Cyberbullying happens for reasons almost the same as other types of bullying. However, it could be more appealing to cyber bullies because they can do their act anonymously, often through texting, email, or social media. Understanding the factors that affect people who exhibit cyberbullying behaviors is important but studies of bullying among youth often focus on the bullied. This was recognized by a team of researchers from the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing so they focused their analysis on the cyberbullies. They found that teens who perceive their parents to be supportive and loving are less likely to engage in cyberbullying.
The link between cyberbullying behaviors and their perception of parental support
The study lead author Laura Grunin, who is also a doctoral student at NYU Meyers, told the Science Daily that there are more opportunities for cyberbullying to happen now as classroom instruction has shifted to remote learning. Many young people are now using their social media and cell phones instead of facing their friends and classmates face-to-face. Home stressors and new family dynamics are likewise at play. Because of higher unemployment rates, more parents are now working from home, she added.
Senior author Sally S. Cohen believes that understanding the factors that are linked to a teen’s cyberbullying of his or her peers is important to create ways that schools, families, and communities can intervene or prevent when it happens. Associate research scientist Gary Yu co-authored the study.
The team used data from the World Health Organization Health Behavior in School-Aged Children cross-sectional survey involving 12,642 participants. It is the most recent WHO data gathered in the US. Then, using latent class analysis, the team clustered the sample participants into categories of kids who do not bully, those who bully but with a low cyberbullying element, those who bully with a moderate cyberbullying element, and those who bully with a high cyberbullying element.
Effects of parenting on bullying behaviors
The participants were asked about their bullying behaviors and their perception of family characteristics, such as their relationships with their parents. Results show that the more teens perceived their parents as supportive and loving, the less likely they are to engage in cyberbullying. The researchers explained that many family factors affect children’s developmental outcomes and their health. Examples include financial, family structure, culture, networks, and social support.
Teens’ relationships with their parents can have negative or positive effects on their development and their impact could endure through adulthood. In the health behavior in school-aged children (HBSC) survey instrument, there were 76-88 questions, which depends on the grate of the participants. Questionnaires for students in grades 5 to 6 had 76 questions while those in grade 10 had 88 questions.
Eight statements were given to them and they were told to select one that most accurately reflected their belief. Some statements include, “My parent/guardian helps me as much as I need” and “My parent/guardian understands my problems.” Youth who answered “almost never” when asked if their parents are supportive or loving are six times more likely to engage in high levels of cyberbullying compared to those who answered that their parent or guardian is “almost always” loving.
Grunin said that their findings point to the important role that parents play and the emotional support they give to their children. It is because it can influence whether their teens will cyberbully or not. She went on to say that it is not necessary if parents think they are being supportive of their children but what their children think. The researchers also recommend parents to strive to discern their teen’s perception of the support they give as it may be linked to youth cyberbullying tendencies.
Changes in global views on cyberbullying
Tech research platform Comparitech published last July a statistic on global cyberbullying. They found that more parents have now become more aware of their kids’ negative experiences with cyberbullying. Indian parents (37%) are among the highest to express that their child has been a victim of cyberbullying. They are followed by parents from Brazil (29%), the US (26%), Belgium (25%), South Africa (26%), Malaysia (23%), and Sweden (23%).
In a survey of 1,011 parents, 19.2% of them said that their kids experienced bullying through social media sites and apps. Other locations were their kids reported bullying happened are at school (82.8%), on the bus (32.5%), a physical location outside of school (17.0%), through text messages (11.0%), through online video games (7.9%), on the internet but not on social media (6.8%), through phone calls (3.8%), through emails (3.3%), and 2.4% answered their child did not give them a specific location.
Meanwhile, the most common types of cyberbullying that victims experienced are offensive name-calling (42%), spreading of false rumors (32%), receiving explicit images they didn’t’ ask for (25%), constant asking of what they’re doing, who they are, and who they’re with by someone other than a parent (21%), having explicit images shared without their consent (7%), and physical threats (16%). As there has been a troubling increase in teen suicide rates in the past ten years, cyberbullying is believed to be a contributing factor.
How parents can help to prevent bullying
As to Grunin and the team’s study, they found that demographic factors were also linked to youth’s likelihood of cyberbullying. For instance, boys were more likely to exhibit high levels of cyberbullying. The team also found that Asian American teens were the least likely to be cyberbullies. Grunin added that although their study didn’t provide that the lack of parental emotional support directly causes cyberbullying, it suggests that teens' relationship with their parents could influence their cyberbullying behaviors.
Parents need to understand that bullying is a form of physical or emotional abuse that has three characteristics: deliberate, repeated, and power imbalanced, according to parenting blog A Fine Parent. It suggests that the most effective way to keep kids from becoming bullies is to ensure that they grow up in a loving relationship. Parents should also model positive social behavior.
There are many advantages that the internet provides, such as information, knowledge, and learning. However, the faceless evil of said technology is also a growing threat among teens, particularly when it comes to cyberbullying. Guidance for parents, young people, and the community is important to end the cycle of aggression.