Main challenges to tackle cyberbullying
Different types of aggressive behaviour have become widely accepted and even normalised especially in online platforms such as social media or videogaming platforms. For many CYP it is simply accepted that this is an area of conduct that they are likely to encounter at some point .
Although cyberbullying is a concern for parents, teachers and practitioners working with CYP, as this behaviour occurs online it is frequently hidden from parents and other adults .
Because the (cyber) bully is not present to see and witness the reactions of the victim first-hand , they usually lack physical and social cues which are necessary to induce empathy.
When engaging with in-person bullying there is the likelihood of eventual physical separation between the bully and the victim, but for cyberbullying this physical separation does not happen .
The possibility to “hide behind a screen” (whether anonymous or not) can encourage the bully to go further in their aggression than they might in person .
Cyberbullying may not be a visible activity so that others may be less able to intervene and curtail it, and therefore the aggressor may manage to escape accountability for their actions .
Preventing and responding to cyberbullying: Tips for schools
Continue educating and working with school personnel so that they can adequately prevent, detect, and respond to cyberbullying incidents, even when these not happen at school.
CYP need to be taught to disclose when incidents happen, but they also need to feel that disclosing such hurtful incidents will help. Therefore, educating adults and providing useful, practical resources and tools so that they can foster a supportive relationship of trust with CYP can have a positive impact in tackling cyberbullying and helping children build resilience.
Vulnerable children require additional, tailored support because they usually encounter personal problems, and difficult environments but they also usually lack support networks and tend to be isolated, which negatively affects their capacity to build the necessary resilience to tackle problematic situations such as cyberbullying.
Start with prevention efforts from a young age and support children to learn to deal with adversity without limiting children’s autonomy and ability to develop their own mechanisms to develop resilience.
Teach children to cope with their emotions and to develop self-regulation empathy.
Encourage peer-to-peer-based approaches to raise awareness and foster a caring school environment. This will help prevent incidents from happening or from escalating beyond control.
Better policies and regulations as well as increased accountability from the ICT sector remain crucial.
To date, little is known about the effectiveness of programmes and interventions to reduce (cyber) bullying. Experts referred to the importance of monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these programmes and strategies.
O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Levine, D. & Donoso, V. (2021). Digital Media and Child and Adolescent Mental Health. A Practical Guide to Understanding the Evidence. London: Sage.
George, M. & Odgers, C. (2015). Seven fears and the science of how mobile technologies may be influencing adolescents in the digital age. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 832–851. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4654691/
Anti-Bullying Alliance. (2019). Written evidence for Parliament. Retrieved [24/06/21] from http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/impact-of-social-media-and-screenuse-on-young-peoples-health/written/81132.html