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Cyber bullying (cyber-bullying, online bullying) is the use of electronic information and communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, mobile phones, pagers, and defamatory websites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks or other means, and it may constitute a computer crime. Cyberbullying is willful and involves recurring or repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. According to R.B. Standler (2002)bullying intends to cause emotional distress and has no legitimate purpose to the choice of communications. Cyberbullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. Cyberbullying may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech)
The term cyberbullying was first used by Canadian educator Bill Belsey, creator of the Web site www.bullying.org. Other terms for Cyber-bullying are "electronic bullying," "e-bullying," "sms bullying," "mobile bullying," "online bullying," "digital bullying," or "Internet bullying."
The term "cyberbullying" was first coined and defined by Bill Belsey, as "the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others."
Cyber-bullying has subsequently been defined as "when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person". Other researchers use similar language to describe the phenomenon.
Cyber-bullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender, but it may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech), ganging up on victims by making them the subject of ridicule in forums, and posting false statements as fact aimed at humiliation.
Cyber-bullies may disclose victims' personal data (e.g. real name, address, or workplace/schools) at websites or forums or may pose as the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them. Some cyber-bullies may also send threatening and harassing emails and instant messages to the victims, while other post rumors or gossip and instigate others to dislike and gang up on the target.
Kids report being mean to each other online beginning as young as 2nd grade. According to research, boys initiate mean online activity earlier than girls do. However, by middle school, girls are more likely to engage in cyber-bullying than boys do. Whether the bully is male or female, their purpose is to intentionally embarrass others, harass, intimidate, or make threats online to one another. This bullying occurs via email, text messaging, posts to blogs, and Web sites.
Though the use of sexual remarks and threats are sometimes present in cyber-bullying, it is not the same as sexual harassment and does not necessarily involve sexual predators.
Cyber-bullying vs. cyber-stalking
The practice of cyber-bullying is not limited to children and, while the behavior is identified by the same definition in adults, the distinction in age groups is sometimes referred to as cyberstalking or cyberharassment when perpetrated by adults toward adults, sometimes directed on the basis of sex. Common tactics used by cyber-stalkers are to vandalize a search engine or encyclopedia, to threaten a victim's earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. A repeated pattern of such actions against a target by an adult constitutes cyber-stalking.
In the summer of 2008, researchers Sameer Hinduja (Florida Atlantic University) and Justin Patchin (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) published a book on cyber-bullying that summarized the current state of cyber-bullying research. (Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying). Their research documents that cyber-bullying instances have been increasing over the last several years. They also report findings from the most recent study of cyber-bullying among middle-school students. Using a random sample of approximately 2000 middle-school students from a large school district in the southern United States, about 10% of respondents had been cyber-bullied in the previous 30 days while over 17% reported being cyber-bullied at least once in their lifetime. While these rates are slightly lower than some of the findings from their previous research, Hinduja and Patchin point out that the earlier studies were predominantly conducted among older adolescents and Internet samples. That is, older youth use the Internet more frequently and are more likely to experience cyber-bullying than younger children.
Surveys and statisticsThe National Crime Prevention Council reports that cyber-bullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens.
In 2007, Debbie Heimowitz, a Stanford University master's student, created Adina's Deck, a film based on Stanford accredited research. She worked in focus groups for ten weeks in three schools to learn about the problem of cyber-bullying in Northern California. The findings determined that over 60% of students had been cyber-bullied and were victims of cyber-bullying. The film is now being used in classrooms nationwide as it was designed around learning goals pertaining to problems that students had understanding the topic. The middle school of Megan Meier is reportedly using the film as a solution to the crisis in their town.
In September 2006, ABC News reported on a survey prepared by I-Safe.Org. This 2004 survey of 1,500 students between grades 4–8 reported:
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. One in four have had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly one in five had had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mails or other messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than four out of ten say it has happened more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
A 2006 survey by Harris Interactive reported:
- 43% of U.S. teens having experienced some form of cyber-bullying in the past year.
Similarly, a Canadian study found:
- 23% of middle-schoolers surveyed had been bullied by e-mail
- 35% in chat rooms
- 41% by text messages on their cell phones
- Fully 41% did not know the identity of the perpetrators.
The Youth Internet Safety Survey-2, conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in 2005, found that 9% of the young people in the survey had experienced some form of harassment. The survey was a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,500 youth 10–17 years old. One third reported feeling distressed by the incident, with distress being more likely for younger respondents and those who were the victims of aggressive harassment (including being telephoned, sent gifts, or visited at home by the harasser). Compared to youth not harassed online, victims are more likely to have social problems. On the other hand, youth who harass others are more likely to have problems with rule breaking and aggression. Significant overlap is seen — youth who are harassed are significantly more likely to also harass others.
Hinduja and Patchin completed a study in the summer of 2005 of approximately 1,500 Internet-using adolescents and found that over one-third of youth reported being victimized online, and over 16% of respondents admitted to cyber-bullying others. While most of the instances of cyber-bullying involved relatively minor behavior (41% were disrespected, 19% were called names), over 12% were physically threatened and about 5% were scared for their safety. Notably, fewer than 15% of victims told an adult about the incident.
Additional research by Hinduja and Patchin found that youth who report being victims of cyber-bullying also experience stress or strain that is related to offline problem behaviors such as running away from home, cheating on a school test, skipping school, or using alcohol or marijuana. The authors acknowledge that both of these studies provide only preliminary information about the nature and consequences of online bullying, due to the methodological challenges associated with an online survey.
