Social Dominance, Peer Victimization

Previous studies have shown social dominance and peer victimization to be
on opposite ends of the spectrum in understanding the success and acceptability
in the use of aggression. The current findings build upon these studies by
showing that these same characteristics also play a role in understanding the
link between relational aggression and peer liking. The current findings for
peer victimization are in line with previous work on aggressive victims that
has shown this group to be particularly unsuccessful in their utilization of
relational aggression and to be especially disliked by the peer group (Schwartz
et al., 2001) because of their use of aggression that is dysregulated, ineffectual,
and reinforces others’ aggression toward them (Perry et al., 1992;
Schwartz, 2000; Schwartz et al., 2001).

Ok, not specifically about cyberbullying, but as I’ve mentioned many times before… the e,i,cyber or whatever techno tag that we add to a word doesn’t change the essence of what is being described. Edit – and it looks like some others agree (Downes, Dash)

Adams, Bartlette and Bukoski (August 4, 2009, doi:10.1177/027243160934298The Journal of Early Adolescence February 2010 vol. 30 no. 1 102-121) look at the age group that certainly is adopting technology at the same time they are trying to figure out their own pecking order. The study also takes a look at Canadian kids. Not that this should matter that much, but as it happens, people like to see things about their own back yard as it were.

The study also closes with this very practical take away – a nod a taking a look behind the curtain and not just reacting to the spectacle that is on stage:

In other words,it is not only important to know whether someone is relationally aggressive but it also important to know who is using the aggression and how the peer group views that individual.

Bullying is Bullying

Cyber/e/online whatever, it’s the same thing and some new research out of the US suggests that there are a few things that can be done to help cope with the problem. Looking at cognitive and behavioral measures, the research identified:

  • self-efficacy for avoiding self-blame
  • victim-role disengagement self-efficacy
  • self-efficacy for proactive behavior
  • self-efficacy for avoiding aggressive behavior

Essentially, one can boil it down into a nutshell, kids should learn not to:

  • blame one’s self for being victimized
  • understand that it is not their “lot in life” to be a victim
  • be assertive of your their rights and look to others for help
  • stay on their toes and try not to get into vulnerable situations

A great list to be sure (common sense thrown in there for good measure as well – as most good research seems to be once published), but remembering my own childhood, many of these things are easier said than done on the part of the child. However, these are things that kids might be trying and that teachers/parents/family should be looking out for as well as they may indicate bullying.

The wrong and the horrible

I think one would have to be living under a rock, or listening to nothing by satellite (more on that later… it’s been bubbling in my head for a while, but this is one of the reasons why it is bad) or top40 radio not to have heard about this atrocity in BC.

Now, while social networking has helped perform surgery, helped after having been arrested or been taken captive, it has also been used to propagate crimes as in this case where photos of the incident have spread onto Facebook and from there… not even Mark, Sergey or Larry know where. If you are one of the many who don’t understand take a look at this earlier post or this video:


What happened in BC certainly goes beyond what the previous worry of sexting ever could have been and into the criminal. But can anything good come of this? Well perhaps. It looks like the school board(s) that are involved will be looking into putting something regarding this new reality into the curriculum. The only problem I see is that they are waiting until grade 10 to talk about this, when they should be starting to talk about responsibility and the use of digital media much earlier… say in kindergarten. We should be teaching the mantra of “Think before you post” right from the start. Perhaps starting with ideas about controlling what information is safe to post… essentially the modren equivalent of “don’t talk to strangers”.

US Lawmakers and Cyber Bullying

It seems that cyberbullying legislation is going to take a while to move through the US. Wired has a story today on the bill that proposes to target “Serious, repeated hostile communications made with the intent to harm“. This seems to be a noble cause, but obviously it can not be that simple. The case that spawned this law was the suicide of a 13 year old after being bullied by a 51 year old saw the 51 year old originally convicted based on violating the TOS of the website that the two individuals used. It was overturned as it would open up holes for others to be prosecuted for violating TOS agreements.

I find myself in a strange position, I want there to be some way to protect people against cyberbullying, but I hate the “e/d/i-ification” of everything. Why should cyberbullying be any different than other forms in the eyes of the law? Why should it apply only to “targets” who are defined as youth? So while the bill does look to make the existing laws “aware” of cyberbullying and the tools involved, it might also go a bit far. I find myself agreeing with a Republican that the way the bill in question sits, it smells of over-criminalization. How and where can the line be drawn between criticism and bullying?

