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UMaine Today Magazine

Casualties of Bullying Sidebar
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Cyberbullying Reality

Nearly all technological developments are mixed blessings, and the use of computers and cell phones to foster bullying is no exception, according to University of Maine historian Howard Segal.

"We might recall the naive 1990s claims about the Internet creating unprecedented democracy and community nationally and internationally. Cyberbullying doesn't exactly foster either. Instead, those high-tech advances enable bullies to engage in verbal abuse, allowing them to say and perhaps portray things about their victims that they might not dare articulate in person," says Segal, who specializes in science and technology history.

One sometimes neglected aspect of cyberbullying is that evidence of youthful misbehavior discovered and retained by either the victim or the authorities may come back to haunt the offender later in life, long after the perpetrator may have changed his or her behavior or forgotten about it, Segal says.

A 2006 study of students' perceptions of cyberbullying by Dianne Hoff and Sidney Mitchell in the UMaine College of Education and Human Development examined the frequency, methods and impact of cyberbullying on the lives of the victims and their friends. The study also sought to capture students' perceptions of cyberbullying.

An analysis of the study's data revealed seven general themes:

  • The number of students victimized by cyberbullying is increasing with access to advancements in electronic communications.

  • With the protection of technology, the number of girls as bullies is nearly equal to the number of boys.

  • Students linked cyberbullying incidents most often to relationship issues, including jealousy, envy, breakups, shunned and shifted friendships, and reputational issues.

  • Cyberspace has become "a graphic, scary, threatening and generally disgusting virtual world" with few laws or norms.

  • Cyberbullied students feel powerless, fearful, angry and sad.

  • Generally, students do not seek help and those who do wait until the bullying reaches dangerous levels.

  • Students report that school officials were generally unresponsive to requests for help.

UMaine Today Magazine
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