Schools and Cyberbullying: Problem Perception, Current Actions and Future Needs

By Vandebosch, Heidi | International Journal of Cyber Society and Education, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Schools and Cyberbullying: Problem Perception, Current Actions and Future Needs


Vandebosch, Heidi, International Journal of Cyber Society and Education


INTRODUCTION

Cyberbullying has been defined as 'an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and over time, against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself' (Smith et al., 2008). Examples of cyberbullying include the use of the Internet or mobile phones to insult or threaten someone or to post embarrassing videoclips of someone on a website (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009).

LITERATURE REVIEW

To date, most research has focused on describing the current situation with regard to cyberbullying, addressing such aspects as the prevalence of cyberbullying (Riebel, Jäger, & Fischer, 2009), the profiles of bullies (Görzig & Ó lafsson, 2012) and victims (Katzer, Fetchenhauer, & Belschak, 2009), and the impact of cyberbullying (Bonanno & Hymel, 2013) in addition to related definitional and measurement issues (Menesini & Nocentini, 2009). Most of these situation analysis studies are based on surveys among young people. Their findings indicate that cyberbullying is a common phenomenon, although the exact prevalence rates vary considerably, depending on the type of measurement (e.g. direct versus indirect measurements), the type of questionnaire (e.g. online, school, or face-to-face at home), and the specific age categories examined. For example, in a review of existing research, Tokunaga (2010) reports victimization rates of 4%-53%, with bully percentages of 3%-23%.

Studies on the negative impact of cyberbullying have demonstrated that its consequences are similar to those of traditional bullying. Victims of cyberbullying often experience more stress and depression-like symptoms (David-Ferdon & Hertz, 2007; Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2012; Machmutow, Perren, Sticca, & Alsaker, 2012; Ybarra, 2004a), low self-esteem (Brighi et al., 2012; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010), poor academic performance (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004b, 2007), and even suicide, in some cases (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).

Many cases of cyberbullying originate in the offline social context of the school, with most bullying and victimization taking place between young people who know each other from school (Smith et al., 2008). In many cases, cyberbullying is actually an extension of traditional bullying, with traditional bullies targeting their offline victims online (Juvonen & Gross, 2008; Mishna, Cook, Gadalla, Daciuk, & Solomon, 2010; Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009; Wegge, Vandebosch, & Eggermont, 2013). Moreover, cyberbullying affects the students' functioning in schools (Beran & Li, 2007). For these reasons, many researchers and legal experts (see e.g. Hinduja & Patchin, 2011; Willard, 2012) argue that schools have an important responsibility to address this problem. Schools are also considered central actors, given their experience with traditional anti-bullying programmes (Dake, Price, Telljohann, & Funk, 2004; Samara & Smith, 2008) and their increasing involvement in teaching knowledge and skills related to IT (Tondeur, Cooper, & Newhouse, 2010; Tondeur, van Braak, & Valcke, 2007).

In light of the situations described above, many scholars have suggested that schools should adopt integrated anti-bullying programmes aimed at both traditional and new forms of bullying (Agatston, Kowalski, & Limber, 2007; Campbell, 2005; Mason, 2008). Proceeding from the 'whole school approach' (Samara & Smith, 2008), which has proven to be the most effective way to address traditional bullying, such programmes should rely on the cooperation of various actors (i.e. school staff, students, parents, and the wider community), and they should include various types of action (i.e. preventive, detective, and reactive). The development of such an integrated anti-bullying approach (Salmivalli & Pöyhönen, 2012) requires the consideration of characteristics specific to this type of bullying. …

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