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The ability to deal and cope with cyber bullying attacks is becoming increasingly important to children and young people in the United Kingdom although this phenomenon appears to be acute in many other countries, too. This paper investigates and provides a deeper understanding of what the effects of cyber bullying have on people’s lives. The results show that there is a relationship between an increase in access to digital technology and the methods cyber bullies apply to threaten, harass, humiliate and embarrass people. Results suggest that parents, teachers, employers and owners of social media sites are not educating and coaching young people sufficiently so that these can stay safe in a world of texting, twittering and social networking. The research suggests a number of practical solutions such as incentivized schemes and engaging young people in cyber bullying awareness focus groups. It is anticipated that this will help young people to develop their own levels of responsibilities to make informed decisions what is safe for them to access, view and act upon.
Keywords: Cyber bullying, Mobile phone technology, E-Safety, Social networks, Attitude and behavior
It appears that the misuse of mobile technology and social media networks is becoming epidemic not just in the United Kingdom but also in other countries such as the United States. A few years ago words such as “cyber bullying” or “e-safety” would not have meant much to most people. Today these words appear to have become part of people’s everyday vocabulary. The meaning of these words is clear to most people but not everyone understands what the consequences are to people’s lives who are, for example, cyber bullied. According to Giant (2013) the explosion of twentieth-century technology has been unprecedented and most people cannot remember a time when this technology did not exist. Mobile technology allows people to communicate with each other at any time anywhere in the world. It is possible to send pictures and video clips to friends and family at the click of a button. This revolution has changed people’s lives irreversibly. The vast majority of children and young people own a computer and mobile phone which gives them unlimited access to information and allows them to share this information with others across the globe (Rogers, 2010). Older people perhaps have developed a sense of caution not to trust technology blindly. In contrast, younger people do not have this balanced view. They were born and are brought up in a world that is full of technology that forms a substantial part of their everyday lives. It appears that the technology has become a right to most young people. This explains why the technology is used extensively throughout their daily lives, exceeding the uses of most adults by a substantial margin. With the right to have and use this technology also come responsibilities such as how to use the technology responsibly and in such a way that no direct or indirect harm is caused to other people. This is the theory but reality looks different. Access to the new technology has led to an increase in misuse or abuse of this technology leading to many incidents of threatening, harassing, embarrassing and humiliating behaviors and actions. Cases of so-called cyber bullying have become proportionately sophisticated as access to the new technology has grown. Predators can target their selected audience quite easily and with hardly any effort and at very low cost if any. The misuse of mobile technology and social media has become a concern of parents, social psychologists and authorities including schools, colleges and universities. The aim and objectives of this research are to investigate the current status of the misuse of mobile technology and social media in the UK and some other countries. The research will suggest practical mitigations to try and help young people to move from cyber bullying to cyber coping (Figure1). The article further aims to promote the responsibilities of safe and acceptable use of these and to mitigate the risks of misuse whether at work, in schools or at home, and the role social psychology needs to play to achieve the desired outcomes.
Cyber Bullying Social Psychology Cyber Coping
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Figure 1 From Cyber Bullying to Cyber Coping
1.2 Literature Review
1.2.1 Misuse of Mobile Technology and Cyber Bullying
According to some recent research by Giant (2013), it is difficult for people to conceptualize what the Internet and related technologies actually represent. It is therefore more difficult for people to rely on their intuitions and common sense to navigate through the maze of technology. Common sense usually develops a degree of maturity and a sense of individual responsibility. A moral appreciation of right and wrong also falls into this category. These qualities are generally linked to age and children/young people are not expected to hold the same degree of maturity, responsibility and moral values as the adults around them. Experience does matter in this context. With so many people having access to the Internet and associated mobile technologies, it is perhaps too late to pretend that this technology does not exist. The time has come to make explicit not just the benefits of the new technology but also the risks associated with it. This should also include the related responsibilities to keep everyone safe and ensure people’s well-being in both the real and the “virtual” world. Giant suggests that the issue of cyber bullying is only as old as the technologies used to hurt and denigrate others. The research and study of cyber bullying is still growing but perhaps not as fast as the phenomenon itself. Giant quotes Belsey (2004, p.1) who defines cyber bullying as a phenomenon that “…..involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others”. Giant points out further that any technology can be used for both positive and negative effects but the extremes to which mobile phones, online platforms and other forms of technology are abused to bully others, often leaves,for example, parents, youths and teachers astounded.
Giant suggests that there are seven forms of cyber bullying:
1. Flaming: sending angry, rude, vulgar messages directed at a person or persons privately or to an online group
2. Harassment: repeatedly sending a person offensive messages
3. Denigration: sending/posting rumors, harmful, untrue information about a person to others
4. Cyber stalking: harassment that includes threats of harm or is highly intimidating
5. Impersonation or masquerading: to be another person and posting/sending material online to make them look bad
6. Outing or trickery: tricking a person into sending information (secrets, embarrassing information) that can be used to send to others online
7. Exclusion: excluding someone purposefully from an online group, for example, an IM or BBM list