What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is described as “â€¦an individual or group willfully using information and communication involving electronic technologies to facilitate deliberate and repeated harassment or threatâ€¦” to another person (or persons) by texting, emailing, and posting on social media sites (like Facebook) mean-spirited, cruel, and often untrue messages (including images) (Dilmac, 2009, 1307). Cyberbullying is “pervasive” in North America but cyberbullying incidents have been reported worldwide, so it is not unique to any particular region, Dilmac explains (1308). And while cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying — often the perpetrator is anonymous in cyberbullying while traditional bullies are well-known at school or in the workplace — the results of this nefarious activity are similarly hurtful and embarrassing, Dilmac continues (1309).
How does cyberbullying affect females and males?
About four in ten teenagers report they have experienced cyberbullying in the past year and more females (51%) than males (37%) have been bullied through digital technologies (National Crime Prevention Council). For all victims of cyberbullying (like traditional bullying), they have been known to suffer from critical health and psychological problems, Dilmac explains (1310). Some individuals that have been repeatedly attacked have been diagnosed with “â€¦depression, emotional distress, low self-esteem, and poor academic achievement” (Dilmac, 1310).
As to girls and cyberbullying, a peer-reviewed article in the journal Pastoral Care in Education explains that the “emotional damage of aggression is most dramatic for girls” (Catanzaro, 2011, 84). In most instances, boys engage in “physical forms of bullying” like slapping, kicking or punching; but girls “â€¦characteristically will harm another girl” by exploiting a friendship in some way through digital media. Girls are more likely to suffer from a “â€¦traumatic loss of self-esteem” than boys are when cyberbullying takes place (Catanzaro, 85). While boys’ number one requirement for popularity and presence in a school environment is “athletic ability” and “macho-masculinity,” for girls it is “â€¦first looks, then clothes then socioeconomic status,” Catanzaro continues (86).
Meanwhile, unlike boys, girls who bully don’t necessarily suffer from “â€¦disruptive behavior problems that characterize aggressive children” early in life. Typically girls are “socially competent” individuals who know how to use “power” to “emotionally distress another girl” and to plot through digital media ways to “â€¦damage another girl’s relationships” (Catanzaro, 84).
Female cyberbullying entails attempting to “â€¦injure another girl’s social standing” by excluding the victims from social activities, or “â€¦stealing friends or boyfriends,” or otherwise retaliating against another girl for a “perceived fault” (Catanzaro, 84). The motivations that drive girls to harass other girls through cyberbullying boil down to: a) “competition over ideals of beauty and female perfection”; b) “misplaced anger about mistreatment at school”; c) sexual harassment; d) “jealousies over boys”; and e) a “desire for power” that is intended to achieve popularity and respect in school (Catanzaro, 86).
Boys tend to show very little “compassion” for their victims when they cyberbully, Catanzaro points out (86); boys have a “more positive view of violence than most” and boys who bully are generally individuals who have a problem dealing with their anger. Boy bullies are not known to “â€¦orient to the perspective of others in pursing their self-interests” but girls do indeed “â€¦develop in a context of affiliation, a connection with others” (Catanzaro, 87). Boys are not as devastated when they are shunned or pushed away from a certain clique, but shunning a girl through cyberbullying “â€¦is deeply hurtful because it denies the interaction that they value most” (Catanzaro, 87).
Social media is a prime tool that can be — and is — used by a bully. When a girl exposes her likes and dislikes on Facebook, for example, “â€¦she may not be aware that how she presents herself to others will have an impact on her vulnerability to victimization” (Catanzaro, 92). The author asserts that girls are more easily addicted to social media like Facebook, and hence, the “live-feed format” of Facebook makes it “â€¦difficult for girls to curtail their online behavior” (and hence the more they are on Facebook the more they become vulnerable to cyberbullying) (92).
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) addresses cyberbullying
The NCPC says its mission is to become “â€¦the nation’s leader in helping people keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from crime” (NCPC). The NCPC: a) produces publications and programs for communities and schools; b) offers training for teachers, parents, administrators and others; c) produces nationally posted public service announcements (PSAs) (using “McGruff the Crime Dog”); and d) conducts national PSA contests for best messages designed to impact young people (NCPC).
The NCPC appears to be making a positive influence nationwide because PSAs produced by NCPC are playing on cable television networks and elsewhere. Producing messages (whether the Crime Dog is used or not) that are placed on media (including social media on the Internet) that urges young people to block communications with cyberbullies and to report cyberbullying to authorities is a positive thing, and while it may not stop cyberbullying, it is designed to empower and protect those victims of cyberbullying. Any campaign to deter cyberbullying faces enormous challenges because, as the NCPC explains, “eight out of ten teens” use the Internet daily in some fashion. And among those 8 out of 10 there will always be a few troubled teens, angry teens, teens looking for revenge who aren’t bodily strong enough to go face-to-face and physically bully someone.
In conclusion, the ultimate answer to deterring cyberbullying will always be elusive for the reasons mentioned in the sentence preceding this sentence. But school districts (and school boards) should sponsor training sessions for teachers, parents, counselors and administrators; in these sessions the participants must learn how to coax students to come forward when they have been cyberbullied. Also teachers especially must spend time on a weekly basis pointing out how to block communication from unwanted sources and those who bully in cyberspace must be punished in a way that makes a pronounced impact on that person. Suspension from school is a good starting point, to show other bullies that the school will not tolerate cyberbullying.
Catanzaro, Mary F. “Indirect aggression, bullying and female teen victimization: a literature review. Pastoral Care in Education, 29.2 (2011): 83-101.
Dilmac, Bulent. “Psychological Needs as a Predictor of Cyber Bullying: a Preliminary Report on College Students.” Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 9.3 (2009): 1307-1325.
National Crime Prevention Council. “How are Teens Cyberbullied?” Retrieved March 26, 2013,
From http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying. 2009.
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