Bullies Move Beyond the Schoolyar...
low for conversations with friends in different physical spaces, and provide a virtual tether of sorts for parents, allowing for supervision from afar. Though they are intended to positively contribute to society, negative aspects invari- ably surface as byproducts of the development of new technologies such as these. The nega- tive effects inherent in cyberbullying, though, are not slight or trivial and have the potential to inflict serious psychological, emotional, or social harm. When experienced among mem- bers of this highly impressionable and often volatile adolescent population, this harm can result in violence, injury, and even death (e.g., Meadows et al., 2005 Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002) and later criminality for both the initiator and recipi- ent of bullying (e.g., Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999 Patchin, 2002). One particularly horrendous anecdotal account deserves mention. In May of 2001, viciously offensive mes- sages denigrating and humiliating a high school sophomore girl who suffered from obesity and multiple sclerosis were posted anonymously to an online message board associated with a local high school in Dallas, Texas (Benfer, 2001). In time, the bullying crossed over to the physical world as the victim���s car was vandalized, profanities were written on the sidewalk in front of her home, and a bottle filled with acid was thrown at her front door��� which incidentally burned her mother. This example vividly depicts how bullying online can lead to physical harm offline.1 Little research to date has been conducted on cyberbulling. However, research on the correlates of traditional bullying can assist in comprehending the reality and growth of this new phenomenon. To begin, the desire to be and remain popular takes on almost life-like proportions among kids and teenagers during certain stages of their life, and their self- esteem is largely defined by the way that others view them. Although it is unclear exactly when self-esteem increases or decreases during a child���s life (Twenge & Campbell, 2001), it unquestionably shapes a child���s development in profound ways. According to the social acceptance model, self-esteem stems from the perceptions that others have of the individual (Cooley, 1902). When individuals perceive themselves to be rejected or otherwise socially excluded, a number of ill effects can result (Leary, Schreindorfer, & Haupt, 1995). Much re- search has validated this theory (Leary & Downs, 1995 Leary, Haupt, Strausser, & Chokel, 1998 Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995) and has pointed to the following potentially negative outcomes: depression (Quellet & Joshi, 1986 Smart & Walsh, 1993), substance abuse (Hull, 1981), and aggression (Coie & Dodge, 1988 French & Waas, 1987 Hymel, Rubin, Rowden, & LeMare, 1990 Paulson, Coombs, & Landsverk, 1990 Stewart, 1985). In addition, low self-esteem tends to be found among chronic victims of traditional bullying (Hoover & Hazler, 1991 Neary & Joseph, 1994 Rigby & Slee, 1993).2 It is expected that cyberbullying can similarly cripple the self-esteem of a child or adolescent, and without a support system or prosocial outlets through which to resolve and mitigate the strain, the same dysphoric and maladaptive outcomes may result. Despite these solemn possibilities, there has been very little empirical attention to date devoted toward better understanding the electronic variant of this deviance (exceptions include Berson, Berson, & Ferron, 2002 Finn, 2004 Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004). This research seeks to fill this gap by exploring cyberbullying and examining its po- tential to become as problematic as traditional bullying���particularly with society���s in- creasing reliance on technology. Its goal is to illuminate this novel form of deviance stem- ming from the intersection of communications and computers and to provide a foundational backdrop on which future empirical research can be conducted. First, what is known about traditional bullying will be summarized to provide a comparative point of reference. Sec- ond, data collected from various media sources will be presented to describe the technology Patchin, Hinduja / CYBERBULLYING 149 at Univ. Duisburg on September 28, 2009 http://yvj.sagepub.com Downloaded from
that facilitates electronic bullying and to portray its prevalence. Third, preliminary findings from a pilot study of adolescent Internet users will be presented, highlighting the character- istics of this group and their involvement (both as victims and offenders) in the activity. Fi- nally, suggestions for future empirical research will be offered as guidance for additional exploration of this subject matter. Traditional Bullying Bullying Defined A variety of scholars in the disciplines of child psychology, family and child ecology, sociology, and criminology have articulated definitions of bullying that generally cohere with each other. To begin, the first stages of bullying can be likened to the concept of ha- rassment, which is a form of unprovoked aggression often directed repeatedly toward an- other individual or group of individuals (Manning, Heron, & Marshal, 1978). Bullying tends to become more insidious as it continues over time and is arguably better equated to violence rather than harassment. Accordingly, Roland (1989) states that bullying is ���long- standing violence, physical or psychological, conducted by an individual or a group directed against an individual who is not able to defend himself in the actual situation��� (p. 21).3 Stephenson and Smith (1989) contend that bullying is a form of social interaction in which a more dominant individual [the bully] exhibits ag- gressive behavior which is intended to and does, in fact, cause distress to a less dominant individual [the victim]. The aggressive behavior may take the form of a direct physical and/or verbal attack or may be indirect as when the bully hides a possession that belongs to the victim or spreads false information about the victim. (p. 