Beyond The Playground
Name-calling has become more than playground taunts in the digital age. Cyberbullying, the sending of hurtful messages and images via computer and mobile phones, can humiliate, intimidate and embarrass, and in extreme situations, lead to violence and death. Research data projects that one in five U.S. youngsters has been harassed by cyberbullies. It has an impact on all ages. Meeting with elementary school students and teachers, it is often unsettling to see the show of hands of those who have been cyberbullied during online games played on their phones.
There’s a difference between trash-talking during play and telling a seven year old to drink poison and die. In most cases, the consequences are not long lasting, provided that intervention and treatment occurs quickly and effectively. Traditionally, youngsters with physical, intellectual or emotional distinctions were picked on more often than average children. One out of two kids with observable differences were bullied. That’s more than twice – nearly three times – as often as the one-in-five norm.
The computer era has leveled the field. Cyberbullying, research shows, has a democratizing influence. Youngsters with disabilities appear to be bullied at the same rate as other children are bullied. The reason for the shift appears to be that the kids who are “different” now can fight back. They often have computer skills as good as or better than their attackers.
Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology, and Joe Mazer, Associate Professor of Communications at Clemson University discuss cyberbullying, its impact on society and how to prevent it.