Hopefully they can work something out and it can be used in other countries as an model to help protect everyone, not only children from being bullied online.

Cyberbullying isn’t only intrademographic

TR has a story of an adult that got involved in bullying a child. I’m sure it’s not the first time that a parent has put their nose into a child’s affairs, but where as in the past it might have only been a parent being an accessory (which adult would be able to really hold their head up after picking on a kid?… ok don’t answer, the world is a nasty place), now everyone can be cloaked by the same perceived veil of online privacy. Thankfully this case was solved, but there are likely many more out there where parents are the ones who are bullying on behalf of their child(ren).

Sexting in the news again

This time, BBC has picked it up again in two stories (first, second), just in time for parents to start thinking about back to school (at least in North America). While many of the other stories that I’ve brought up here talk about how it is essentially no different than passing notes in terms of a “classic behavior”. The difference now however is that where in the past, the innuendo might have been limited to doodles, texts or perhaps a single poorly shot Polaroid, now with tools that can create high quality images with ease, the notes that get passed back and forth are essentially no different than commercial material. Topping that, as this content is now digital, it can be reproduced with ease and once it escapes from creator, there is no way to contain it (as an aside, this might be a way to get kids to understand what the IP owners out there are trying to do with regards to DRM).

The valuable learning piece from these two articles, comes from the second story where a young victim “Helen” talks about why she took pictures and sent them to her then boyfriend:

“I thought if I did it for him, everything would be happy as larry and we’d be a happy couple. Obviously that didn’t happen. I was a bit naive at the time, I was only 14 years old.

“When you are young and have your first boyfriend, all you want is for the relationship to work. You’ll do anything to make that happen.”

Hormones and power relationships are dangerous things and when it comes to teen aged boys, the two certainly do not lead to logical or responsible behaviour. I can’t speak for the side of teen aged girls (though I know that I’ll have to deal with that soon enough),  but I’m assuming that is it the same. But regardless of the mix of reactants, we can likely do something to help mitigate the problems before they start. It seems logical to me that if there is some way that we can start teaching kids earlier about respect for each other and how to have healthy relationships, we’d be well on our way to containing this problem. The problem here is, at least from what I can foresee, is that if we tell kids that they will likely have more than one relationship before marriage, we’ll be annoying those who advocate for no pre-marital relations and only ever one marriage. And regardless of other opinions, that group is still a very strong voice in many communities. On the other hand, if we teach kids that many of their early relationships will fail as they learn about themselves and others, we might go down the road suggesting that they are free to think of relationships as being disposable. These are the two extremes of course, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. Schools of course, are stuck in the middle. Schools are supposed to teach what is “right”, but they should also teach “what is real”, doing either will get them in hot water.

I think the only way that schools can get around annoying the various parties that will get annoyed is to “teach around the subject” and hope that whatever they leave in the middle will take care of itself.

Cox surveys teens on technology

Cox Communications has released it’s own survey (PDF) on teens and online safety in partnership with National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. It found that generally teens in the US are well connected with their own email address and cell phone and spend a substantial amount of time online via one device or another. 75% or teens have personal information posted on a social networking site. Most teens understand that this is not safe and one quarter know someone who has had “something bad” happen to them because of what was posted online. One third of students have either experienced (first hand or through a friend) or participated in cyberbullying. Those participating in bullies have often been bullied themselves. Cyberbullies think that it is easier to bully (and get away with it) online. A substantial number of those bullied say that it is worse to be bullied online than in person. 20% of teens have engaged in sexting and 10% of the recipients are unknown to the senders. Most teens think that sending sexts of under 18s is wrong, even though the vast majority of teen sexters are under 18 (this is expected isn’t it? most teen ages are under 18) and many teens think that people their age are too young to sext, but half believe that they are old enough to decide for themselves if it is alright or not. Teens understand that sexting is dangerous and most agree that adults over-react to sexting. Finally, while the majority of parents have talked to their kids about desk/laptop based connectivity, barely any supervision/guidance/advice has been given to handheld devices.

This seems to fall inline with many other surveys and studies that have been done on bullying and sexting, though it is interesting that this one came from a telco. The PDF has some very interesting numbers and surprisingly has among the other concluding points, three very important ones.

