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Cyberbullying and Online Aggression Assessment ToolCyberbullying and Online Aggression Assessment Tool

Section 12
Cyberbullying Perpetration

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents | Bullying CEU Courses
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In the last section, we discussed four important factors concerning cyber bullying. These factors are, gender variation, effects of cyberbullying, the anonymity factor, and the impact at school.

In this section, we will discuss two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying.  These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.

In talking to teens who have either been victimized by or participated in internet bullying, I have found two central problems common to the issue.  As you listen to this track, you might consider if you have observed these two central problems in your practice.

2 Central Problems of Cyberbullying

Central Problem #1 - Sexual Nature
A first of these central problems is the frequently sexual nature of internet bullying.  According to Aftab, it is no coincidence that the incidence of internet bullying peaks around the age of 13. Aftab states that because of pubertal changes, students around the age of 13 often experience raging hormones that contribute to the highly sexual nature of much of the bullying that takes place both in school and online. 

As you know, during the early teen years, a fairly common tactic of relational aggression, especially among girls, is to spread rumors about a target peers’ sexual life in order to damage her or his reputation.  However, internet bullying can greatly increase the aggressor’s audience, thus increasing the trauma experienced by the victim.  Tina, age 14, had an argument with her then-friend Danielle over Tina’s boyfriend.  Following the argument, Danielle used the internet to spread rumors to their classmates that Tina was performing oral sex. 

Soon, a stranger from a neighboring town began instant messaging Tina, calling her a slut.  Tina quickly began having trouble sleeping and long episodes of crying.  I advised Tina to make hard copies and saved files of the instant messages and bring them to her parents.  Tina’s parents informed the school, and the campus police officer was able to intervene and bring a stop to the bullying.

Central Problem #2 - Perceived Inescapability
A second central problem I have observed is the perceived inescapability of internet bullying.   In addition to bullying spread on web site, blogs, and instant messaging, text messaging using cell phones, and picture sharing using camera phones have become popular ways for bullies to reach victims.  Glenn Stutzky of Michigan State University states, "It's like the bully has gone mobile. One kid told me it's like being tethered to your tormentor."

Nina, age 15, experienced the perceived inescapability of online bullying.  Nina had always been tall for her age, which made her a frequent target of school bullies.  Nina, an avid artist, would often escape either to her drawings or to her computer, where she discovered a web site about art where she could chat with peers interested in art.  Nina stated, “After I found the site, I finally felt like I belonged and was accepted for the first time.” However, at age 12, Nina got into a disagreement with another girl on the site over an unanswered email. Although Nina tried to make up, the other girl made her the subject of a three-year online bullying campaign. 

The other girl and her friends would taunt and ridicule her over email, and sign in to the art site under Nina’s name, where they would launch attacks on other site members that Nina would be blamed for.  This tactic caused Nina to lose several friends on the site, and she developed clinical depression. Because of the continued teasing over her height at school, the friends who stuck by her on the art community were her perceived only source of peer support.  Eventually, the online tormenting became so bad that Nina took a short break from her community.  Fortunately, when she returned, the bullying stopped.

Ethical Decision-Making Strategies
For students who have difficulty gauging appropriate online behavior, I recommend the ethical decision-making strategies developed by Nancy Willard of the Responsible Netizen Institute.  These strategies include the following four techniques students can use to evaluate their interactions online:
1. The Golden Rule Test.  How would you feel if someone did this to you?  If you would not like it, then it is probably wrong.
2. The Trusted Adult Test.  What would an adult whose opinion you respect, for example your coach or grandmother, think of your actions?  Would they approve or disapprove?
3.  The Front Page Test.  How would you feel if your actions were reported on the front page of the newspaper?  What if the article included your name and picture?  Would you feel comfortable?  Ashamed?
4. The Real World Test.  Would it be okay if you acted in the same way in the real world.  Is this something you would say to someone face to face?

In this section we have discussed two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying.  These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.

In the next section, we will discuss the three steps in the recognizing common issues technique for helping adolescents in an internet bullying crisis.  These three steps are convey realistic concern without undue anxiety, delay making final judgments, and develop positive working relationships with everyone.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barlett, C. P., & Helmstetter, K. M. (2018). Longitudinal relations between early online disinhibition and anonymity perceptions on later cyberbullying perpetration: A theoretical test on youth. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 7(4), 561–571.

Barlett, C. P., & Fennel, M. (2018). Examining the relation between parental ignorance and youths’ cyberbullying perpetration. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 7(4), 547–560.

Barlett, C. P., Kowalewski, D. A., Kramer, S. S., & Helmstetter, K. M. (2019). Testing the relationship between media violence exposure and cyberbullying perpetration. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(3), 280–286.

What are two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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