Everyone has seen Heathers, right? Or what about Mean Girls? Basically, it’s a Hollywood staple of high school movies that ‘friends’ turn on each other (although, IRL we’re not 100% sure they go on killing rampages with Christian Slater). With the advent of the internet, however, it seems the way that we all communicate with each other has mutated and changed. One fairly new and quite scary phenomenon is the advent of cyberbullying and trolling, especially amongst teenagers.
However, it seems that things aren’t all they seem…
While you might assume that cyberbullies are, well, bullies, it seems that teenagers are more likely to be picked on by a BFF or a partner than anyone else online.
According to a new study by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Davis, titled “Toxic Ties: Networks of Friendship, Dating, and Cyber Victimization,” friends, former friends and dating partners were more likely to be the perpetrators of cyberbullying.
“Friends, or former friends, are particularly likely to find themselves in situations in which they are vying for the same school, club, and/or sport positions and social connections,” said Diane Felmlee, the lead author of the study and a professor of sociology at The Pennsylvania State University. “In terms of dating partners, young people often have resentful and hurt feelings as a result of a breakup, and they may take out these feelings on a former partner via cyber aggression.”
The study found that 17.2% of students had been embroiled in cyberbullying within a week of the study having taken place, with girls being more likely to suffer abuse.
“In spite of societal progress regarding gender inequality, there remains a tendency to attribute lower levels of esteem and respect to females in our society, including within schools,” said Felmlee, before noting that in schools boys were more likely to hold powerful positions.
Similarly, LGBTQ+ students were four times more likely to suffer from cyberbullying, something that Felmlee says isn’t surprising. “However, the size of the effect was alarmingly high. The finding reflects the social norms in our society that continue to stigmatize non-heterosexuality, norms that are likely to be reinforced within the walls of middle and high schools,” she said.
Diane Felmlee and her co-author, Robert Faris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, said that they hoped that their research, which focused on 800 eighth- to twelfth-grade students in 2011 at a public school in a suburb of New York City, would help anti-bullying campaigners, schools, and parents become more aware of the trend.
“We hope parents turn a watchful eye to their teenager’s closest associates,” said Felmlee, “and pay attention to his or her online activities for signs of abuse.”
We hope that with this new information, less people will be affected by the heinousness of cyberbullying.
For more information on cyberbullying, visit www.stopbullying.gov.
If you or someone you know is being affected by cyberbullying, visit HERE for more information about what you can do.