Bullying has always been a very problematic phenomenon in peer relationships; most typical for the school environment, bullying is characterized with physical and psychological pressure on victims by perpetrators accompanied with various forms of abuse and harassment. For many years, schools have been fighting bullying with a number of strategies and policies, but in the modern age of technology, a new hazard has surfaced – cyber-bullying. While physical bullying encounters are much easier to detect because they happen in reality, cyber-bullying is a much more pervasive and illicit form of bullying causing stress and depression in victims. It is very common and annually causes school absenteeism of over 3 million children, 20% of cyberbullying victims thinking of suicide, and one in 10 attempting it (CyberBullyHotline, 2017). Many more cases go undetected, in which children suffer the stress silently without external assistance. Such dramatic statistics allows concluding that the present-day anti-bullying strategies are ineffective, and there is a need to search for new alternatives to achieve more effective solutions to the problem.
Because of the long-standing history of bullying at schools, a number of programs has been developed to address the issue: school culture changes, social skills training, parental involvement, and interventions for bullies and victims. However, they proved to have only modest success (around 15%), which increased profoundly when the bystanders, i.e., spectators of the bullying event, decided to intervene (Smith et al., 2004). Thus, it is evident that bullying strategies directed towards bullies are not as successful as broader cultural changes urging bystanders not to tolerate the bullying cases, but to intervene and stop them.
Cyber-bullying is even harder to address and prevent, since it usually takes place outside the school, during the hours spent by children at home, at their computers. Kraft and Wang (2009) conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies and found out that children consider restricting access to social networks for bullies, parents’ prohibition to use computers and cell phones, penalty enforcement on the offender (such as community service), and no computer use at school and at home to be the most efficient strategy for curbing cyber-bullying. These findings are highly eloquent about the ways in which cyber-bullying can be stopped – by isolating the bully from technological tools that he or she may use to abuse and harass other people. However, this strategy may also not work well in the long run because of the wide access to technology and free Wi Fi in the majority of public places nowadays, which makes a ban on using technology quite limited in outreach and unrealistic in the modern technologized world.
The issue of holistic approach is what can make anti-bullying programs more effective. As the evidence provided by Cantone et al. (2015) showed, interventions delivered in classrooms and with social skills training alone are ineffective, while interventions the entire school are more constructive in the long run. It is also problematic to evaluate success of anti-bullying measures because much time needs to pass for the school culture changes to be assessed; hence, there is a need for more short-term efficient interventions that may give realistic results and sizeable improvements in terms of cyber-bullying occurrence at present. Parental and teacher involvement, surveys with students, and adequate technology use education seem to be more productive measures for addressing the threat, and they have to be explored in more detail to enable a much safer technology use and Web communication spaces for children.
Cantone, E., Piras, A. P., Vellante, M., Preti, A., Danielsdottir, S., Bhugra, D. (2015). Interventions on bullying and cyberbullying in schools: a systematic review. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology of Mental Health, 11, 58-76.
Cyberbullying rampant on the Internet. (2017). CyberBullyOnline. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/07-10-12-scourge.html
Kraft, E. M., & Wang, J. (2009). Effectiveness of cyber bullying prevention strategies: a study on students’ perceptions. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 3(2), 513-535.
Smith, P., Pepler, D., & Rigby, K. (2004). Bullying in schools: How successful can interventions be?. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
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