IdeaFest panel speaks on cyberbullying

Campus News

A three-man panel spoke on cyberbullying during UVic’s 2014 IdeaFest. The first speaker, Kevin Runions, attempted to define cyberbullying. The second man, Brett Holfield, tried to articulate the best methods of response and who is able to help. Constable Scott Rothermel, the RCMP Liaison Officer for the Sooke District School Board and the third speaker, provided examples of cyberbullying’s occurrence and the methods in place to eradicate it.

To define cyberbullying, the child of aggression, aggression must first be defined. According to the panel, aggression is “any behaviour meant to harm immediately.” Aggression is anything from demeaning verbal abuse to physical damage to a person or person’s property, like a punch in the face or keying a car. The reasons for why people are aggressive are divided into three categories: sadism, revenge, and intimidation for immediate personal gain. Bullying is the repetitiously targeted exposure to aggression from one individual to another whilst in the purview of unequal distribution of power: for example, teachers to students, jocks to nerds, popular kids to unpopular kids, or nuclear countries to non-nuclear countries. However, the panel said some things, though aggressive, are not bullying: for example, play fighting, single arguments, one-time attacks, or good old fashioned teasing. Cyberbullying is an amalgamation of aggression and bullying that occurs through digital devices. Thus, the difficulty in differentiating between cyberbullying from a person being mean or a stupid mistake, is increased. To further complicate the matter, the redistribution of cyberbullying through digital devices and Internet “diffuses responsibility across a group and makes it [even more] difficult to say who [precisely] is responsible.”

According to Holfield, who conducted a study on “Youth Responses to Cyberbullying,” 15–20 per cent of teens have been cyberbullying victims, leading to increased emotional and psychological distress that is detrimental to their academic performance. Most often, the reasons why cyberbullying is not reported by the victims include that the victims think their parents will revoke privileges, their friends will belittle them, and teachers will punish them. Furthermore, Holfield discovered that the majority of those victims attempted to “do nothing/ignore” the bullying. He also discovered that 60 per cent of friends and 45 per cent of adults who were told of incidences of cyberbullying reacted decisively to counteract it. His study concluded that the most effective method to null bullying was to actively oppose it by showing the bullying had little detrimental effect.

Rothermal equated digital devices to a car given to “L” drivers, stating, “They are adult tools given to children.” A car is neutral, a digital device is neutral, but when it’s misused, the effects can be devastating to person, property, or reputation. Many instances of cyberbullying result in actual criminal charges, something that can haunt a teenager for life. These charges include: intimidation, extortion, identity fraud, criminal harassment, and uttering threats. He says that the “disconnect from seeing the victim’s reactions” allows exaggerated bullying to play out on the Internet. Once a cyberbully has to confront their victim face to face they, almost always, he says, regret what they have said and seek forgiveness.