Cyberbullying Warning Signs

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on October 24, 2014

By Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin

To be sure, it is often difficult to determine whether behavioral or attitudinal changes in youth are signals of distress or simply the usual “adolescent angst” commonly associated with this difficult transitional period in their lives. Nevertheless, it is important for educators, parents, and other adults to learn to read the behavior of their students and children so that real problems can be detected, diagnosed, and promptly handled. A number of red flags may suggest that a child is experiencing some type of distressing event while online. Identifying these indicators may help to minimize the negative emotional and psychological effects of Internet-based harm.

From: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications (978-1483349930).

Download PDF

Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: Identification, Prevention, and Response

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on October 9, 2014

By Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin

This document is a nine-page summary – filled with as much useful information as possible – to equip educators and parents to spot cyberbullying, respond to it appropriately and meaningfully, and to prevent its future occurrence among the children and teenagers they care for. If you only have time to read one fact sheet from the Cyberbullying Research Center to get up-to-speed about the problem and what you can do, read this one.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2014). Cyberbullying fact sheet: Identification, Prevention, and Response. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response.pdf

Download PDF

Cyberbullying Research: 2013 Update

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on November 20, 2013

cyberbullying-bwIt’s been nearly three years since I posted a summary of the current state of cyberbullying research on this blog.  That post was inspired by my concern that no researchers were included on a panel that testified to the Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities on the topic of how teens were using and misusing technology.  I was troubled then, and remain concerned that quality research about cyberbullying has not been making it into mainstream discussions in the media, even though research in this area has flourished.  I want to take a moment to update readers on what we know about cyberbullying based on our research – and that of others who have been exploring this problem.

Our Studies

Over the last decade, Sameer and I have surveyed nearly 15,000 middle and high school students in nine different studies from over 80 different schools throughout the United States. The first two studies were online exploratory samples used to obtain a general understanding of the problem, so the numbers obtained are higher than average and not representative because they only include online teens who volunteered to participate. Our seven most recent studies, however, have all been random samples of known populations in schools so we can be fairly confident in the reliability and validity of the data obtained (click here for more information about the methodology). Overall, about 24% of the students we have surveyed over the last seven studies have told us that they have been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetimes. About 8% said they were cyberbullied in the 30 days preceding the survey.  Similarly, about 16% of those who we surveyed admitted that they had cyberbullied others at some point in their lifetimes (about 6% in the most recent 30 days).

Other Published Research

This past summer, Sameer and I (along with one of my undergraduate students) reviewed all of the published research we could find that included prevalence rates for cyberbullying. This work built on our earlier effort to quantitatively summarize published cyberbullying articles which we wrote about in our book Cyberbullying Prevention and Response: Expert Perspectives (see especially chapter 2). In total, we have now reviewed 73 articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Fifty-one of those included cyberbullying victimization rates and 42 included cyberbullying offending rates. As you can see from the charts below (click to enlarge), rates across all of the studies ranged widely, from 2.3% to 72% for victimization and from 1.2% to 44.1% for offending. The average across all of these studies was remarkably similar to the rates that we found in our work (about 21% of teens have been cyberbullied and about 15% admitted to cyberbullying others at some point in their lifetimes). Taken as a whole, it seems safe to conclude that about one out of every four teens has experienced cyberbullying, and about one out of every six teens has done it to others.


A couple of other broad generalizations can be made about cyberbullying, based on recent research:

– Adolescent girls are just as likely, if not more likely than boys to experience cyberbullying (as a victim and offender) (Floros et al., 2013; Kowalski et al., 2008; Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Schneider et al., 2012)

– Cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems (Brighi et al., 2012; Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Kowalski & Limber, 2013; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010; Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011)

– Cyberbullying is related to other issues in the ‘real world’ including school problems, anti-social behavior, substance use, and delinquency (Hinduja & Patchin, 2007; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Kowalski & Limber, 2013)

– Traditional bullying is still more common than cyberbullying (Lenhart, 2007; Smith et al., 2008; Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011)

– Traditional bullying and cyberbullying are closely related: those who are bullied at school are bullied online and those who bully at school bully online (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Kowalski & Limber, 2013; Ybarra, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2007).

