In the past year there have been a number of stories in the news outlining the problems of cyberbullying. In some cases the end result was the victim taking their own life, which is one reason this topic should continue to remain relevant to school counsellors and psychologists. In a recent study by Wade and Beran (2011) it was noted that a substantial portion of Canadian students in grades 6, 7, 10, and 11 are involved in cyberbullying and that girls are more likely than boys to be the target of this type of harassment. Although there is currently no standard definition of cyberbullying it has been defined as “an individual or group wilfully using information and communication involving electronic technologies to facilitate deliberate and repeated harassment or threat to another individual or group by sending or posting cruel text and/or graphics using technological means” (Mason, 2008). Despite the lack of a standard definition of cyberbullying, there is consensus that the results of the bullying negatively impacts students’, physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.
As school counsellors and psychologists it is our responsibility to assist our students and schools in tackling the problem of cyberbullying. A scan of the literature on cyberbullying and interventions provides numerous suggestions on how to deal with the problem. For those looking to find specific interventions there are many available on the internet. One of the models that I found most helpful posited a 3 tiered model for addressing the problem. At the first tier, the focus is on educating school staff, students and parents with the goal of facilitating awareness and change in beliefs, behaviours and attitudes about bullying and the consequences of cyberbullying. At the second tier, specific interventions are implemented to target groups of students believed to be at risk of becoming involved with cyberbullying. The third tier of the model provides intensive and individualized support for those who do become involved.
A Canadian intervention that has had success in reducing the incidents of cyberbullying, and bullying in general, is a program called Roots of Empathy. This is a program designed for school-aged children that aims to foster concepts of becoming strong and caring individuals who are inspired to adopt a vision of citizenship that can positively change the world. The program brings a parent from the community and their new baby into the classroom for several visits over the course of the school year. It is believed that by putting the parent-child relationship front and center in the classroom a template for positive and empathetic relationships is created. The effects of this program have been shown to have universal and far reaching implications for students as they move through their school years.
For more information on Roots of Empathy check out: http://www.rootsofempathy.org/
Wade, A., & Beran, T. (2011). Cyberbullying: The New Era of Bullying. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 26, 44-61.
Hindjua, S., & Patchin, J. (2008). Cyberbullying: An exploratory analysis of factors related to offending and victimization. Deviant Behavior, 29, 129-156.
Mason, K. (2008). Cyberbullying: A preliminary assessment for school personnel. Psychology in the Schools, 45, 323-348.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA