International Psychological Perspectives on Cyber Bullying

Institutional Affiliation
International Psychological Perspectives on Cyber Bullying
Scholars have defined cyber bullying in a myriad ways with some of these
definitions overlapping between them. Price and Dalgliesh (2010) have
defined the term as the collective tag for all the types of bullying
which use electronic means including mobile devices and the internet to
belligerently and deliberately harm an individual. According to Stewart
and Fritch (2011), cyber bullying is committed through electronic means,
and it comprises of unwanted harassing behavior which is intrinsically
negative. Patchin and Hinduja (2006) on the other hand say that the term
is used to mean the intentional and repeated harm to an individual
perpetrated through electronic text. From the definitions above it is
apparent that the scholars agree that cyber bullying is perpetrated
through electronic means. Nonetheless, the researchers have not
universally agreed on the right definition for the term as they all
provide broad terms in their definitions.
Cyber bullying is a phenomenon that has become so apparent amongst
teens, adolescents and the young adults. This young group either acts as
recipients or perpetrators of the threatening and victimizing behavior
(Shariff, 2008). They are able to achieve this through the use of modern
technologies including social networking sites, emails, Internet
communities, mobile devices and chat rooms. Cyber bullying incidences
have predominantly heightened amongst school age students, especially
those that are residents of the technologically advanced nations such as
Japan, America, Canada and China. Several studies have been carried out
with regards to cyber bullying, its impacts and prevalence. These
studies have revealed that in America, about 57 percent of the school
age students have at some point received cyber bullying (Hinduja &
Patchin, 2006). Besides, the studies indicate that most schools and the
teachers as well are not aware of the prevalence of cyber bullying and
the physical problems, as well as psycho-emotional issues that arise
from the receipt and perpetuation of it. As such, this paper aims at
deliberating the psychological impacts cyber bullying has on school age
students especially in America, Canada, Japan and China with reference
to victimization, psychology and technology.
International Prevalence
Cyber bullying is a phenomenon not only confined to the United States as
it has rapidly become a universal social issue necessitating immediate
attention (Mckenna, 2007). Whilst schools and societies are not quick to
responding to the heightened prevalence of cyber bullying, the scholars
interested in bringing out the truth behind the phenomenon have explored
the term and defined it as a means by which certain individuals use
advanced technologies and conspire to harm others. They have reported
that cyber bullying entails sending aggressive messages or emails to
other individuals to threaten or criticize them. Also, it includes
posting embarrassing videos and pictures without someone’s permission,
spreading malicious rumors, setting up a disparaging site to derogate
the victim, hacking the victim’s sites such as emails to damage their
reputation and relationships, attacking the victim anonymously using
avatars, relaying the victim’s personal information and excluding them
from the social circle (Shariff, 2008).
Cyber bullying prevalence is dependent on the definition of the term and
the age and gender of the victim. According to studies, around 15
percent to 57 percent of the United States school age children have
suffered cyber bullying (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). The studies further
reveal that about 34 percent between the 7 and 11 grades have been
bullied through the media awareness network. In Japan, studies indicate
that 45 percent of the students in high school, 67 percent of the
students in middle school and 10 percent of those in elementary school
had been victims of cyber bullying at some time in their lives. More
than 60 percent of the school age students in China have also suffered
cyber bullying. In America, about 90 percent of the student population
use computers and about 59 percent have an easy access to the internet.
Of these students, 22 percent mostly those aged 12 to 17 years disclosed
owning a personal web site. In Canada, 94 percent of the school age
students (grades 4 to 11), access internet from their homes and most of
them later acquire their personal connected computers to the internet.
About 28 percent of those in the 4th grade and 86 percent of the 11th
graders are instant messengers. 70 percent of students in the United
Kingdom have home internet access and 75 percent of these students carry
their mobile devices to school (Shariff, 2008). In china, more than 40
percent of the students in high school own computers and are internet
connected. 63 percent of this number own mobile devices. On the other
hand, the survey results in Japan indicate that about 95 percent of the
students in high school, 40 percent of those in middle school and 21
percent of the children in elementary school own cell phones and have
internet access.
Apparently, internet space is an ideal square for school age students as
it provides them with many like-minded friends and enhances their
self-expression. From the rapid globalization and technological
advancements, it is estimated that more students will have access to
mobile devices and internet each year across the globe. As revealed by
studies, technological equipment continues to get smaller, more
interactive, and faster (Willard, 2007). This is a clear indication that
cyber bullying occurrences will continue to rise universally. As such,
it is important for parents and educators to understand the varied
facets of cyber bullying and prepare for measures to curb the menace and
address its impacts on the victims.