Cyberbullying Trends

There are only two studies that we are aware of that have explored cyberbullying experiences over time.  The first analysis was conducted by our friends at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Examining the three waves of the Youth Internet Safety Survey (2000, 2005, 2010), they find a slight increase in cyberbullying behaviors over that time period (from 6% to 9% to 11%). The second data source is the School Crime Supplement of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). In 2011, 9% of students said they were cyberbullied compared to 6.2% in 2009.  Since the NCVS data are weighted to represent the entire population of 12-18 year-olds enrolled in grades 6 through 12, we can estimate that about 2.2 million students experienced cyberbullying in 2011, up from about 1.5 million in 2009. Overall, even though we don’t have a lot of good research to go on, it seems reasonable to presume a slight increase in cyberbullying behaviors over the last few years.

I should acknowledge, however, that a recent poll from MTV and the AP released last month seemed to suggest a decrease in cyberbullying behaviors. I haven’t been able to examine the full methodology of that poll so it is difficult to know exactly what is going on, but I am suspicious since the numbers reported overall (49% cyberbullied in 2013 compared to 56% in 2011) are significantly higher than those in the peer-reviewed published literature that I summarized above.

Snapshot of Some Recent Data

We also just collected data (October, 2013) from about 400 students at one middle school (ages ranged from 11-14) in the Midwest. We haven’t had a chance to fully examine the results, but here are some quick stats:

– 97.5% have been online in the previous 30 days
– 63% have a cell phone
– 45% are on Facebook
– 42% are on Instagram
– 11.5% have been the target of cyberbullying in the previous 30 days (boys: 6.8%; girls: 16.0%)
– 3.9% have cyberbullied others in the previous 30 days (boys: 0.6%; girls: 6.9%)

Where Do We Go From Here

We have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, but more research is still necessary. Public attention to the problem of cyberbullying is at an all-time high. As such, good research is necessary to contribute evidence-based insight into the nature of this problem and its possible solutions. Cyberbullying scholarship must continue to advance by improving methodological standards, including the use of validated measures, representative samples, and, where possible, longitudinal data. Supplementing quantitative findings with those from thoughtful and comprehensive qualitative inquiries will also help to better understand the precise nature of some of these relationships. With these considerations in mind, research will be better able to inform the public conversation about cyberbullying in a way that equips educators, parents, policy makers, and others with the information they need to make a positive difference in the lives of adolescents, online and offline.

References

Brighi, A., Melotti, G., Guarini, A., Genta, M. L., Ortega, R., Mora-Merchán, J., Smith, P. K. and Thompson, F. (2012). Self-Esteem and Loneliness in Relation to Cyberbullying in Three European Countries, in Cyberbullying in the Global Playground: Research from International Perspectives (eds Q. Li, D. Cross and P. K. Smith), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK.

Floros, G.D., Simos, K. E., Fisoun, V., Dafouli, E., and Geroukalis, D. (2013). Adolescent online cyberbullying in Greece: The impact of parental online security practices, bonding, and online impulsiveness. Journal of School Health, 83(6), 445-453.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2007). Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency. Journal of School Violence, 6(3), 89-112.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2008). Cyberbullying: An exploratory analysis of factors related to offending and victimization. Deviant Behavior, 29(2), 129-156.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2009). Bullying beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2010). Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 14(3), 206-221.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2012). Cyberbullying: Neither an Epidemic Nor a Rarity. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(5), 539-543.

Kowalski, R. M. & Limber, S. P. (2013). Psychological, Physical, and Academic Correlates of Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), S13-S20.

Kowalski, R. M., Limber, S. P. & Agatston, P.W. (2008).  Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lenhart, A. (2007).  Cyberbullying and Online Teens. Pew Internet & American Life Project, June
27. (http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/216/report_display.asp).

Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2010). Cyberbullying and self-esteem. Journal of School Health, 80(12), 614-621.

Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2013). Cyberbullying among Adolescents: Implications for Empirical Research. Journal of Adolescent Health 53(4), 431-432.

Schneider, S.K., O’Donnell, L, Stueve, A., and Coulter, R.W.S. (2012). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 102(1), 171-177.

Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., and Tippett, N. (2008).  Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49(4): 376–385.

Wang, J., Nansel, T. R., & Iannotti, R. J. (2011). Cyber Bullying and Traditional Bullying: Differential Association with Depression. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(4): 415–417.

Ybarra, M., Diener-West, M., & Leaf, P. J. (2007).  Examining the Overlap in Internet Harassment and School Bullying: Implications for School Intervention.  Journal of Adolescent Health, 41: S42–S50.

