Fall 2011

Cyber-Bullying: A Virtual Plague in the Lonely World of the Ex-Communicated

...continued from previous page.

Correlation Between Victims and Perpetrators

One out of every two students in middle school (aged 13-16 years) can be classified as a cyber-bully perpetrator, victim or by-stander.
When examining the psychological profile of victims and perpetrators, Heiman and Olenick-Shemesh were surprised by the similarities of the two. "In both cases, these are kids who feel more isolated. They have fewer friends and enjoy less of a social and/or family support network. The Internet makes it much easier for the perpetrator to feel greater functionality."

And, in the case of the victim, well here is a case where the home, which was once a safe refuge, no longer serves that function.

"In the past, one could run away from a bully in the school yard and find refuge in his own home, but now even the home has become 'unsafe.'"

What is Needed? A National Intervention Program

The research project by Open University researchers, Heiman, Olenick-Shemesh and Sigal Eden was one of five selected by Israel's Ministry of Education out of a pool of more than 100 projects. "The Ministry was very interested in looking into this phenomenon."

In addition to the students themselves, the Ministry was interested in exploring the role of teachers and parents.

In general, Heiman and Olenick-Shemesh discovered that both teachers and parents were generally unaware of the phenomenon, could recognize it, but "had neither the tools nor depth of awareness to combat it. In fact, in the case of teachers, there was even a small percentage who themselves had been victims of cyber-bullying."

The researchers strongly feel that "teachers and parents can and must play a seminal role in combatting and managing cyber-bullying."

It really is about taking the home and the classroom back in hand. And, what the two researchers feel most strongly about is the need for a national program for intervention, which initially would include:
  • a series of programs and activities to help raise awareness of the phenomenon.
  • an educational program for elementary school children teaching them what is considered 'proper' behavior on the internet and what to do when behavior crosses accepted boundaries.
  • instructions for parents and schools to install programs that prevent children visiting certain 'types' of websites.
  • imbuing children with tools to combat the phenomenon. "We are now testing a trial intervention program in the cities of Ramat Gan and Ra'anana, where, together with the children, we work on a virtual island, and design a program to identify and prevent cyber-bullying."
  • creating an e-book for parents to help them identify, cope with and prevent cyber-bullying. "We are working in close cooperation with six other European countries."
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