Bullying has been an ongoing issue for years and impacts nearly every culture and nation within society. Bullying comes in many shapes and form but is essentially when groups or individuals, threaten, harass, maim, or use physical force on an individual, or individuals. The proliferation of electronic technology has created a new onset of bullying that provides a multitude of methods and forums for individuals to bully individuals by means of electronic devices (Washington, 2015). Electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, along with social media forums, or other forms of technological communication forums have paved the way for a new form of bullying known as cyberbullying. October is NCSAM ( National Cybersecurity Awareness Month). This relatively new phenomenon is gaining prevalent public attention, especially in the media. Researchers, like Dr. Justin Patchin, has devoted numerous studies on cyberbullying and has devoted his research to not only the cause of cyberbullying but also methods to prevent and decrease cyberbullying. One of Patchin’s prevention tactics is by providing education to all age ranges, including parents and teacher about the impacts of cyberbullying, not only from psychological journals but also through podcasts and online interview. With cyberbullying being a relatively new phenomenon, what are the primary age ranges, causes, and effects of cyberbullying and how are lawmaker assisting with combating the issue.
Development of Cyberbullying
The term cyberbullying was first used in 2004 by educator Bill Belsey in an essay he authored detailing the suddenness of an emerging threat through the use of information and communication technologies (Caffrey, 2014). Belsey described cyberbullying as a form of pervasive intentional harassment by individuals, or groups with the intent of acting hostile towards another person (Caffrey, 2014). According to C. Caffrey the hostile means of bullying was by use of the internet’s capabilities. The internet provided anonymity, thus causing some to engage with individuals differently than they would during face-to-face interactions, as well as causing some to engage more viciously then they would during face-to-face interactions (Caffrey, 2014).
Who Cyberbullying Affects
Cyberbullying can affect nearly anyone, regardless of the person’s age. During an online interview to At Issues provided by the Cyberbullying Research Center (2015), Dr. Patchin indicated that cyberbullying typically begins to occur from elementary school-aged children, roughly around the time they are in the sixth grade and increases by the time the child is in middle school. Patchin states that when the middle school-aged child reaches high school, cyberbullying is still present, but statistically lower compared to middle school-aged adolescents. Despite Patchin’s quest to understand and prevent cyberbullying, Patchin indicates that traditional bullying is still more prevalent than online bullying, but that there is a correlation between cyberbullying and suicide (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). Research indicates that approximately seventy-two percent of youth have been cyberbullied and approximately six to thirty percent of teens have been cyberbullied (Hinduja & Patchin, 2013).
During Patchin’s At Issues interview, he explains that cyberbullying impacts college students as well, and provided an astonishing example of how cyberbullying can lead to suicide, when he discussed a college student that ended her life, due to being cyberbullied (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). Additional research indicates that college students and even adults have dropped out of school and even quit their jobs, due to being subjected to different forms of cyberbullying (Washington, 2015). During a HuffPost Live Google Hangout (2015), adult Caitlin Seida provided an example of how a picture of her that she posted to social media was shared to thousands of people without her discretion, causing an uproar of multiple individuals to place negative comments about her weight and appearance that caused her to contemplate suicide. Dr. Patchin was also interviewed during this segment and indicated that cyberbullying can impact all ages and cause “emotional distress” (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015).
Legislative Outcomes of Cyberbullying
During Patchin’s interview with At Issues, Patchin indicated there are different definitions associated with cyberbullying. Patchin formally defined cyberbullying as a “willful and repeated harm involving computers, cellphones, or other electronic devices” (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). Patchin stated the legal proceeding to ensure, repetitive nature must be determined and depending on the severity, will typically fall under the guidelines of harassment or misuse of an electronic device (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). Patchin also indicated that nearly all schools in the United States have bullying policies that incorporate cyberbullying into their framework. Patchin described that legislative actions have been imposed on cyberbullying and that forty-nine states now have established bullying laws in place (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015).
In 2006 Megan Meier, a thirteen-year-old from Missouri committed suicide as a result of being cyberbullied, via a then popular social networking site known as Myspace (Caffrey, 2014). At the time there were no formal laws against cyberbullying, which due to the nature of Meier death, prompted many states to take legislative action against cyberbullying (Caffrey, 2014). This enacted forty-nine states, including the District of Columbia to enact anti-bullying legislation. This also impacted schools to implement anti-bullying policies and even restrict access to social media sites as a preventative measure. However, with the majority of United States schools restricting social media access, only eight percent of schools have formal educational components in place to teach students about cyberbullying and responsible internet use (Caffrey, 2014).
Due to cyberbullying becoming an issue amongst many age groups, there have been many campaigns and resources that have been developed to assist in curtailing cyberbullying and to provide educational resources about the effects of cyberbullying. Some countries, like Spain and Canada, even have a distinguished day during the year as being recognized as a national anti-bullying day (Caffrey, 2014). During Patchin’s interview with At Issues, he described his beliefs at preventing cyberbullying and that it begins with educational resources for teacher, parents, and youth. Patchin explained the development of the Cyber Research Center as being a center that provides summarized versions of his and others research that pertains to cyberbullying (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). Patchin also believes that communication and peer prevention is key to slowing cyberbullying. During Patchin’s interview with HuffPost Live, Patchin also stated that good prevention also comes from the individual (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015). He stated individuals should be cautious of what they post online even if their social network settings are set to private, somebody may post their pictures elsewhere without consent, which, depending on the content may initiate cyberbullying (Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015).
Cyberbullying has become a recent worldwide phenomenon that has impacted the lives of many. This is due to technological advancements that have developed and have ultimately provided a new forum for individuals to bully without face-to-face contact. Cyberbullying can impact any age group and lead to results that can include suicide. Dr. Patchin, as well as other researchers and government entities, have developed resources to educate people about the effects of cyberbullying and how to prevent cyberbullying. These resources are geared towards educational references and personal accounts of the impacts of cyberbullying and how vast public knowledge and awareness is essential for combating cyberbullying. Patchin explains this in both his At Issue interview and his Huff Post interview and also details the importance of parental participation and knowledge of what social media sites their children are using. What’s astonishing about cyberbullying is how many people, especially students have been victims of cyberbullying. With nearly all United States schools having bullying policies in place, but only eight percent of schools having formal internet safety education in place, it is astonishing as well. It is absolutely essential that schools increase their educational structures to further assist in preventing cyberbullying.
Caffrey, C. (2014). Cyberbullying. Salem Press Encyclopedia,
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2013). Social Influences on Cyberbullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students. Journal Of Youth & Adolescence, 42(5), 711-722. doi:10.1007/s10964-012-9902-4
Multimedia Archives – Cyberbullying Research Center. (2015). Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.us/multimedia/
Washington, E. T. (2015). An Overview of Cyberbullying in Higher Education. Adult Learning, 26(1), 21-27. doi:10.1177/1045159514558412