8/10/10: Two cyberbullying items
1. A good overview of cyberbullying, with references, from the organization CommonSenseMedia.
Common Sense Media on cyberbullying
2. A short NY Times article which features tips about how to adjust social media sites, etc. to block cyberbullying. It's not clear how effective such techniques can be, especially given that most cyberbullying, as far as we know, occurs between kids who know each other from the same school buildings and/or communities. But it's still good information for kids (and parents) to have.
Times cyberbullying tips
6/3/08: A new book by on cyberbullying just came out. See the attached review for a good critique. The book is targeted for an academic/clinical audience, so the price (at least in first hardcover publication) is high ($80). A paperback edition is very likely, if not inevitable, so the cost will come down soon. As the review (below) indicates, the book can be useful for parents (and schools) looking for guidance. This is not surprising in that one of the authors is Susan Limber, PhD, one of Olweus' major U.S. associates and the lead consultant for the HRSA website (www.stopbullyingnow.org). An interesting point the reviewer (a psychiatrist, I believe) makes is that cyberbullying and 'offline' bullying (school-based, mainly) may be different phenomena in some fundamental ways, which has big implications for addressing it effectively. On the other hand, the harm cyberbullying does and the way in which it does it will seem very familiar to a target of bullying generally. Also, the key understanding contributed by Olweus - that adults are primarily responsible for the bullying which occurs between children - seems as applicable to cyberbullying as to bullying. Anyway, here's the review:
Book review - cyberbullying
6/3/08: Here's an article from E-School News about cyberbullying which does a very good job of reviewing some aspects of the issue, in the course of a story mainly about a girl's cyberbullying-related suicide and the way in which the girl's mother has found great meaning in working to address the issue. The death of Megan Meier of Missouri has become another of the tragedies which draw attention to bullying and unfortunately one of the only type of event that ultimately creates a change in societal attitudes and actions. Her situation had the unique aspect of an adult apparently being the person targeting the girl (in this case by creating a false persona of an adolescent boy on a social networking site and using that to attract and then harass and verbally assault the girl). The article benefits from comments by Nancy Willard, who has become (in the view of many) the country's leading advocate and expert (as a lawyer) on cyberbullying. The quality of her comments is very strong, including her understanding that some of the talk and outreach to kids about cyberbullying can indeed be - as she calls it - "fearmongering" and not helpful. Here's the article:
ESchool News cyberbullying article
5/9/08: Worth noting »» Facebook has just reached an agreement to try to curb cyberbullying. (See AP news article, below.) Coming on top of the prior MySpace agreement reached with the NY AG, this is a good development. As we've argued, social networking sites are just as responsible for the bullying which takes place on and through their sites as schools are responsible for what takes place in their settings and between students. As Nancy Willard points out (in her book, "Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats," the websites have always failed to live up to their intentions (and the law) in terms of addressing this issue. The combination of increased public awareness of bullying (spurred, as always, by the publicized tragedies associated with bullying) and legal involvement (the state Attorneys General, in this case) is producing some change, thank goodness! It's important to note that it remains to be seen how actively and meaningfully these agreements are implemented. One of the results of the MySpace agreement (which Facebook has now joined) is simply the ongoing work of a Task Force to develop further means to address the issue - so there is clearly more to implement and accomplish. And we can note (as the article below describes) that Texas AG did not join the agreement (with Facebook), apparently feeling not enough was accomplished. So it clearly goes on ... .
AP article re Facebook agreement 5-9-08
2/08: Good discussion of developments in cyberbullying law and related school actions, provided by National School Boards Association:
NSBA Legal Clips cyberB 2-08
12/07: This page hasn't been updated in ages, so ...
The organization described below (in the '05 note), I-Safe, is still available and has been used by a number of NJ schools. I haven't had recent contact or looked into them so I'm only assuming they're still a non-profit organization using the materials I looked through in '05. At that time they had a federal grant allowing them to provide training at no cost (as I recall) - I don't know if that's still true - there are costs for their materials listed on their site. The impression their site and current materials convey is that they're focused on internet safety generally, and not on cyber-bullying specifically. A lot of organizations look at cyberbullying as an aspect of internet safety generally. That may or may not be the most useful way to view it. As the Megan Meier case and other tragedies demonstrate, the suffering which occurs through cyberbullying is certainly severe. And, as mentioned below, much cyberbullying occurs as an extension or - or related to - relationships which exist 'offline', especially in school, where most bullying still occurs. As with bullying generally, cyberbullying may require a very specific focus and approach. In any case, I-Safe is one resource.
