What is Cyberbullying Exactly?
Today, children and young people are using the Internet more and more often. For many children, the Internet is not just a convenient way to research or have fun; it is a significant part of their social life. Nevertheless, like in many other social situations, they tend to bully other children and teens online (“What is cyberbullying,” n. d.). Therefore, cyberbullying is a situation when a child or teen is tormented, harassed, threatened, embarrassed, humiliated, or targeted by another child or teen in any other way through the Internet, mobile phones, or other digital technologies.
School children develop their crucial skills in interactions with the peers. Some of them have a negative experience of bullying that may have an impact on their future life. It is evident that a certain category of children finds an outlet for their anger and frustrations through bullying their peers. In the past, it was easier to control such actions as they were limited in face-to-face interactions. However, the evolution of technology has made it more dangerous and harder to control such behavior. Modern children grow up in the world that is very different from that of most adults. Many young people claim that the Internet and mobile phones are a creative part of their daily life. It is believed that modern technologies have a positive influence on people’s life, and they help to develop identities. Communication technologies provide an opportunity to feel connected to the peers (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Becker-Blease, 2007).
Unfortunately, modern technologies are often used negatively. Social media, chat rooms, cell phones, and other technologies enabled bullying to expand into cyberspace. This new abuse is called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying becomes more and more popular among young people and has been psychologically affecting them for many years already. When children become the target of bullying via the Internet and mobile phones, they usually feel misunderstood, scared, and lonely. Even though cyberbullying does not physically hurt people, it can leave a very strong feeling of vulnerability. Escaping or preventing cyberbullying is very difficult. The fact that any person can access a mobile phone or the Internet makes it tough for those who are bullied to avoid it (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009).
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Despite the fact that cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon, it is very harmful. Popularity of cyberbullying in the society has given rise to the awareness campaign and legislation to combat the issue. Cyberbullying presupposes communications that seek to control, intimidate, manipulate, falsely discredit, put down, or humiliate a person. It also includes embarrassing pictures, emails, and rumors posted on social networking sites or sent by email, as well as intentional exclusion from an online group or posting false information about another person. A cyberbully may be anonymous or known to the target. There were cases when children committed suicide or killed each other after having been involved in cyberbullying.
Unfortunately, Cyberbullying can happen 24/7 and reach a teenager when he or she is alone. In fact, cyberbullying images and messages can be posted and distributed quickly and reach a very wide audience. In some cases, it is almost impossible to trace the source. Deleting humiliating texts, messages, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been sent (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Becker-Blease, 2007).
Therefore, the study objective is to research the issue of cyberbullying and define the most essential factors that influence children’s and teens’ decision to cyberbull. In addition, the research will provide recommendations to parents helping them to minimize their children’s chance to become a victim of cyberbullies. The study will also provide the investigation of impacts upon a population at risk considering culture, race, gender, age, income levels, disability, or sexual orientation.
In order to meet the research objectives, the following questions should be investigated:
- What are the causes of cyberbullying?
- What are the consequences of cyberbullying?
- Why children and teens cyberbull?
- What categories of children and teens including race, gender, culture, age, income level, disability, or sexual orientation tend to be cyberbullied?
- What can parents do to prevent their children from cyberbullying?
Data Collection Methods
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The study aims at identifying the main factors that influence the children’s decision to cyberbull. The measures used in the research are adopted from the previous studies related to the issue of cyberbullying. The research methods developed for this study are devised to optimize the data extraction regarding cyberbullying, children’s and teens’ involvement in the issue, as well as the factors that influence such threatening behavior. A combination of questionnaire and interviews is used to combine the advantages of convenient mass data extraction and detailed inquiry relevant to the topic. The chosen methodology includes the scientific approach, methods of data collection, chosen theories and their critique, as well as the key term definitions.
Qualitative interviewing helps attract a greater interest in the interviewee’s beliefs and ideas, as well as to reflect the researcher’s concerns. In this type of interviewing, interviewees are allowed to go off the topic providing a researcher with an opportunity to see what point is the most essential and interesting one for the person. Questionnaires are widely used as a research method as they help get accurate data from respondents, so as to provide structure to interviews and a standard form, on which comments, facts, and attitudes can be based. Using questionnaires, the researcher can contact large numbers of participants quickly and efficiently. This method of research is quick and easy to create, code, and interpret as all the respondents get the same questions. It is time consuming for participants rather than for the researcher.
In order to get more reliable data and a deeper understanding of the research topic, mixed methods of research will be applied. Theoretical data for the research will be collected from international journals, textbooks, e-books, and Internet resources. Secondary data are used to analyze the studies by other scientists for addressing the research questions. It helps get a richness and depth of data (Newton, 2010). Being a qualitative research method, interviews enable the interviewer to observe and listen at the same time, as well as to establish rapport with the respondent and ask complex questions.
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The aim of the interview will be to obtain information directly. In case questions are asked in a proper way, and the interview situation is favorable, the respondents will automatically provide the researcher with the desired information.
The research requires reliability as its findings should demonstrate the relevance of professional practice. If these criteria are accomplished, there is a research potential that the findings are relevant. Among the strengths of the secondary data analysis is the ability to employ search engines and web-based materials; it uses already existing information and captures comprehensive information. The validity of the received data cannot be doubted. In order to construct trustworthiness, the following measures were taken: note-taking during the data collection and interviews, which allowed a cross-check of particular information sources; multiple information sources were used to collect the evidences, and the same set of questions was asked to protect the data from the researcher’s biases.