From a cross-cultural comparison of school age students from China and
Canada on their experiences with cyber bullying indicated that about a
quarter of the 7th grade students from Canada were victims of cyber
bullying and that the prevalence was higher amongst the Chinese students
(33 percent). About 15 percent of the students from Canada and 7 percent
of those from China admitted to have been perpetrators of cyber
In a study carried out in 2009, about 666 college students from Turkey
were recruited to research on cyber bullying (Dilmac, 2009). 22.5
percent of these students admitted to have harassed someone using
electronic means at least once. 3 percent were solely perpetrators and
had not been victims ever. About 19 percent fell in both categories as
they were once perpetrators and bully victims at the same time. The
largest group (more than half the students, 55 percent) is those that
disclosed that they were once victims of cyber bullying in their
lifetime. In another study carried out in 2010 on school age students
in Australia who had identified themselves as cyber bullying victims,
about half stated they had been victims of cyber bullying at the age of
10 to 12 years, 52 percent between 13 and 15 years, and 29 percent
between 15 to 16 years (Price & Dalgleish, 2010). The students also
reported to have been victimized more than once. The study revealed that
email (21 percent), social networking web sites (20 percent), online
chat rooms (20 percent), and mobile devices (19 percent) were the most
common means of perpetrating the harassment (Price & Dalgleish, 2010).
The social-cultural context plays a major role in influencing bullying
behaviors either online or offline. Some scholars have put forth that in
collective cultures such as Asian cultures (China and Japan) in which
much emphasis is on a collective move to preserve harmony, social
conformity hence becomes an integral part in bullying (Hinjuda &
Patchin, 2007). For instance, in Japan, bullying entails a group of
students ganging up to harass another student. In such a case, the by
standers will not intervene as it is from this collective unit they get
their identity. The bullying behavior in these cultures involves the use
of indirect bullying tactics of spreading rumors through electronic
Psychological effects of cyber bullying
Research indicates many dimensions which impact negatively on the school
lives of school age students (Shariff, 2008). Many factors have been
linked to cyber bullying and victimization. The fast factor is
engagement of offline victimization by the student. This is because it
is supposed that there is a link between cyber bullying and offline
bullying. The second contributing factor is gender. According to
studies, gender contributes significantly to cyber bullying. It is
reported by scholars that compared to female students, the male students
have a higher probability of being victims as well as perpetrators of
cyber bullying. This is because male students are known to use aversive
tactics with their school mates.
Culture has been named as the third factor. Apparently, cyber bullying
is now a global issue with evidence from a myriad of nations including
America, Canada, Japan and China. Albeit, cyber bullying is indentified
across the globe, research indicates that different students from
different nations and cultures react differently to it. According to a
survey on the effects of cyber bullying, some students have shown no
reaction at all while others have been largely affected to a point of
contemplating suicide (Willard, 2007). This is said to be because of the
different religions and beliefs held by different cultures.
Advancements and use of technology also enhances cyber bullying to a
great extent. Cyber bullying is perpetrated in cyber space and limiting
the opportunities to access to technology lowers the chances of
involvements to cyber bullying and victimization. Therefore, the
frequency with which school age students’ access technology increases
cyber harassments. Lastly, academic performance has been termed as a
contributing factor to cyber bullying and victimization. Past studies on
cyber bullying reveal that academic pressure (teachers and students’
expectations) triggers the bullying behavior in some students. The
students in schools with a high academic pressure are less likely to
bully as compared to students in schools with lower academic pressure.
Irrespective of how the student perpetrators go about the cyber
bullying, the student victims suffer negatively from the harassment
(Hinduja & Patchin, 2006).
Scholars have reported various psychological effects of cyber bullying
as noted in victims. Apparently, the school age students who experience
cyber bullying have academic problems because they are preoccupied and
distressed. According to Li (2007), about 24.9 percent of the victims of
cyber bullying disclosed that their school grades dropped due to
victimization. Besides, most teachers have reported that the grades of
the victims drop sharply, while others experience such academic problems
as increased detentions and cutting classes. Some even no longer
perceive school as a safe place to be. Scholars sustain this theory and
state that most academic and social problems are linked to cyber
bullying. They range from school absenteeism, eating disorders,
withdrawal from the activities being carried out in school, school
failure, substance abuse, depression, as well as suicide and suicide
attempts (Snakenborg et al. 2011). On this note, the American
researchers puts forth that in relation to the impacts of cyber
bullying, little research has been carried out, and suggests that unlike
cyber bullying, school bullying is mostly responsible for poor academic
performance as since it is carried out within the school context while
cyber bullying happens outside the school. They further argue that, it
is uncertain as to what level cyber bullying affects a victim’s
academic performance.
