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Bullying in cyberworld differs from that in school

Washington, Sat, 14 Apr 2012 ANI

Washington, April 14 (ANI): The dynamics of online bullying are different from traditional bullying, a University of British Columbia research has found.

The finding suggests that anti-bullying programs need specific interventions to target online aggression.

"There are currently many programs aimed at reducing bullying in schools and I think there is an assumption that these programs deal with cyberbullying as well," said Jennifer Shapka, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC.

"What we're seeing is that kids don't equate cyberbullying with traditional forms of schoolyard bullying. As such, we shouldn't assume that existing interventions would be relevant to aggression that is happening online," she stated.

The study involved 17,000 Vancouver, B.C. students in Grades 8 to 12 and 733 Vancouver, B.C. youth aged 10-18 were questioned in another follow-up study.

Results of the studies show that about 25-30 per cent of youth report that they have experienced or taken part in cyberbullying, compared to 12 per cent of youth who say they've experienced or taken part in schoolyard bullying.

However, "Youth say that 95 per cent of what happens online was intended as a joke and only 5 per cent was intended to harm," said Shapka.

"It is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying," she noted.

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," she said.

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 indicated 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.

Previous work by Shapka and her colleagues has shown that in contrast to traditional bullying, cyberbullying is rarely associated with planned targeting of a victim.

A number of Internet safety campaigns suggest parents keep an eye on their children's online activity but Shapka says this kind of micro managing can undermine healthy adolescent development.

"An open and honest relationship between parents and children is one of the best ways to protect teenagers from online risks related to cyberbullying, Internet addiction, and privacy concerns related to disclosing personal information online," she suggested.

The finding will be presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver. (ANI)


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