Cyberbullying : Reality Check. Written by Lila Knighton, Alisa Simon, Janice Kelly and Dr. Alexandra Kimball. Published by Kids Help Phone. 2012.
Cyberbullying: Reality Check is a research update published by Kids Help Phone which builds upon their 2007 report entitled Cyber-bullying: Our Kids New Reality. In clear and concise language, this report draws attention to a growing trend that has until recently received little attention. While the report acknowledges and adequately outlines the problem and offers general recommendations of educating Canadians on cyberbullying, it is meant to familiarize the reader with cyberbullying rather than offer concrete solutions to this problem.
This report is the latest in a series of Critical Issue Reports published by this community-based, national youth counselling service. Other recent reports also increasingly draw attention to the growing youth presence online, specifically focusing on issues surrounding online gaming and relationships. This 2012 report is based on the responses of over 2,500 youth who completed a web survey on the Kids Help Phone website (org.kidshelpphone.ca) which asked participants about their experiences with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined as the use of electronic communications technology to threaten, harass, embarrass, or socially exclude others (Mishna et al., 2011). While there isnt a great deal of literature on the subject to date, interest and concern continues to grow as youth and young adults live an increasingly mediated social existence both in school and in their employment and leisure activities.
This article draws heavily upon its predecessor by comparing recent survey data with data collected in the 2007 study. In the 2011 survey, 65% of respondents answered that they are or have been victims of cyberbullying (Kids Help Phone, 2012). In contrast to the 2007 report, where cyberbullying occurred most frequently on Instant Messenger (IM/MSN) chats, the 2011 data showed that the behaviour now occurs most frequently on social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace (63%), followed by phone texts (26%) and IM/MSN chats (11%) (Kids Help Phone 2012). Cyberbullying also occurs on various other platforms such as online gaming sites and forums and can take the form of threats, insults, rumours, as well as uploading of unwanted and/or altered photos or videos. The main point of this Critical Issue report is to draw attention to the overwhelming sentiment of survey respondents, which was that they feel that reporting cyberbullying to parents, teachers, and counsellors is ineffective as their concerns have been or would be dismissed. In contrast, 75% of respondents reported that talking to someone who gets it and wont judge or blame you is the most helpful (Kids Help Phone 2012: 12).
The authors use tables to compare quantitative data from both surveys, as well as qualitative data in the form of direct quotations from survey respondents to illustrate the unique challenges that online bullying presents to victims. As opposed to face-to-face bullying, online bullying is often anonymous with a limitless audience as the various forms that the abuse takes are easily reproduced and distributed. It is particularly overwhelming as the victim is always accessible even outside of school and work scenarios.
The report speaks at length about the links between the effects of cyberbullying and youth suicide, drawing upon numerous academic articles on the subject (Fredstrom et al., 2011; Klomek et al., 2008; Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). Based on these two studies, the most recent Kids Help Phone report offers some general recommendations; it recommends increased education for all Canadians on how cyberbullying occurs and how to prevent it, while acknowledging that technology is here to stay and the social importance of online networking amongst todays youth. The first step is to develop a clear definition of cyberbullying which can be used consistently by various agencies across the nation. Also stressed to adult caregivers, educators, and government workers is the active and ongoing support of social service organizations, schools, and other program deliverers that both acknowledge and address Cyberbullying. The article uses academic research to suggest that up to 85% of children and teens who are victimized electronically are also victims at school (p. 279, Tokunaga, 2012).
While the authors acknowledge that the survey findings cannot be generalized to the whole population, they strive rather to bring attention to some emerging trends. As more evidence is collected, it will be interesting to formulate more strategies to address this important issue. Youth educators, counsellors, adult guardians, and anyone with an interest in online socialization will find this report valuable in introducing the relatively new concept of technological bullying in Canada.
Reviewed by Catherine Scheelar
Fredstrom, B.K., Adams, R.E. & Gilman, R. (2011). Electronic and School-Based Victimization: Unique contexts for adjustment difficulties during adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 40: 405-415.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2010). Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide. Archives of Suicide Research. 14: 206-221.
Klomek, A.B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I.S. & Gould, M.S. (2008). Peer Victimization, Depression, and Suicidality in Adolescents. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavious. 38(2): 166-180.
Mishna, F., Cook, C.,Saini, M.,Wu, M.J.& MacFadden,R.(2011).Research on Social Work Practice. 21(1): 5-14.
Tokunaga, R.S.(2010). Following You Home From School: A critical review and synthesis of research on cyberbullying victimization. Computers in Human Behaviour. 26:277-287.