When tweens cyberbully
Parents of children who have not yet reached the teen years may think they have some time before they need to be concerned about electronic aggression and cyberbullying. However, consider these statistics in eight to 11-year-olds:
- 18% use social networking sites such as Facebook despite not meeting age requirements.
- 58% communicate through internet or cell phone and 31% have their own cell phone.
- 68% of those who own a phone send and receive texts and 21% have internet on their phone.
- By age 11, children text an average of 80 minutes a day.
There is ample opportunity for children in our society to use electronic forms of communication, which leaves them open to electronic aggression and cyberbullying.
“Elementary school is definitely not too early for electronic aggression and cyberbullying to occur,” said researcher Jean Burr, who presented about electronic aggression at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) recently.
What are electronic aggression and cyberbullying?
Electronic aggression is any intentional aggressive behaviour done online or through texting. Cyberbullying is repeated electronic aggression where there is a power imbalance between the aggressor and the victim.
Cyberbullying and electronic aggression are upsetting because they come into the [child’s] safe place, their home. Fifty per cent of victims do not even know who their aggressors are. Victims often remain silent in effort to keep their cell phones and laptops.
The internet offers aggressors anonymity, distance from the consequences of their actions, lack of supervision, easy accessibility and availability, ability to make information public, and permanence of what they post.
The more time young people spend communicating by cell phone or internet, the more likely they are to become an electronic aggressor or victim.
Parental monitoring does not help
Burr studied the effects of parental monitoring and parental knowledge of their children’s lives on electronic aggression in children aged nine to 11. Burr found that parental monitoring – such as review of text messages and the use of cybernanny sites – did not help reduce electronic aggression or cyberbullying.
Researcher Alicia Bower, who conducted a similar study which she presented at the SRCD, also found that parental monitoring did not make a difference in electronic aggression or cyberbullying. “It could be that parents are just not savvy at monitoring because kids are so good with the medium,” she said.
Maintaining open communication is key
Both researchers found that parental knowledge of what was going on in their children’s lives did lead to decreased electronic aggression. When parents keep the lines of communication open with their child, it helps to protect against electronic aggression and cyberbullying, said Bower.
The studies highlight the need for parents to encourage open and honest dialogue with their children, and to maintain a genuine interest in what they are doing. “We need parents to be generally involved in their children’s lives,” said Burr.
For more information
Compliments of: Sherene Chen-See, Writer/editor, AboutKidsHealth