Traditional bullying, the 'schoolyard' kind of bullying, is often associated with three main characteristics: a power differential between bully and victim, proactive targeting of a victim and ongoing aggression. The Internet is the great equalizer. Traditional power differentials, like size and popularity, don't apply as commonly in cyberbullying and the lines between victim and aggressor are more blurred; it is not unusual for an individual to act in all capacities - bully, victim, and witness - online.
For those reasons, anti-bullying programs need specific interventions to target online aggression, according to Jennifer Shapka, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia who presented this research at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver.
Shapka presented results that involved 17,000 Vancouver, B.C. students in Grades 8 to 12 and a follow-up study involving 733 Vancouver, B.C. youth aged 10-18. About 25-30 per cent of youth report that they have experienced or taken part in cyberbullying, compared to 12 per cent of youth who say they've experienced or taken part in schoolyard bullying. However, "Youth say that 95 per cent of what happens online was intended as a joke and only 5 per cent was intended to harm," says Shapka. "It is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying."
Obviously, unlike physical bullying, online cyberbullying is in the eyes of the receiver. The 5 Republicans in science media may feel bullied and victims of stereotype threat and overt intolerance but, like in adolescents, the impact by aggressors is downplayed. They're just kidding around, basically, and there is some truth to it, since the same people can be both bullies and victims, which is far less frequent in physical bullying.
Shapka because adolescents "downplay the impact of it, which means that existing education and prevention programs are not going to get through to them. Students need to be educated that this 'just joking' behaviour has serious implications."
There are well-publicized instances where cyberbullying has been implicated in suicides but
being victimized online can have consequences for a person's mental health, developmental wellbeing, and academic achievement, according to Shapka.