Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Comparison of Preservice Teachers' Responses to Cyber versus Traditional Bullying Scenarios: Similarities and Differences and Implications for Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Comparison of Preservice Teachers' Responses to Cyber versus Traditional Bullying Scenarios: Similarities and Differences and Implications for Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction and General Rationale

Bullying is a subset of aggression that is characterized by a power imbalance in favor of perpetrators over victims, intention to cause harm or distress, and repetition of the behavior (Olweus, 1993). While it may manifest in many different ways, bullying has recently been dichotomized into "traditional" versus "cyber" forms (Li, 2007; Patchin & Hinduja, 2006). The key distinguishing feature is that the latter are delivered via electronic media, notably mobile phones, personal computers, and the Internet. The former include physical, verbal, social exclusion, and relational (i.e., attempts to damage victims' social relationships) forms. These two broad classes of bullying have a number of important differences, notably (a) the possibility of remaining anonymous being much higher in cyber bullying (Wolak, Mitchell & Finkelhor, 2007), (b) the relative lack of supervision and regulation by adults/authority figures of cyber bullying compared with traditional bullying (Basu & Jones, 2007), (c) the accessibility of victims being greater for cyber bullying than for traditional bullying (the "24/7" view; Slonje & Smith, 2008), (d) the greater degree of "editability" or being able to reflect on the actions/words used to maximize distress being greater for cyber than for traditional bullying (Valkenburg & Peter, 2011), and (e) the potentially much larger audience for cyber bullying than for traditional bullying (Slonje & Smith, 2008). These and other differences are discussed by Dooley, Pyzalski, and Cross (2009).

With the growing use of electronic communication technologies, interest in cyber bullying is accelerating and catching up with the substantial knowledge base concerning traditional bullying. A significant proportion of school pupils are known to engage in the latter (Nansel et al., 2001) and it may even be the most common form of violence among this population (Batsche, 2002). It is well established from cross-sectional (Hawker & Boulton, 2000) and longitudinal (Reijntjes, Kamphuis, Prinzie, & Yelch, 2010) studies that traditional bullying is associated with various forms of maladjustment, including disrupted concentration at school (Boulton, Trueman, & Murray, 2008). It is no surprise therefore that there is substantial research interest in how it might be tackled (Ttofi & Farrington, 2010). Some of this interest has focused on teachers' beliefs and actions concerning traditional forms of bullying, but far less is known about cyber bullying in this regard, probably because the latter has only relatively recently become a focus of attention. This has revealed that cyber bullying is also associated with poorer psychological adjustment (Kowalski, Limber, & Agaston, 2008; Ybarra, 2004). In the present study, we follow previous studies that have directly compared the two broad classes of bullying because such comparisons provide a context that helps us understand the growing phenomenon of cyber bullying and how pre- and serving teachers may be helped to deal with it effectively (Boulton, Lloyd, Down, & Marx, 2012; Smith et al., 2008; Valkenburg & Peter, 2011).

The theories and empirical work we review below indicate that it is important that we understand more about pre- and serving teachers' beliefs about, and empathic reactions to, bullying, because if these beliefs and reactions are such that they could undermine effective anti-bullying action, efforts could be taken by teacher educators to change them. In this article, we focus on preservice teachers because those beliefs and reactions are not yet based on actual experiences dealing with bullying in schools, although just like serving teachers, preservice teachers' beliefs will very likely be shaped by their own direct and vicarious experiences of bullying as pupils. Another reason is because less is known about preservice teachers' beliefs and reactions relative to those of serving teachers. …

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