School Counselors and the Cyberbully: Interventions and Implications

Article excerpt

Cyberbullying, the act of using technologies such as e-mails, cell phones, or text messaging with the intent of causing harm to others, is akin to traditional bullying in many aspects. This article offers a review of the current literature on the topic of cyberbullying, a comparison of traditional bullying and cyberbullying, and suggestions for schoolwide interventions.

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Ten years ago in his State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton stated, "Every classroom in America must be connected to the information superhighway with computers and good software and well-trained teachers" (Clinton, 1996). By 2002, 99% of the public schools in America reported having computers with Internet access (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). With the current availability of computer technology in schools, parents and educators have found themselves unprepared for the task of monitoring students' Internet use and misuse (Franek, 2004).

Cyberspace has provided students with a new territory for abuse of their peers (Strom & Strom, 2005). Cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent forms of harassment among students in Grades 6, 7, and 8 (Blair, 2003; Crawford, 2002). It is a type of bullying in which an individual uses technology to bully individuals or groups. Cyberbullies harass, stalk, defame, impersonate, and threaten their victims through e-mail, cell phone text messaging, instant messaging, and various forms of technological communication (Willard, 2006a). According to Paulson (2003), the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center reported in the year 2000 that 1 in 17 children had been bullied online and approximately one third of those incidences were deemed extremely upsetting by the victims.

Kowalski and Limber (2005) conducted a study examining cyberbullying and its prevalence among 3,767 middle school students from several cities and communities in the Southwestern and Southeastern United States (1,915 girls and 1,852 boys). Results indicated that 18% of students (25% of the girls and 11% of the boys) reported having been cyberbullied at least once within the past 2 months. Of those students, 53.2% reported being cyberbullied by a student at school, 37% reported being cyberbullied by a friend, and 13% reported being cyberbullied by a sibling. Forty-eight percent of the students reported they did not know the identity of the person who had cyberbullied them. Eleven percent of the students (13% of the girls and 8.6% of the boys) reported cyberbullying someone else at least once in the previous 2 months. Of those students who reported cyberbullying others, 41.3% reported bullying another student at school, 32.7% reported bullying a friend, and 12.6% reported bullying a sibling.

TRADITIONAL BULLYING VERSUS CYBERBULLYING

Bullying has been a topic of concern for educators over the past several years (Crawford, 2002; Garrity et al., 1997). Traditional bullying behaviors can be categorized into two broad categories of behavior, direct and indirect (Quiroz, Arnette, & Stephens, 2006). Direct bullying tends to be more physical in nature than indirect bullying behavior and includes behaviors such as hitting, tripping, shoving, threatening verbally, or stabbing. Indirect and direct bullying includes behaviors such as excluding, spreading rumors, or blackmailing (Willard, 2006a). Male bullies tend to engage in direct bullying whereas female bullies tend to engage in indirect bullying (Crawford; Hazier, 2006; Quiroz et al.).

Cyberbullying behaviors also can be both indirect and indirect, and Willard (2006a) provided examples of each. Flaming is an indirect form of cyberbullying and was defined by Willard as an argument between two people that includes rude and vulgar language, insults, and threats. Examples of direct cyberbullying include harassment, exclusion, and denigration. An individual victimized by online harassment may receive constant hurtful messaging through various forms of technology. …