Published on April 13th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson0
Research Says Cyberbullying Not The Same As Bullying
As someone who grew up with bullying I can attest to how much it can affect kids as even today the memories of schoolyard encounters and crying when I ask my parents why people hated Jews so much are just as fresh as the days that the bullying happened.
Today though bullying has taken on a whole new realm as the power of the Internet and social media gives a fresh outlet for the meanness that children can pile on one another but now they can do it anonymously, which seems to further empower their personal brand of cruelty.
When we hear the talking heads on television news shows and politicians looking for vote talk about bullying and cyberbullying they tend to lump both into the same category but researchers at the University of British Columbia suggest that the dynamics between the two are totally different.
The only one’s who do make the difference is the kids themselves and the fact is that what efforts are being undertaken to combat bullying in schools doesn’t necessarily translate to fight cyberbullying.
Jennifer Shapka, associate professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC, worked on a study involving 17,000 students in Vancouver BC in grades 8 to 12, as well as a follow-up study involving 733 Vacouver youths aged 10 – 18. The results of the study showed that about 25 – 30 percent of youths report that they have experienced, or taken part in, cyberbullying, compared to 12 percent who say they’ve experienced or taken part in schoolyard bullying.
Interestingly the study found that the youth say that 95 percent of what happens online is only intended as a joke and 5 percent say it was meant to harm anyone. Shapka suggests that it is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying.
According to Shapka, the findings suggest that in cyberbullying adolescents play multiple roles – as bullies, victims, and witnesses – and “downplay the impact of it, which means that existing education and prevention programs are not going to get through to them.”
“Students need to be educated that this ‘just joking’ behaviour has serious implications.”
Being victimized online can have consequences for a person’s mental health, developmental wellbeing, and academic achievement, according to Shapka. In extreme cases, there have been reports of suicide.
Traditional bullying, or schoolyard bullying, is often associated with three main characteristics: a power differential between bully and victim, a proactive targeting of a victim, and ongoing aggression.
Shapka says, research is beginning to show that cyberbullying does not necessarily involve these three characteristics. Traditional power differentials – size and popularity – do not necessarily apply online. There also seems to be more fluid delineation between the roles youth play; it is not unusual for an individual to act in all capacities – bullies, victims, and witnesses – online.