Ybarra, M. L., Espelage, D. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2007).  The Co-occurrence of Internet Harassment and Unwanted Sexual Solicitation Victimization and Perpetration: Associations with Psychosocial Indicators, Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, S31-S41.

Decoding Your Digital Footprint

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on June 12, 2013

When individuals are online, they are assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address by their Internet service provider (e.g., Earthlink, AOL, Qwest, Comcast, their school) or cell phone service provider (e.g., Sprint, AT&T, Verizon). This IP address is unique and is bound to a person’s current online session—whether it is via a computer, cell phone, or other portable electronic device. It is continually associated with the data transactions (sending [uploading] and receiving [downloading], interacting, communicating) that are made between one’s device and the rest of the World Wide Web and between one’s social networking site, email, instant message, and chat software and the existing population of Internet users. All data transactions are stamped with one’s IP address and the exact date and time (to the millisecond) that it occurred, and they are kept in log files on computers owned by Internet service providers, cell phone service providers, and content providers (Facebook, Google, Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc.).

When attempting to discover the aggressor behind the keyboard, it is vital to know the IP address bound to the malicious message or piece of content. Once that is discovered, the relevant provider can assist school police (or local, state, or federal law enforcement) in identifying the online session in question, which points to the Internet service provider or cell phone service provider through whom the online connection was made, then to the person connected to that specific account (by way of the billing information), and finally to the family member who was logged in at the time the cyberbullying took place.

From School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time

Educating Students about the Consequences of Cyberbullying and Sexting

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on April 8, 2013

Quite often when you investigate a cyberbullying or sexting incident, you will come to learn that the “offending” parties didn’t fully understand the consequences of their actions or how what they did could have ever resulted in the trouble that they are now facing. Maybe they didn’t think that what they were doing was that big of a deal or perhaps they felt that no one else would ever find out about it. Sometimes they are genuinely shocked by the fallout. Well, they shouldn’t be. We need to be explicit with students about the possible repercussions associated with these behaviors, so that they are fully informed when making a decision about how they are interacting online.

Even though the vast majority of these kinds of incidents can and should be handled informally (e.g., by calling parents, counseling the bully and target, or expressing condemnation of the behavior), there may be occasions when a formal response from the school is warranted. This is particularly the case in incidents involving serious threats toward another student, if the target no longer feels safe coming to school, or if cyberbullying behaviors continue after informal attempts to stop it have failed. In these cases, detention, suspension, changes of placement, or even expulsion may be necessary. If these extreme measures are warranted, it is important that you clearly demonstrate the negative effect of the incident on the school or student(s) and present evidence that substantiates your disciplinary action.

You can also include an educational component in your response strategy, especially when dealing with first-time violators or those who engaged in relatively minor forms of technology misuse. For example, you could have the student write a paper on the effects of harassment or provide the student with a video camera and help him or her create a public service announcement about cyberbullying that can be used to educate the rest of the student body. Of course, you want to be careful not to bring undue negative attention to the students involved. To be sure, requiring students who were involved in a sexting incident to create a school-wide program about the topic might not be the best option (although it could be done anonymously). Your knowledge of the incident, the students involved, and the extent of awareness by the broader school population will help you to determine the best course of action.

Because every situation is different, you need to take the time to thoroughly investigate to determine the most appropriate response, taking into consideration everything that you know about the students involved and the circumstances surrounding the behaviors. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to responding to cyberbullying and sexting and it is therefore best to have a variety of response strategies in your toolkit (more information here). But it is also important that students are made aware of the potential penalties. They need to be put on notice that any online behavior that substantially disrupts the learning environment at school, or that infringes on the rights of other students while they are at school, is subject to strict sanction. This should be made clear to them in the student handbook at the beginning of the school year, as well as through regular reminders throughout the year.

Having tough punishments on the books will have little deterrent effect, especially if students are unaware of them. Better to prevent students from misbehaving in the first place than to have to discipline them after the fact. And beyond school-based sanctions there are other collateral consequences associated with the misuse of technology, including threats to their reputation, employment marketability, and even possible legal penalties. So take the time to educate students about the behaviors you are trying to prevent ahead of time, which should include an honest discussion of the potential academic, social, and legal consequences.

Adapted from School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time (more info here)