Bullying hits the Internet
A 13-year-old Missouri girl committed suicide earlier this year after she felt jilted by a 16-year-old boy, who turned out to not exist, in messages on her MySpace page.
In April, a video of a fight in the Madison Central High School cafeteria was posted for several days and viewed more than 800 times on the popular YouTube Web site. Music and derogatory remarks were added to the video.
Both incidents, along with countless others across the country and the globe, are part of the ever-growing trend of cyberbullying.
“It can have a very great impact on children’s psychosocial well-being,” said Dan Florell, an assistant psychology professor at Eastern Kentucky University who does research in the area of technology and cyberbullying. “While it may not be as damaging as traditional bullying in some respects, in some respects it’s even worse because a lot of time children can’t get away from the cyberbullying.”
“Also, when the bullying occurs in the older form, you may have five or six kids who see it happen,” he said. “Nowadays, you could have a worldwide audience potentially. I also think there’s a level of hatefulness or meanness that you can discover in cyberbullying that you may not have in regular bullying because the person making the comments a lot of times is anonymous.”
Florell has been involved in the technological aspects of psychology for eight years.However, it was not until an assistant principal at Model Lab School brought up the issue about four years ago did he learn about cyberbullying.
About two years ago, he started exploring it deeper as more and more research started coming out.Florell, who will be starting his ninth year at EKU, recently worked with a colleague in Singapore who surveyed 200 to 300 middle school students about cyberbullying and issues surrounding it.He then surveyed 600
students in central Kentucky, and the duo are in the process of analyzing data.
“Trying to stop it completely is going to be very hard,” Florell said. “What you can do is make yourself open to children and let them know that you will do your best to take action. What they’re finding with the research is that a vast majority of children do not want to tell their parents and administrators and school personnel that this is happening.”
“What they fear most, even more than the bullying in many cases, is that their parents will say that there is no more computer, cell phone or whatever,” he said. “For them, that is like taking away the car keys, taking away phone privileges from when adults today were growing up.” ...