Tech likely not the main problem in cyberbullying: Breakthrough study


There are some groundbreaking takeaways (and many more insights) in new research from the University of New Hampshire – "The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?".

Among the takeaways:

  • Social literacy is needed to grow safety in social media: “Our research suggests that those seeking to prevent the most detrimental forms of peer harassment might focus less on cyberbullying per se and instead [consider] prevention programs that teach youth to handle negative feelings and to de-escalate tensions,” the authors write. “These skills are the focus of a growing number of social emotional learning programs and comprehensive school-based bullying prevention programs that are increasing in sophistication.”
  • Fresh data: About a third (34%) of youth had experienced harassment of some kind over the previous year, 54% of incidents involved no technology, 15% involved only technology and 31% involved both technology and in-person elements.
  • The negative emotional impact of digital harassment is “significantly lower than that of the in-person kind – contrary to that theory I mentioned above. “Compared with in-person incidents, technology-only incidents were less likely to involve multiple episodes and power imbalances,” the authors write, adding: “They were seen by victims as easier to stop and had significantly less emotional impact.” So, no, the idea that tech amplifies harm, is not supported by the data. But the second part of this finding is equally important: that the emotional impact of in-person harassment is significantly lower than that of mixed incidents (those that involve both digital and in-person harassment). However…
  • The digital part is not likely the main problem in mixed (digital and in-person) harassment incidents, the kind that the study found causes the most distress. “It appears likely that it is less something inherent about the technology itself, and more something about the relational nature of mixed harassment incidents that make them so upsetting,” the authors write, adding that the data suggest that mixed incidents “are marked by more intense, personal, and complex negative interactions that have high emotional salience for those involved.” So because the root of the problem is social rather than technological…


Download the report: "The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?".

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