New research has shed more light on the devastating impact of cyberbullying. The findings, published in the journal Information, Communication & Society, identify the main tactics used by perpetrators as well as the coping strategies of the victims.
With the advent of social media, bullying has taken on an elusive new form and has dramatically extended its reach. Digital abuse has become so severe that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a stern warning about the risks posed by cyberbullying to adolescents’ mental health.
Cyberbullying differs from traditional, or offline bullying, in that it thrives on the unique traits of social media — anonymity, constant connectivity, and a vague and vast audience, according to researchers. Furthermore, “the difficulty to escape one’s tormentors and identify them” magnifies the intensity of harmful actions.
The study is based on an in-depth analysis of 1,094 comments written in response to singer songwriter Amanda Palmer’s viral blog about the suicide of a young victim of online abuse, Amanda Todd.
In the blog, Palmer made an appeal for readers to share their own stories of bullying and how they had coped. The post soon went viral and received over 1,000 comments within three days.
Since self-censorship and self-consciousness are reduced by the anonymity of the Internet, researchers considered Palmer’s blog to be an ideal route to gain genuine comments on the issue. By performing a detailed analysis of all the blog entries, the team was able to identify a number of key topics.
Similar to earlier findings, the researchers found that the top reason for being abused was physical appearance, followed by sexual orientation and non-mainstream interests.
Although only 25 percent of all the bullying stories referred to cyberbullying, a large portion of commentators pointed to the negative role played by the Internet in magnifying the effects of online harassment; only a small minority referenced the importance of social media as a form of support for victims.
For victims, the researchers found two primary types of coping strategies: behavioral and cognitive. Behavioral coping strategies involved seeking social support and ignoring the bully; while cognitive strategies focused on shaping individuals’ microsystem and drawing on their own personal supportive resources.
Finally, the research offers unique insights into the issue of cyberbullying and shows the importance of finding ways to effectively support victims. Although victims should use both behavioral and cognitive strategies in response to bullying, the key is to recognize that the problem “doesn’t reside in them” but in the perpetrators, noted the researchers.
Source: Taylor & Francis