Smartphones Drive latest wave of cyber-bullying

Wow! What a headline!? At least that’s what a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald claims.

Really? So if we just get rid of these smartphones, we can solve the whole problem of cyber-bullying right?

Of course not! (And in fairness the article itself doesn’t claim this.) But is there something in the premise? What is really causing cyber-bullying?

In the article based on some recent research into cyber-bullying, it is revealed that rarely do those people who engage in actual physical bullying transfer this aggression into cyber-bullying. A different type of person is likely to engage in cyber-bullying.

Victims of Cyber Bullying will often become withdrawn – image by http://www.flickr.com/people/wentongg/ used under Creative Commons – Attribution licence

But for us, the most interesting piece of the picture is only briefly mentioned in the article:

“It was also possible, she said, that teenagers might act impulsively online because they were remote from the distress caused by their behaviour. ”In cyberspace you don’t have the visual cues,” she said.”

Here, the author hints at one of the cornerstones of cyber-bullying. In this scenario, the bully is removed from the context of the victim. They don’t see the pain and hurt that their actions cause. Once that tweet, or Facebook post, or SMS has been sent into cyber-space they no longer have a reference context. This is one of the reasons why people who engage in regular bullying aren’t always the same as those who are cyber bullies. There’s also clearly a different skill set involved. The regular bully will often rely on physical size and intimidation, however, the cyber savvy bully is likely to be far more comfortable with using technology to make their point.

There are a number of warning signs that might indicate the instance of cyber-bullying:

  • Withdrawal from regular friendships and activities
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Falling performance at school
  • Negative self perception
  • Becoming agitated when receiving text messages or when using technology

Regular, open and honest communication with your children will help you detect any instances of cyber-bullying, and to seek assistance to prevent any further bullying.

So is the smartphone REALLY driving cyber-bullying? Of course not. We must recognise that our fallen nature takes advantage of the opportunities for cyber-bullying that this new technology provides us. As we engage with this new technology, it is important that we examine ourselves, and help our children to do the same so that our sinful nature does not pervert the use of this good technology.

Links 

>> Image by Wentongg – Creative Commons

>>a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald

About Dave

Dave is passionate about the use of technology in education, and helping students to develop a biblical understanding of digital technology. Dave is currently teaching at Covenant Christian School.