Cyberbullying is the use of web-based communication media or hand-held technologies by an individual or group to deliver slanderous, harassing, demeaning, obscene, racist or other offensive messages, images, or video either directly or indirectly that result in emotional harm to the target of the communication. The concept of cyberbullying has emerged in the twenty first century as one that must be investigated and understood as educational institutions transition steadily into the use and integration of technology into education. It is essential that students, parents, educators, and counselors comprehend the impact of surreptitious bullying based via the Internet and other hand-held technologies. To that end, this entry will review the history of bullying research, the transition of bullying into cyberspace, and its increased impact when hosted via technology.
History of Bullying Research
Throughout most of the twentieth century, mean and harassing behaviors were considered an acceptable aspect of childhood. The age-old adage, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words may never hurt me” was prevalent in child rearing and educational settings. Schoolyard bullies were commonplace. Once viewed as a right of passage, the actions of youth came into the forefront of adult consciousness in the late 1960s and early 1970s when research into the aggressive behavior of bullying began, in Scandinavia. Bullying behavior was termed mobbing (Norway, Denmark) or mobbning (Sweden, Finland). Dan Olweus was the first to apply empirical research to better understand the phenomenon.
Utilizing the concept of mobbing, bullying was defined by Olweus as an event in which a student is bullied or victimized repeatedly overtime through negative actions of others. To further understand the term, negative actions were delineated as the aggressive behavior of intentionally inflicting or trying to inflict injury or discomfort upon another such as teasing, name calling, threatening, and taunting or physical actions such as hitting, pushing, or restraining others. Finally, non-physical actions, without the use of words, were also considered. Actions such as making faces or dirty gestures, intentional exclusion from a group, or refusing to comply with another’s wishes were also found to be bullying behavior. An imbalance of power, where one student does not have the same physical or psychological strength as another must also be present, whereas, the weaker student has trouble defending him or herself.
In 1982, the suicide of three Norwegian boys, due to bullying, instigated a nationwide research project by the ministry of education in Norway. From there bullying research spread to the United States and other countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout this research, there has been disagreement on how bullying should be defined and various definitions have come forth. A general understanding of two main forms of bullying wasaccepted. Relational or indirect bullying consisted of the non-physical and often indirect actions of teasing, social isolation, and intentional exclusion. Direct bullying was that of the physical or verbal attack of one individual against another.
The connections between the bullying actions of youth that have resulted in serious injury, suicidal ideation, and the suicide death of many individuals has moved bullying from the normative behavior of youth into the spotlight of media headlines, both nationally and internationally, as adults work to understand the events and assist the victims.
Impact of Proliferation of Technology
As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, all education professionals and researchersmust be aware of the ability for youth to surreptitiously bullying others via technology. The plethora of communication technology is obvious when one investigates industry reports.
CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (2012), indicated that the number of wireless subscribers in United States population has increased from 33.8 million in June 1995 to326.4 million in December 2012. These users accrue $185 billion in annualized total wireless revenues and171.3 billion monthly text messages. Wireless penetration in United States households is reported at 102.2%(number of active units divided by total U.S. and territorial population).
Facebook (2013), a social networking site (SNS), has more than 1.19 billion monthly active users. Instagram, launched in October 2010, was reported to have 150 million active users in September 2013.
The plethora of affordable communication technologies has catapulted bullying behavior into cyberspace. The ability of twenty-first century youth to cyberbully others via web-based communications and hand-held technologies has motivated many researchers to evaluate the extent of this behavior and its impact on the Millennials immersed in technology.
The Internet and proliferation of technological contact that Millennials have access to has changed the face of communication in the twenty first century. The ability for any individual to create and publish information via user-generated content providers such as YouTube, Facebook, Google+, True Blab, Instagram, and the myriad of other Web 2.0 programs that are exponentially growing has led to an environment of information exposure in which individuals disseminate vast amounts of personal and confidential information, that often is damaging and incriminating, to the world via the web.
The use of camera phone technology has led to increased concerns for victims with pictures, taken in more personal settings, being disseminated quickly via the Internet or picture messaging. Images disseminated on the Internet often had the highest emotional impact on its victims. As youth become savvier with the use of technology, the webcam must also be considered a source of concern.
Emotional Impact of Cyberbullying
The increased negative emotional impact that victims have reported due to the anonymity that the Internet provides lends one to consider cyberbullying to be more than a modern form of an old event but more akin to victimization. Individuals who were cyberbullied often reported feeling psychosocial maladjustments such as alcohol abuse, anxiety, sense of inadequacy, and also suicidal ideation.
The reported extent of cyberbullying victims varies greatly in percentages, despite similarities in other demographics such as age, location, and gender. These varying results have increased the necessity for theoperational definition provided for cyberbullying that should be universally accepted to provide more standardized reporting from victims and bullies alike.
Carol M. Walker
See also 21st Century Technology Skills; Affective Factors in Learning, Instruction, and Technology; Collaborative Communication Tools and Technologies; Conditions of Learning (Gagné); Mobile Devices: Their Impact on Learning and Instruction; Technology Integration
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Hoff, D. L., & Mitchell, S. N. (2009). Cyberbullying: Causes, effects, and remedies. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(5), 652-665. doi:10.1108/09578230910981107
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Walker, C. M., Rajan Sockman, B., & Koehn, S. (2011). An exploratory study of cyberbullying with undergraduate university students. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 55(2), 31-38.
Walker, C. M. (2012) Twenty first century cyberbullying defined: An analysis of intent, repetition, and emotional response. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2069/1894