  • While the media love the sexting stories, that isn’t the larger problem – it is cyberbullying. More teens have engaged in one side of bullying online than sexting yet that gets lost in the sex story.
  • The normal picture of a menacing boy bullying others does not apply in cyberbullying – girls are more likely to have engaged in cyberbullying than boys have – meaning any campaign targeted towards stopping this needs to look at it from the girls’ eyes.  While girls are probably more likely to be cyberbuillies because size doesn’t matter there, there may be other reasons as well.
  • Parents may think they are engaged in their children’s online behavior, but the teens do not see it that way – a plurality both say they parents know nothing or very little about what they do online and have not limited their online activity at all.  The time is also ripe for someone to talk to and educate parents about what they have to do with regard to Internet safety.

Sexting vs “Spin the Bottle”

It seems that there is quite a bit of coverage in the news media about a paper being presented Peter Cummings at the 78th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences that sexting is no worse than the old fashion spin the bottle. Cummings says:

Technology does change things, and there can be very serious consequences.

But that obscures the fact that children and young people are sexual beings who have explored their sexuality in all times, and all cultures and all places.

[also arguing]

such online activities are safer than traditional sexual games because there is no immediate physical contact and thus are less likely to lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

While the negation of the risk associated with physical contact is eliminated, it doesn’t (from what I can see) take into consideration what happens to these txts and images after they leave the privacy of the two people involved. These situations are what seem to be at issue in the US with kids being prosecuted for transmitting child porn. To me it seems that the harmful elements of sexting go far beyond what might have happened as a result of spin the bottle (assuming there was also no physical contact there as well). In an innocent spin the bottle episode, all that might escape are stories that will fade over time. If an image escapes from a sexting exchange, that could be used to exploit either individual (just use the incredible hoopla that goes up when a celeberty tape goes up into the ‘net) or indivduals involved for musch longer because those images and messages will never fade (though interest in them may, the image will still be there should someone wish to exploit it). Kids – and everyone else sending notes online – should remember that one should always think (Youtube) before they post anywhere.

Stuart Brown on Play

What is it about “modern society” that so strongly believes that play is merely infantile? Stuart Brown presents an amazing talk on play and how it seems to be a natural extension of any intelligence. It seems to be the extension of some work ethic gone mad that “we” need some reason to do something, that tools and objects have only one method of use.

I really agree with what Brown mentions about the JPL and their hiring practices, the social smile of mother/child (though I’ve got a good argument that it happens with dads as well). Play allows us to explore, find what is safe and to solve problems.

Putting this talk together with Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity seems to suggest that the world has gone and got itself too serious. Granted, serious can be safe, but it is also very limiting, if we allow ourselves to be creative as we are in early childhood and to play as we ought to, we can achieve great things. Perhaps those people who are very successful – those who never “work” but rather play and are creative with their entire body (the thinking bat returns) – are the ones we should be looking to when we are considering how to teach the contemporary student (check it out at 19:25 in the video).

Edit – an interesting idea is to use play as a tool to combat (cyber)bullying

Cyberbullying on the rise in Canada

There are few ‘net related studies for Canada, so when they come out it is usually a good thing. Not to say that this is bad, but the news certainly is. Microsoft and Youthography have released a survey that suggest that cyberbullying is on the rise in Canada. Along with the bullying stats, they found:

  • 53% of males play games online, between 24% and 44% of those online players had participated in harassing, or been harassed by other players
  • 60% of kids who get up in the middle of the night use the ‘net to talk to someone, this impacts their ability to function the next day
  • 1/3 males used the ‘net to search for adult material
  • 60% of kids said that there was no consequence to cyberbullying, even thinking that it is “cool” and half said that they bully because they have been bullied in the past
  • females use the ‘net to socialize, males use it to play games (still socialization in a way is it not??)

I’ve pulled out some of the more alarming points here, but there are many good points, if the survey is to be believed:

  • 86% of kids asked their parents before joining social or gaming sites
  • 1/4 kids use an avatar, 12% change their age or gender (hopefully for the right reason)
  • 76% are careful about what information they give out.
  • 84% of respondents have had a discussion with their parents about the dangers of the Internet, and 86% of youth have punishments for not following household rules for Internet use.

Interesting stuff.