According to a 2005 survey by the National Children's Home charity and Tesco Mobile of 770 youth between the ages of 11 and 19, 20% of respondents revealed that they had been bullied via electronic means. Almost three-quarters (73%) stated that they knew the bully, while 26% stated that the offender was a stranger. 10% of responders indicated that another person has taken a picture and/or video of them via a cellular phone camera, consequently making them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or threatened. Many youths are not comfortable telling an authority figure about their cyber-bullying victimization for fear their access to technology will be taken from them; while 24% and 14% told a parent or teacher respectively, 28% did not tell anyone while 41% told a friend.
A survey by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in 2000 found that 6% of the young people in the survey had experienced some form of harassment including threats and negative rumours and 2% had suffered distressing harassment.
Reporting on the results from a meta analysis from European Union countries, Hasebrink et al. (2009) estimated (via median results) that approximately 18% of European young people had been "bullied/harassed/stalked" via the internet and mobile phones. Cyber-harassment rates for young people across the EU member states ranged from 10% to 52%.
The nation-wide Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Survey (Cross et al., 2009) assessed cyber-bullying experiences among 7,418 students. Rates of cyber-bullying increased with age, with 4.9% of students in Year 4 reporting cyberbullying compared to 7.9% in year nine. Cross et al., (2009) reported that rates of bullying and harassing others were lower, but also increased with age. Only 1.2% of Year 4 students reported cyber-bullying others compared to 5.6% of Year 9 students.
Issues specific to cyberbullying
Certain characteristics inherent in these technologies increase the likelihood that they exploited for deviant purposes (Patchin & Hinduja, 2006). Personal computers offer several advantages to individuals inclined to harass others. First, electronic bullies can remain "virtually" anonymous. Temporary email accounts and pseudonyms in chat rooms, instant messaging programs, and other Internet venues can make it very difficult for individuals to determine the identity of aggressors. Cyberbullies can hide behind some measure of anonymity when using the text-message capabilities of a cellular phone or their personal computer to bully another individual, which perhaps frees them from normative and social constraints on their behavior. Further, it seems that cyberbullies might be emboldened when using electronic means to carry out their antagonistic agenda because it takes less energy and courage to express hurtful comments using a keypad or a keyboard than with one's voice. Additionally, cyberbullies do not have to be larger and stronger than their victims, as had been the case in traditional bullying. Instead of a victim being several years younger and/or drastically weaker than his bully, victim and cyberbully alike can be just about anyone imaginable.
Second, electronic forums lack supervision. While chat hosts regularly observe the dialog in some chat rooms in an effort to police conversations and evict offensive individuals, personal messages sent between users are viewable only by the sender and the recipient, and therefore outside the regulatory reach of the proper authorities. Furthermore, there are no individuals to monitor or censor offensive content in electronic mail or text messages sent via computer or cellular phone. Another problem is the increasingly common presence of computers in the private environments of adolescent bedrooms. Indeed, teenagers often know more about computers and cellular phones than their parents and are therefore able to operate the technologies without worry or concern that a probing parent will discover their experience with bullying (whether as a victim or offender).
In a similar vein, the inseparability of a cellular phone from its owner makes that person a perpetual target for victimization. Users often need to keep it turned on for legitimate uses, which provides the opportunity for those with malicious intentions to engage in persistent unwelcome behavior such as harassing telephone calls or threatening and insulting statements via the cellular phone's text messaging capabilities. There may truly be "no rest for the weary" as cyberbullying penetrates the walls of a home, traditionally a place where victims could seek refuge.
Online identity stealth blurs the line in infringement of the right of would-be victims to identify their perpetrators. We need to debate how internet use can be traced without infringing on protected civil liberties. See Computer Networking tools as "tracert" or "nslookup" in order to trace an individual's computer to either their hosts, IP adresses or MAC addresses that are legal, legit and easy to use tools that allow one person to trace another one's computer.
Hinduja and Patchin (In Review) completed a study in the summer of 2005 of approximately 1500 Internet-using adolescents and found that over one-third of youth reported being victimized online and over 16% of respondents admitted to cyberbullying others. While most of the instances of cyber bullying involved relatively minor behavior:
- 40% were disrespected,
- 18% were called names,
- over 12% were physically threatened and about
- 5% were scared for their safety.
Notably, less than 15% of victims told an adult about the incident. Additional research by Hinduja and Patchin (In Press) found that online bullying victimization is related to offline problem behaviors. That is, youth who report being victims of cyberbullying also experience stress or strain that is related to offline problem behaviors (an index of 11 deviant behaviors including: running away from home, cheating on a school test, skipping school, using alcohol or marijuana, among others). The authors acknowledge that both of these studies provide only preliminary information about the nature and consequences of online bullying due to the methodological challenges associated with an online survey.
According to a 2005 survey by the National Children's Home charity and Tesco Mobile of 770 youth between the ages of 11 and 19, 20% of respondents revealed that they had been bullied via electronic means. Almost three-fourths (73%) stated that they knew the bully, while 26% stated that the offender was a stranger. Another interesting finding was that 10% indicated that another person has taken a picture of them via a cellular phone camera, consequently making them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or threatened. Many youth are not comfortable telling an authority figure about their cyberbullying victimization; while 24% and 14% told a parent or teacher respectively, 28% did not tell anyone while 41% told a friend (National Children's Home, 2005).
A 2004 survey by i-Safe America of 1,556 students from grades 4 to 8 found that 42% had been bullied online and 35% had been threatened. As well, 53% had said hurtful things to others online. ^
A survey by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in 2000 found that 6% of the young people in the survey had experienced some form of harassment including threats and negative rumours and two per cent had suffered distressing harassment. In the UK, a study in 2002 by NCH, a children's charity found that one in four students had been the victim of bullying online. ^
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- Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (In Review). Cyberbullying: A Preliminary Profile of Offending and Victimization. Manuscript in review.
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- Be Web Aware - Cyber Bullying
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