Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

Cyberbullying: From Playground to Computer

Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

Cyberbullying: From Playground to Computer

Article excerpt

While bullying may affect anyone in any situation, childhood and school are the prevailing age and context for bullying, as children interact with peers and struggle to assert their identity and understand appropriate social behavior. Schoolyard bullying has received considerable attention in psychological journals and child behavior manuals, which suggest that bigger children (typically boys) resort to physical violence and threats against younger or smaller children at school. Society is moving away from the attitude that bullying is just a part of growing up, to understanding the deep, emotional damage it can cause. The recent rash of violence in schools has highlighted just how angry and helpless children can feel. Many schools have begun awareness programs promoting anti-violence and an end to bullying.

The definition of bullying is slowly expanding. In the past three or four years, nonphysical aggression has been highlighted in the world of female bullying. Girls will often use rumors, social exclusion, and other forms of quiet aggression to attack other girls. This form of bullying falls beneath the typical teacher's and parent's radar, and can continue for years without intervention. (1) It is this quiet, psychological aggression that has migrated to the digital world to become "cyberbullying," as bullies of all ages and genders have taken advantage of the anonymity and accessibility of digital technology to harass their victims.

What is Cyberbullying?

According to Bill Belsey,

   Cyberbullying involves the use of
   information and communication
   technologies such as e-mail, cell
   phone and pager text messages,
   instant messaging, defamatory
   personal Web sites, and defamatory
   online personal polling Web sites,
   to support deliberate, repeated, and
   hostile behaviour by an individual
   or group that is intended to harm
   others. (2)

Cyberbullying is the newest form of bullying, emerging as children become more adept at using computers and cell phones for communication and socialization, but the topics of abuse are the same in cyberspace as in face-to-face communication. Bullies can harass victims about their appearance, sexual promiscuity, poverty, grades, diseases, or disabilities. Bullying can also be based on "others' perceptions of a student's value based on gender, race/ethnicity, color, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation or ability level (mental/ physical/sensory)." (3)

There are several types of cyberbullying, depending on the available technology. Instant messaging (IM) services such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) or Yahoo! Messenger allow children to have private conversations with friends, or "buddies," in real time. These services combine the instant communication style of the chat room with the personal style of e-mail, creating an arena where youth can establish social networks. This type of communication has provided fertile ground for the bully to send mean or obscene messages to others. Children may be bullied by a friend on their buddy list or by peers with anonymous screen names. Added features, such as buddy profiles, allow buddies to insert derogatory or slanderous remarks about peers for anyone to read, and buddies can also create false personal profiles of their targets that insult or ridicule them. Children can also block other children from--or refuse to add them to--a buddy list, creating an effect called relational aggression, in which children engage in "the hurtful manipulation of peer relationships/friendships that inflicts harm on others through behaviours such as 'social exclusion' and 'malicious rumour spreading'." (4)

Similar to the harassment done through instant messenger services, bullying can also occur through text messaging. Cell phones are one of the newer tools put into the hands of children, and they provide an extremely mobile method for bullying other children. All the bully needs is the targets phone number, and a message or threat can be sent anywhere, anytime. …

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