Cyberbullying in higher education: Causes, implications, and preventive measures
Friday, August 28, 2020
The world is ruled by technology today, and technology is almost dominating every part of our lives. There are certainly many benefits of technology, especially “the use of technology has revolutionized the way in which people communicate and form relationship with one another” (Kowalski, Leimber & McCord, 2019, p.20).
Technology has increased in “every aspect of social life: changing daily schedules, relationships, communications, work processes, and new forms of networks and existing ones” (Elci & Seckin, 2019, p. 947). Aricak, Tanrikulu, Siyahhan & Kinay (2013, p. 318), have mentioned, “Despite these positive changes, the advances in information and communication technologies also introduced problems that are unique to information age” (as cited in Elci & Secker, 2019, p. 947). Among other problems, extensive use of technology has engendered a new form of bullying, called cyberbullying (Elci and Seckin, 2019, p. 947).
The latest developments in technology have changed the practices, boundaries, contexts, and time frames of bullying. This transformation has not only changed the nature of bullying, but also helped rename the term as electronic bullying or cyberbullying (Elci & Seckin, 2019, p. 947).
Cyberbullying has been defined by several scholars variously. For instance, the National Crime Prevention Council (2016) defined cyberbullying as, “Online bullying called cyberbullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person” (Para-2).
Further, Smith et al. (2008) defined cyberbullying as, “an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defined him or herself” (p. 376). Tokunaga (2010) defined cyberbullying as “any behavior performed through electronic media by individuals or groups of individuals that repeatedly communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others” (p. 278).
Types of Cyberbullying
There are several types of cyberbullying activities that are popular on the internet. For instance, according to Peled (2018) some of the most popular types of cyberbullying are:
- Flaming: involves sending angry, rude or vulgar messages via text or email.
- Harassment: involves repeatedly sending offensive messages. Cyberstalking moves harassment online with the offender sending threatening messages to his or her victim.
- Trickery and Outing: occurs when the cyberbully tricks an individual into providing embarrassing private or sensitive information and posts or sends the information for others to view.
- Exclusion: is deliberately leaving individuals out of an online group.
- Fraping: where a person accesses the victim’s social media account and impersonates them in an attempt to be funny or to ruin their reputation.
- Dissing: is sharing or posting cruel information online to ruin one’s reputation or friendship with others.
- Trolling: is insulting an individual online to provoke them enough to get a response.
- Catfishing: steals one’s online identity to re-create social networking profiles for deceptive purposes.
- Phishing: a tactic that requires tricking, persuading, or manipulating the target into revealing personal and/or financial information about themselves and/or their loved ones. (Peled, 2018, p. 4)
Some Cyberbullying Incidences in Higher Education Settings
Cyberbullying incidences are becoming very common in higher education settings. For instance, a white female student at Duke University in May 2010 made a fake thesis and exploited 13 male students. Further, a freshman at Rutgers University student committed suicide on September 22, 2010, after learning that he had been watched kissing a fellow male student on a webcam. Furthermore, another incident of catfishing involved a Notre Dame University football player in December 2013 (Washington, 2015, p. 22). These incidences prove that there is a need for awareness of cyberbullying in higher education settings (Washington, 2015, p. 22).
Consequences and Impacts of Cyberbullying in Higher Education
There are several impacts of cyberbullying on college-level students. According to Peled (2018), “Cyberbullying literature suggests that victims generally manifests psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, social exclusion, school phobias, and poor academic performances, which brings them to experience suicidal thoughts as a means of escaping the torture” (p. 6). Furthermore, Walker et al. (2011) mentioned, “Cyberbullying also causes emotional and physiological damage to defenseless victims as well as psychological problems including inappropriate behaviors, drinking alcohol, smoking and low commitment to academics” (as cited in Peled, 2018, p. 6).
Preventive Measures to be Taken Against Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying attacks on students in higher education settings cause fear and anger and humiliate students. Therefore, students, administrators, teachers, and supervisors, and families should play an important role to improve students’ cyberbullying awareness and determine the strategy to react in such cases (Elci & Seckin, 2019, p. 955). According to Washington (2015), the following measures must be taken in higher education settings against cyberbullying:
A statement regarding expected behavior and unacceptable behavior should be outlined in the institution’s student handbook or code of conduct (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
When students are involved, a department in student affairs such as the office of judicial affairs should be tasked with enforcing the institutions policies against cyberbullying (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
- College administrators should take action to deter cyberbullying on college campuses (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
- Professors, faculty, and staff need training to recognize and respond to cyberbullying (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
- Professors can also utilize syllabi to direct students regarding computer use and acceptable and unacceptable online behavior (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
- Further, professors should monitor online behavior and take actions if students display bullying and/or cyberbullying behavior (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
- Administrators should develop anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying policies to deter cyberbullying on campus, including definitions and examples explaining appropriate disciplinary, actions if policies are violated, and providing confidential reporting of those who violate such policies (Washington, 2015, p. 25).
The problem of cyberbullying has been increasing in higher education settings due to the high usage of the internet and other digital communications. But to combat this problem, administrators, researchers, faculty, and law enforcement should work with legislators to provide research and data to support the development of training, laws, and policies that prohibit cyberbullying (Washington, 2015, p. 26).
Thus, by following preventive measures against cyberbullying, this problem can be conquered in higher education settings. The technology that has been a boon for humanity should not turn out to be a curse.
Elci, Alev & Seckin, Zeliha (2019). Cyberbullying Awareness for Mitigating Consequences in Higher Education, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 34 (5), pp. 946-960.
Gahagan, Kassandra, Vaterlaus, J. Mitchell & Frost, R. Libby (2016). College Student Cyberbullying on Social Networking Sites: Conceptualization, prevalence, and perceived responsibility, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 55, pp. 1097- 1105.
Kowalski, M. Robin, limber, P. Susan & McCord, Annie (2019). A developmental approach to cyberbullying: Prevalence and Protective factors, Aggressive and Violent Behavior, Vol. 45, pp. 20-32.
National Crime Prevention Council. (2016). Cyberbullying FAQ for Teens. Retrieved from http://www.ncpc.org/topics/cyberbullying/cyberbullying-faq-for-teens
Peled, Yehuda (2019). Cyberbullying and its influence on academic, social, and emotional development of undergraduate students, Heliyon, Vol. 5, e0 1393. Doj: 10.1016/j.heliyon .2019 e01393. Pp. 1-22.
Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008). Cyberbullying: Its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, Vol. 49, pp. 376-385.
Tokunaga, R. S. (2010). Following you home from school: a critical review and synthesis of research on cyberbullying victimization. Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 26, No.3 pp. 227-287, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.11.014.
Washington, Thomas Edwina (2015). An Overview of Cyberbullying in Higher Education, Adult Learning, Vol. 26, No.1, pp. 21-27.
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