Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Psychological Impact of Cyber-Bullying: Implications for School Counsellors/L'effet Psychologique De Cyber-Intimidation : Implications Pour Les Conseillers Scolaires

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Psychological Impact of Cyber-Bullying: Implications for School Counsellors/L'effet Psychologique De Cyber-Intimidation : Implications Pour Les Conseillers Scolaires

Article excerpt

Emerging research has shown that electronic communication may be used to bully others, resulting in a form of bullying called cyber-bullying. Hie harmful experience of this type of bullying remains unclear in the literature. Although some studies have found that cyber-bullying can have a negative emotional (e.g., sadness, scared) or behavioural (e.g., violent, missed school) impact on those who have been victimized (Beran & Li, 2007; Willard, 2007; Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2006), some results show no impact or inconsistent types of impact (Smith et al., 2008; Ybarra, Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2006). It is possible that this may vary as a function of the type of cyber-bullying experienced. School bullying has been divided into direct forms such as physical (e.g., punching) and verbal (e.g., threatening), as well as indirect forms (e.g., spreading rumours, gossiping, and social exclusion that occur in the absence of the targeted child; van der Wal, de Wit, & Hirasing, 2003). Given that these multiple forms of school bullying have a varied effect on children and adolescents (Marini, Dane, & Bosacki, 2006), it is likely that different types of cyber-bullying have specific consequences on targeted children. It is essential that school counsellors have a comprehensive understanding of the complexity of cyber-bullying to effectively support victimized children. The current study examined seven types of cyber-bullying and their impacts.

CYBER-BULLYING

It is estimated that children in Canada and the United States spend 3 to 4 hours per day consuming media through the use of an electronic communication device (e.g., cell phone or laptop; Media Awareness Network, 2005; Subrahmanyam & Lin, 2007). In Canada, for example, 84% of children between 8 and 18 years of age have Internet access at home, 66% have a cell phone (many with Internet capability, text messaging, and cameras), and 29% have their own laptop computer (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). In addition, 22% of children have their own webcams and 24% have access to handheld Internet devices (Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005). These devices can be used almost anywhere, and they provide many opportunities for children to send intimidating, threatening, or embarrassing messages to others. Specifically, cyber-bullying is defined as "using electronic forms of communication (computers, cell phones, or other handheld devices) to bully an individual or a group of individuals" (Willard, 2007, p. 28). Cyber-bullying involves seven specific types: name calling (e.g., calling another student a "loser" on text message), threatening (e.g., threatening to harm another student via email), rumour-mongering (e.g., spreading a rumour about another student over the Internet), sending private pictures (e.g., sending an embarrassing picture of a student without consent), impersonation (e.g., pretending to be someone else on Facebook), sexual comments (e.g., sending unwanted sexual texts or photos), and sexual behaviours (e.g., being asked to do something sexual via e-mail; Mishna, Cook, Gadalla, Daciuk, & Solomon, 2010; Mitchell, Ybarra, & Finkelhor, 2007; Willard, 2007). A recent Canadian study found that 21% of children experienced cyber-bullying at least once in the last three months, while 34% of children cyberbullied others (Mishna, Beran, Poole, Gadalla, & Daciuk, 2011).

IMPACT OF SCHOOL BULLYING AND CYBER-BULLYING

Children who have been cyber-bullied report high levels of psychological impact, including sadness, embarrassment, anxiety, and depression (Beran & Li, 2007; Juvonen & Gross, 2008; Ybarra, 2004; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004b). They are also likely to feel angry and are at risk of increased violence toward others (Beran & Li, 2007; Patchin & Hinduja, 2006; Ybarra, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2007; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004a). Despite this emerging evidence of harm, some studies show no or different types of harm (Cassidy, Jackson, & Brown, 2009; Dempsey, Sulkowski, Nichols, & Storch, 2009; Smith et al. …

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