The questionnaire will help get information about a defined problem. The main purpose of the questionnaire will be to get information from children and teens about the facts of cyberbullying and the factors that influence the issue. Questionnaires are particularly useful when participants wish to remain anonymous. In the case, questionnaires and interviews were anonymous providing respondents with an opportunity to divulge information. Children feel more comfortable when they know that the information provided will not be available to others, especially concrete names. Therefore, the questionnaires helped obtain the opinion of children and teenagers. The fact that every respondent answers exactly the same questions, and consequently, makes questionnaires a very reliable research method.
It is suggested that two forms of validation are suitable for the logic of a qualitative study. One of them is the comparison of different types of data (for example, qualitative and quantitative) and different methods (for example, interviews and observation) to see whether they support each other or not. This form of comparison derives from navigation where different bearings give the correct location of an object. Another form is the respondent validation (Silverman, 2001, p. 233).
In order to construct trustworthiness, the researcher took the following measures: note-taking during the data collection and structured interviews, which allowed a cross-check of particular information sources; multiple information sources were used to collect some pieces of evidence; and the same set of questions was asked to protect the data from the researcher’s biases.
Statistics shows that girls tend to be bullies more often than boys. Cyberbullying usually appears to be in the age of transiting from primary to secondary school. It is also common in the later high school years (Hinduja & Patchin, 2011).
The problem is that cyberbullied children are usually afraid or ashamed of telling anyone about such experiences. Sometimes, they isolate themselves from friends, peers, and even family. However, long-term depression may result in very negative outcomes including death. Cyberbullied need understanding, support, and special treatment.
There are many possible reasons of why cyberbullies cause pain to others by bullying them. The most common ones are a form of entertainment as children are bored and want fun, jealousy, anger or desire to have revenge on someone, the idea that getting friends to laugh at others makes them more popular and cool, others are in the wrong place and allow themselves to be intimidated, and many others (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009).
One of the most effective ways to prevent cyberbullying is to address the issues before it starts and harms people. Students should be aware of the consequences of engaging in cyberbullying. They must also understand that several state and commonwealth laws can file criminal charges against them (Bhat, 2008, p. 62). In many cases, youth is afraid of the criminal charges; however, concrete examples will convey that the cyberbullying should not be taken lightly.
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Schools need to take all bullying types seriously. Cyberbullying is often an escalation or extension of the school bullying. Therefore, school officials should tell the parents what is happening. As a rule, schools are not allowed to get involved by punishing or disciplining the student for cyberbullying, in case such actions take place outside the school (Cross, 2009). They are often sued for violating the student’s right of free speech, as well as exceeding their authority. However, schools can be effective mediators between parents and children who are involved in cyberbullying preventing or stopping such situations. Schools may educate students on the ethics of cyberspace and appropriate laws (“What is cyberbullying, exactly?,” n. d.).
Educators can also play a vital role in preventing cyberbullying. They may keep blogs, which provide students with class and homework assignments. It is a good way of posting students’ assignments online providing online etiquette and appropriate behavior skills. Clear policies against cyberbullying and its prevention programs are also considered to be effective (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008).
As a rule, the police are usually not involved in the bullying if it is limited by a couple of messages or emails. In case communication includes a bodily harm threat or a death threat, the police need to be alerted. Urging suicide is a death threat that is why the police treat it accordingly.
Parents should explain their children that the cyberbullying will not be tolerated from their side and that there will be serious consequences in case they discover that the child has been inappropriately treating others using technology. On the other hand, children have to know that they can come to their parents if they receive threatening or humiliating messages via cell phones or the Internet. They should be sure that the technology will not be taken away if he/she confides in parent about being cyberbullied.
As soon as the person bullying is identified, parents, schools, caretakers, or police officers should take steps to change such behavior. The sanctions for children engaged in cyberbullying might include limited access to the Internet and prohibition to bring a cell phone to school. Cyberbullied people should be sure that they have done the right thing by informing about this action. It is necessary to record properly and investigate all cyberbullying incidents.
Children who are cyberbullied tend to be unwilling to attend school, skip school, receive poor grades, use drugs and alcohol, experience in-person bullying, have lower self-esteem, and have more health problems (“What is cyberbullying,” n. d.). Dealing with cyberbullying is a difficult task. However, parents can be sure they will get help with this issue from the social networking and mobile providers.
Nowadays, protecting young people from different forms of relational aggression, social, verbal, social, and emotional bullying via modern technologies has become an essential responsibility (Bhat, 2008, p. 60). Parents, schools, police officers, and the Internet providers should join their efforts to battle cyberbullying. It is essential to create an environment, in which youth understand the negative influence and harmful effects of cyberbullying and do not engage in it. Awareness of cyberspace ethics, control, and support are the first steps that can prevent cyberbullying.
Parents can prevent cyberbullying or minimize their children’s chance to become victims of cyberbullies. First of all, they should be aware of what their kids do online and establish rules about the use of technology. It is necessary to talk with children about cyberbullying and other issues that may happen online. A parent should know the sites visited by their children, as well as online activities, in which children participate. Parents should tell a child that they may review their online communication. It is also advised to use the monitoring programs, which monitor the child’s online behavior or install parental control filtering software. It is also essential to encourage the children to tell about any cases of being cyberbullied. A parent should be clear about the sites the children visit and show them how to be safe online. Children should know that it is dangerous to share their passwords with friends as it can compromise control over their online activities (“Prevent cyberbullying,” n. d.). In addition, parents need to discuss the issue of cyberbullying with their kids making emphasis on the appropriate use of technologies and Internet safety. Children should know that the use of any technology to hurt or embarrass the feelings of other people contradicts their family values.
Not only youth, parents, educators, and appropriate authority should know about cyberbullying. Lack of authority in cyberspace made it unclear who should respond to cyberbullying resides (the Internet provider, the schools, parents, educators, police, or the website administration.