people (ages 10 to 20) who had taken part in a previous harassment survey. They examined bullying that was either face-to-face, technology only, or a mixture of the two. According to the study’s results, published by the American Psychological Association, it was found that “youths were more distressed when bullied by peers in real life than through technology.”
Furthermore, youths felt more in control of ending their bullying when it was online than when in person and felt that online bullying incidents were “less likely to be repeated and less likely to involve multiple perpetrators.” Does this mean cyberbullying should no longer be at the forefront of the bullying movement? Should we as a community take a step back and focus more on in-person bullying?
While these are valid questions, a closer look at the study had a lot more to say. In actuality, a mix of online and in-person bullying created the most toxic environment possible for kids. Mixed incidents were more likely to be targeted towards things that would specifically embarrass a student, often lasted longer (more than a month), and were more likely to become violent.
According to Kimberly J. Mitchell, lead author of the paper, “focusing on harassment incidents that involve both in-person and technology elements should be a priority for educators and prevention experts who are trying to identify and prevent the most serious and harmful bullying.” Always remember that individuals who are cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. This study shows that that bullies who engage in face-to-face bullying can now continue their harassment outside of the classroom. Victims often feel hopeless, worried, and fear that the bullying is inescapable. It’s important for students to know that when they see or experience instances of cyberbullying that they record and report the offensive comments.
HEAR recognizes cyberbullying as a serious issue that plagues the lives of many students and children. Our in-school presentation addresses these problems by teaching students how to spot bullying, including cyberbullying, and prepares them for when it’s time to take action to help others as well as themselves.
Cyberbullying: Solutions for a 24/7 Problem