However, the expertise in which I have the most confidence at this point is Nancy Willard's. (She is also highly recommended by Dr. Michael Greene, the Coalition's research director.) Willard's website is www.cyberbully.org and her (new - '07) book, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats, is an excellent resource for this issue.
See also the 'Research' page, for articles or links re cyberbullying. Here's another one (from eSchool News). The link leads to their story about cyberbullying, which contains links to other resources.
Last, also cited on our 'Research' page, is this item: A bunch of new studies on cyberbullying, published in Journal of Adolescent Health (Dec 07), with a link provided by the NY Times (in an article on cyberbullying - see 'News' page for link). Link to the journal is: http://www.jahonline.org/content/suppl07
(Clicking on each study pdf, at the site, should open full article)
8/07: New cyberbullying law, which essentially adds electronic bullying to the issues schools must address in their anti-bullying policies.
Cyberbullying law NJ
5/05: Good cyberbullying resource!
At the recent (5/17/05) Cyberbullying conference held in Trenton by the NJ Attorney General's Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations, one of the main presenters was the organization I-Safe (already one of our recommended resource websites at www.i-safe.org). Having previously reviewed their material (courtesy of OBCCR) and now having heard their presentation, I'm convinced it's a good resource, available right now, for schools and communities wishing to address cyberbullying. Their material is well-developed, sensitive to bullying issues, reasonable and useful. They are a non-profit provider, funded by U.S. Department of Justice, and their consultation (and materials) are therefore free (a very important consideration, both because it removes a barrier to implementation and ensures that no one is unduly profiting from addressing bullying) . They are also very flexible and willing to work with any interested parties, including parents. They can be easily contacted through their website: www.i-safe.org and their services are available nationally. There are still three caveats (or reasons for caution):
(1) that cyberbullying is still not much studied and we therefore have only limited evidence-based knowledge of it and how to prevent it (though we're assuming - with some reason - that the same methods known to effectively address bullying generally will also be effective for cyberbullying);
(2) organizations such as I-Safe were created to address internet safety (for children) generally and cyberbullying is sort of an 'add-on' issue (though a very reasonable one); and
(3) In a school in which bullying is not being adequately addressed (e.g., 'school-wide'), adding I-Safe alone will not adequately protect bullied children - even from its target, cyberbullying - and doing I-Safe in such a school essentially constitutes a 'one-shot' and therefore inadequate approach. However, even acknowledging these points, I-Safe has a lot going for it and would probably be very helpful. Strongly recommended.
Cyberbullying Information (rev. 4/05)
NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying in which the bullying is done via computer, cell phone or similar devices, via instant messaging, text messaging, email, etc.
Coverage in the media suggests that cyberbullying is growing rapidly, and some experts agree.
Cyberbullying appears to have some unique qualities, including:
- the ability to bully anonymously,
- a large and quickly assembled population of bullies and bystanders able to focus on one target,
- the ability to quickly shift from one target to another,
- bullying which is less easily observable by adults and other observers, more difficult for helpful bystanders and friends to 'buffer' the target from the bullying, and
- more use of creative methods - such as internet videos - to bully.
With few systematic studies of the phenomenon available at present, existing expertise in internet safety generally - much of it from a law enforcement perspective - is being used to create common sense guidelines for adults and children coping with cyberbullying. (See the links below for cyberbullying website resources.)
In NJ, Barbara Buono, the state legislator who helped create and pass NJ's anti-bullying law, has proposed a cyberbullying law, not yet passed: it would extend NJ's existing anti-bullying law to this new form.
The major issue which needs to be acknowledged and addressed in dealing with cyberbullying is to make clear that schools must address cyberbullying. Even though it mostly does not take place on school 'grounds', the bullying is most often occurring between students, most often between students at the same school, often addresses or extends issues or conflicts which occur in school, and has great impact on relations between students. For those reasons, schools must address cyberbullying.
There are already some websites which contain useful material about cyberbullying:
For more information, contact NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention at (908) 522-2581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent NJ media coverage of the issue:
Cyberbullying article 4-22-05 NJ CourierPost
Cyberbullying article 5-4-05 NJ CourierPost
Good cyberbullying article from an on-line news station:
CBC News Indepth Bullying
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