45) Providing perhaps the most panoptic definition, Nansel et al. (2001) asserted that bul- lying is aggressive behavior or intentional ���harm doing��� by one person or a group, generally carried out repeatedly and over time and that involves a power differential. Many character- istics can imbue an offender with perceived or actual power over a victim and often provide a sophistic license to dominate and overbear. These include, but are not limited to, popular- ity, physical strength or stature, social competence, quick wit, extroversion, confidence, in- telligence, age, sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (Olweus, 1978, 1993, 1999 Rigby & Slee, 1993 Roland, 1980 Slee & Rigby, 1993). Nonetheless, research on the rele- vance of these differences between bullies and their victims has been inconclusive. For ex- ample, differences in physical appearance was not predictive of one���s likelihood of being a bully or a victim (Olweus, 1978), but physical shortness (Voss & Mulligan, 2000) and weakness (Leff, 1999) were found to be relevant in other research. Although the harassment associated with bullying can occur anywhere, the term bul- lying often denotes the behavior as it occurs among youth in school hallways and bath- rooms, on the playground, or otherwise proximal or internal to the school setting. Bullies can also follow their prey to other venues such as malls, restaurants, or neighborhood hang- outs to continue the harassment. In the past, interaction in a physical context was required for victimization to occur. This is no longer the case thanks to the increased prevalence of the Internet, personal computers, and cellular phones. Now, would-be bullies are afforded technology that provides additional mediums over which they can manifest their malice. 150 Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice at Univ. Duisburg on September 28, 2009 http://yvj.sagepub.com Downloaded from
The following sections outline the scope, breadth, and consequences of traditional bullying as a reference point from which cyberbullying can subsequently be viewed and understood. Extent and Effects of Traditional Bullying It is unclear exactly how many youth are bullied or bully others on any given day. In 1982, 49 fifth grade teachers from Cleveland, Ohio, reported that almost one fourth (23%) of their 1,078 students were either victims or bullies (Stephenson & Smith, 1989). More re- cently, a nationally representative study of 15,686 students in grades 6 through 10 identified that approximately 11% of respondents were victims of bullying, 13% were bullies, and 6% were both victims and bullies during a year (Nansel et al., 2001). Additional research con- ducted by the Family Work Institute substantiated these findings through interviews with 1,000 youth in grades 5 through 12. Their study found that 12% of youth were bullied five or more times during the previous month (Galinsky & Salmond, 2002). Finally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 8% of youth between the ages of 12 and 18 had been victims of bullying in the previous 6 months (Devoe et al., 2002). That said, conservative estimates maintain that at least 5% of those in primary and secondary schools (ages 7-16) are victim- ized by bullies each day (Bj��rkqvist, Ekman, & Lagerspetz, 1982 Lagerspetz, Bj��rkqvist, Berts, & King, 1982 Olweus, 1978 Roland, 1980). Many young people are able to shrug off instances of being bullied, perhaps because of peer or familial support or higher self-efficacy. Nonetheless, others are not able to cope in a prosocial or normative manner or reconcile the pain experienced through more serious epi- sodes or actions. Suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and chronic illness have beset many of those who have been tormented by bullies, whereas other victims run away from home (Borg, 1998 Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpel��, Marttunen, Rimpel��, & Rantanen, 1999 Striegel-Moore, Dohm, Pike, Wilfley, & Fairburn, 2002). In addition, depression has been a frequently cited consequence of bullying (e.g., Hawker & Boulton, 2000) and seems to perpetuate into adulthood, evidencing the potentially long-term implications of mistreatment during adoles- cence (Olweus, 1994). Finally, in extreme cases, victims have responded with extreme vio- lence such as physical assault, homicide, and suicide (Patchin, 2002 Vossekuil et al., 2002). Following the fatal shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, the educational system was challenged to address bullying because the two teenagers involved in the massacre were reported to have been ostracized by their classmates. Addi- tional school violence research of 37 incidents involving 41 attackers from 1974 to 2000 found that 71% (29) of the attackers ���felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack��� (Vossekuil et al., 2002, p. 21). It was also determined that the victimization played at least some role in their subsequent violent outburst. Other less serious but equally as negative outcomes can result from repeated bullying. For example, students who are con- stantly harassed may attempt to avoid the problems at school as much as possible, leading to tardiness or truancy (BBC News, 2001 Richardson, 2003 Rigby & Slee, 1999). Truancy has been identified as a significant antecedent to delinquency, dropout, and other undesir- able outcomes in the juvenile justice literature (Farrington, 1980 Garry, 1996 Gavin, 1997 Nansel et al., 2001). Based on these findings, it is clear that victims of bullies are at risk to have a discontinuous developmental trajectory for many years. The aggressors in the bullying dyad also appear to be more likely to engage in antiso- cial activities later in life (Tattum, 1989). For example, approximately 60% of those charac- terized as bullies in grades six through nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, compared to 23% who were not characterized as either bullies or victims (Olweus Patchin, Hinduja / CYBERBULLYING 151 at Univ. Duisburg on September 28, 2009 http://yvj.sagepub.com Downloaded from