Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Cyberbullying in Rural Communities: Origin and Processing through the Lens of Older Adolescents

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Cyberbullying in Rural Communities: Origin and Processing through the Lens of Older Adolescents

Article excerpt

The increased use of technology has led to rising concerns about adolescent cyberbullying (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Lumpkin, 2014; Lenhart et al., 2011; Mishna, Cook, Gadalla, Daciuk, & Solomon, 2010). Estimates have shown that approximately 15% of individuals experience cyberbulling at some point during adolescence (Modecki, Minchin, Harbaugh, Guerra, & Runions, 2014), and 13.8% of adolescents have reported at least one experience with cyberbullying (Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011). There has been evidence that cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent. For example, in a poll of students in Grades 5 to 8, Strom, Strom, Wingate, Kraska, and Beckert (2012) found that 58% of students in Grades 5 and 6 identified cyberbullying as a problem at their school. That number jumped to 68% among students in Grades 7 and 8. In addition, 63% of the students in Grades 5 and 6 believed that cyberbullying was equally serious or worse than traditional bullying. That number rose to 69% among students in Grades 7 and 8. In another study of students in Grades 9 to 12, Schneider, O'Donnell, Stueve, and Coulter (2012) found that 15.8% reported being cyberbullied at least once in the past year.

Although past studies have generated information that have provided insight into this phenomenon, additional research is warranted to identify specific factors that might lead to cyberbullying attacks and explore the consequences of cyberbullying. In addition, because the larger body of research has concentrated on examining cyberbullying in urban and middle-grade environments (Farmer, Hamm, Leung, Lambert, & Gravelle, 2011), information has been limited to an examination of traditional bullying from the perspectives of the perpetrators in rural settings (Klein & Cornell, 2010; Ma, 2001). Past research has suggested that school officials place very little emphasis on addressing issues in cyberbullying in their schools because they see it as beyond their scope of responsibility (Li, 2010). As such, they are institutionally unprepared to address the harassment of students related to cyberbullying (Li, 2010). A cyberbullying attack can be launched without any consideration of time and space. As a result, even though cyberbullying does not necessarily occur during the school day, the act itself can have a profound effect on how students interact at school (Hinduja & Patchin, 2012).

Likewise, research has suggested that the victims of cyberbullying do not believe that authority figures can or will do anything to stop such attacks (Smith et al., 2008). In fact, they believe that telling an individual in authority will only worsen the problem (Li, 2010). Research has also suggested that bullying is more prevalent in small schools in rural settings than in large schools (Klein & Cornell, 2010). Therefore, by understanding how cyberbullying originates and is processed by students in a low-socioeconomic status (SES) rural setting, school counselors are uniquely positioned to play an influential role in assisting school officials, teachers, parents, and community members in diverse settings to address cyberbullying in order to enhance the safety of students and minimize distractions that inhibit students' academic progress, and further exacerbate psychosocial stressors (Cassidy, Faucher, & Jackson, 2013).

Literature Review

Traditional bullying has been defined in the literature as repeated, deliberate, and aggressive behaviors or actions carried out over a period of time on victims who are helpless in defending themselves against the groups or individuals instigating the attacks (Olweus & Limber, 2010). Cyberbullying extends that definition to include the means (i.e., electronic) by which attacks occur. Therefore, cyberbullying entails repeated and purposeful aggressive behaviors or actions carried out over a period of time through electronic means (e.g., texting, social networking sites, etc. …

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