In a new book on cyberbullying co-edited by Dr McGuckin Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology at Trinity College Dublin looks at the prevalence of the behaviour, female and male roles, coping strategies and interventions, as well as future challenges. Launched on Safer Internet Day today [February 7th] Dr Mc Guckin says:
“This book is timely. It is the most up-to-date international record on the issue from the top researchers in the area. It serves to remind us of the huge personal challenges that children and young people face in the daily lives. This ‘always-on’ generation are suffering greatly in silence. Emotionally, they really struggle to keep-up with the new developments – new apps, sexting, radicalisation among other issues. We are very concerned about the mental health and well-being of these youngsters.”
“The speed of escalation regarding cyberbullying is frightening. They, and we, still have huge challenges ahead with the daily developments in robotics and artificial intelligence. We are concerned about this – the reality that the bullies could be a mixture of both children and robotic / AI devices. Parents and adults do have the personal resources to help. It just takes a bit of confidence. Schools and teachers are doing a phenomenal job – they need the rest of us adults to help build an ethical and moral society that will be fun and engaging for our children.”
The book which navigates through the “wild west” of cyberbullying is called ‘Bullying and Cyberbullying: Prevalence, Psychological Impacts and Intervention Strategies’. It is co-edited with Dr Lucie Corcoran of the Dublin Business School.
The editors’ main goal is to support children and young people in enjoying the benefits that come with the online world, while also protecting them from harm.
In describing the range of new challenges cyberbullying presents, Dr McGuckin says:
“The capacity to attack a targeted individual at any time of the day or night from almost any location, the global audience, the unique role of the bystanders, the position of anonymity and the difficulty in retrieving widely disseminated data.”
· Despite 15 years of international concern and research, only now do we really understand the main issues regarding cyberbullying.
· Face-to-face bullying is still an issue. Cyberbullying has increased substantially in terms of prevalence.
· Irish educators and Irish schools are relatively mature in their understanding of the issues and how to deal with the issues that arise.
· The old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me” no longer represents the difference between boys and girls.
· The “revenge of the nerd” hypothesis is not an accurate picture of those most likely to be cyber bullies.
· Intervention programmes aimed at reducing face-to-face bullying can also reduce cyberbullying.
· Many coping strategies – from technical ones to personal ones – are easily implemented.
· Understanding the mechanisms of online radicalization of children and young people by extremist groups is of high priority.
· Cyberbullying needs to be understood in the wider context of society and the history of aggression and violence.
· Robotics and artificial intelligence are here – now is the time to plan for how to help children and young people cope with aggression that may come from human and non-human sources.
The state-of-the-art review of cyberbullying knowledge in 2017 provides an overview of international research and deals with fundamental issues facing researchers, practitioners, and policy makers.
Commenting on the significance of the research, Assistant Professor Conor Mc Guckin says:
“As we enter 2017 we have very stark and very real decisions to make – do we continually tolerate aggression and violence like this among our children – or will we practice what we preach to each other on social media about the injustices across the world? Do we want to accept that bullying is just a fact of life and growing up – or do we want to assert ourselves and say that we will each take a stand against one of the biggest impediments to a happy childhood and enjoyable educational experience? We are the adults – they are the children. We must mind and protect the education, health, and well-being of our children”.
“In particular, we need to protect the more vulnerable children – those with additional needs, disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and rare diseases”.
“Perhaps we need to start recognising victimisation as a ‘special educational need’, with targeted support for these children.”
“Our Irish research has developed an international perspective that we should be exploring ‘cyber aggression’ in a more generic sense, rather than simply as cyberbullying. With these developments, we caution against any legislative attempts. This will lead to the criminalization of many children and young people who’s actions have inadvertently veered into the criminal domain. Do we want to help these children or see them as criminals? When we have legislation, we often see this as the first reaction to a behaviour – let’s make sure that it remains the last course of action.”