The most important psychological impacts are said to be anxiety and
depression. Depression has also been linked to cyber bullying
victimization, with victims disclosing heightened sadness, anxiety and
anger (Ybarra, 2004). Most school age students who reported receiving
unwanted sexual solicitation through electronic medium were about 3.5
times more likely to face depression (Ybarra, 2004). In gender terms,
the male students were 2.5 times while the female students were 2 times
as likely to admit facing depression symptoms after experiencing sexual
solicitations online. Similarly, school age students who have
experienced online racial discrimination report negative psychological
impacts. The middle aged students especially those in high school who
have faced racial discrimination online are highly susceptible to
anxiety and depression, with the girls being at a higher risk than the
boys (Tynes, 2008).
Issues of self-esteem have also been noted as a psychological impact of
cyber bullying. The problems have been noted in both the victims and
perpetrators of cyber bullying. Coupled with the heightened anxiety and
depression, it is anticipated why suicide as a result of cyber bullying
and victimization has become a social issue of concern. A study was
carried out on 2,000 middle school age students. The study reported that
suicidal ideation was apparent amongst the victims and/or victims of
cyber bullying (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). Being a victim exhibited
stronger predictor of suicidal attempts. The victims were about 1.9
times more probable while the perpetrators were 1.5 times likely to
commit suicide.
From their study, Price and Dalgliesh (2010) reported that cyber
bullying impacted mostly on self-esteem and self-confidence. In
addition, the American researchers also ascertained this when in their
online research on over 20,000 school age students they reported that
the cyber bullying victims were highly susceptible to mental health
issues (Schneider et al. 2012). Of all the responses given, most of the
victims disclosed that they were victims of depression. About 9.4
percent reported that they had contemplated suicide. It is important to
note that even the respondents who reported never to have been victims
of cyber bullying (about 2 percent) had also attempted suicide.
In contrast some studies indicated that cyber bullying had no impact on
some of the school age students either on their emotional and mental
wellbeing, self-esteem, use of social media and school attendance. This
can be supported by a research carried out in 2007 to the American’s
junior and high school students (Hinjuda & Patchin, 2007). The study
revealed that approximately 37.7 percent of the junior and 34.5 percent
of the senior high school students were not at all being disturbed by
the experiences of cyber bullying.
Evidently, there is a clear relationship between cyber bullying and
mental health issues (Hinjuda & Patchin, 2007). However, when analyzing
data, it is paramount to note that remarkable inconsistencies exist in
the findings from various researchers. As put forth by the American
researchers, it is important to note that school age students are
vulnerable to suicidal tendencies, depressive emotions and emotional
instabilities irrespective of being or not being cyber bullying victims.
It is not surprising that some parents and educators tend to view cyber
bullying as an act only committed by students facing certain problems.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that with the new information technology
hardware, application innovations and software being part of the lives
of contemporary school age students, the way they bully their peers has
also evolved with this technology.
The effects of cyber bullying are intense as the embarrassing and
hurtful message is sent across to a large number of people within no
time. For example, a boy in high school dropped out of school in Canada
after his friends found an embarrassing video of him where he was posing
as a stars wars, and as a joke they circulated it through the internet
and it ended up being the most downloaded video from the internet in
2006 (Mckenna, 2007). Other than the victim, this can cause harassment
to those who have a close relationship with the victim. The involvement
of a large number of bystanders makes the victim helpless. Moreover, the
humiliating content posted on the internet is hard to entirely delete,
and can easily be copied and forwarded to other people. Scholars argue
that the proof of victimization and harassment lasts almost forever
(Mckenna, 2007). Majority of the cyber bully victims do not have even
the slightest ideas of who could be bullying them. From the many
researches carried out on most students on cyber bullying, about half of
them never knew who their bullies were. As a result of this anonymity,
negative impacts and fear could be amplified and this could make the
victimized individuals to doubt their friends and are reluctant to seek
help where need be.
There are a number of reasons that have been put forth as to why despite
the distressing effects of cyber bullying on victims, many fail to seek
help. The school age students have disclosed that they would not seek
help from their teachers in case of a cyber bullying incident due to a
number of reasons (Tynes, 2008). These students
Dread that their peers will stigmatize them as informants
Dread that the perpetrator will retaliate
Are concerned that this may put their peers in trouble with the school
and their parents
Are convinced that this is not a school issue as it mostly takes place
out of school
Fear that their parents will limit their usage of the internet.
From a survey carried out on the school age students who sought help
from an organization’s cyber bullying helpline in Canada, it is
evident that the decision to seek out teachers or parental assistance in
cyber bullying incidences is dependent on whether the victim is
convinced of the motives of the perpetrator. The respondent students
expressed fear of being punished or restricted from internet use if they
involved their guardians. They argued that the teachers and/or their
parents would not understand the cyber world.
In a recent study released by the Department of Justice in the United
States on cyber bullying through mobile phones indicated that cyber
bullying by test messages has become a common issue. The report revealed
that in 2006, about 23 percent of the victims reported to have been
harassed through emails and text messages by the perpetrators. Further,
the report put forth that due to the rapid technological advancements
it has become easy for the perpetrators to monitor their victims and as
such have continued to harass them (Schneider et al. 2012). This
notwithstanding, the victims are made to incur a cost of 20 cents for
every harassing text they receive. This then poses the question, how
best can the school age students be protected from technological
harassment? Many states across the globe have anti-cyber bullying laws
but the issue continues to be prevalent. Therefore, the students, their
parents and the school personnel need to work together to curb the
problem (Stewart & Fritsch, 2011).
Clearly, studies indicate that cyber bullying is more ubiquitous and it
occurs anytime. As a result, its negative psychological impacts such as
anxiety, depression and reduced self-esteem are longer lasting and
severe. School age students do not turn off their computers or cell
phones in case of bullying incidences as many adults would do since
communication and the connectivity to the world is a major tool of their
communication (Mckenna, 2007). In an attempt to save themselves, the
victims can opt to change their phone numbers, email addresses, and
screen names. However, this is only a temporal solution to the menace
since they will still continue using the internet and the bullies can
always find them.
Globalization and the rapid technological advancements influences the
manner in which the cyber bullies monitor and control the movements of
their victims through the use of wireless video cameras, global
positioning systems and mobile phones (Mckenna, 2007). Correspondingly,
the perpetrators are using internet technology to determine the
movements and plans of the victims. Victims who are not aware of cyber
bullying and are not technologically sophisticated, they may be at a
risk of disclosing relevant information to the perpetrator. For
instance, the cyber bullies can monitor or read the emails of the victim
by looking at the histories of the website browsers or retrieving their
deleted emails. The sophisticated programs such as hardware, software or
spyware allow the cyber bullies to monitor the computers of their
victims without their knowledge (Tynes, 2008). By installing these
programs, the abuser is able to receive alerts reporting what their
victims are up to including the web sites they visit and the emails they
receive or send. The bullies can also use hardware devices that are
plugged to the computer of the victim to record everything they save or
Cyber bullying is perpetrated through electronic means and there is no a
universally agreed definition of the term. However, the term can be used
to mean the collective tag for all the types of bullying which use
electronic means including mobile devices and the internet to
belligerently and deliberately harm an individual. Cyber bullying is
catalyzed by a number of factors including academic achievement, gender,
technology, engagement to offline victimization and culture. The paper
discusses a number of psychological impacts of cyber bullying and they
include academic problems since the victims are preoccupied and
distressed, depression and anxiety, school absenteeism, eating
disorders, withdrawal from the activities being carried out in school,
school failure, and substance abuse, as well as suicide and suicide
attempts, and issues of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Clearly, the nature of the phenomena cyber bullying directs us to a
broader background and developmental aspects. In context, the school age
children are not cyber bullied in school as the abusers mostly carry out
their acts at homes and in outside areas. What is more is that with the
fact that cyber bullying takes place outside a school setting and within
cyber space any age group can take part in the cyber bullying acts. It
is recommended that in a more detailed manner the motives of cyber
bullying be explored and contrasted since there are some significant
cultural and national differences related to cyber bullying that call
for explanations. Researchers feel that if individuals and nations are
able to face the challenges that come with cyber bullying, and build on
the opportunity it offers, in a way the abuse of new technologies will
be reduced (Willard, 2007). Resultantly, cyber space will be a free
ground that is happy and satisfying for human interactions.
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