Cyberbullying and Harassment

Course #96423 - $20 • 5 Hours/Credits

Self-Assessment Questions

    1 . Among adults, which of the following age- groups is most likely to use the Internet?
    A) 18 to 29 years of age
    B) 30 to 39 years of age
    C) 45 to 59 years of age
    D) 65 years of age and older


    In order to understand the pervasive social, psychologic, and cultural impact of the Internet on the lives of individuals, it is important to obtain a brief glimpse of Internet and digital technology usage and consumption. According to the U.S. Census, 77% of households had Internet at home in 2015, compared with 68% in 2009 and only 18% in 1997 [7]. Access to broadband Internet has increased over the years, but the adoption rate has leveled off, mainly due to the increasing use of smartphones. In February 2019, 73% of households in the U.S. had broadband Internet [6]. In addition, 85% of households that included minor children had an Internet subscription, versus 73% of those without a minor living in the home [7]. In 2018, 90% of American adults use the Internet [6]. Among adults, individuals 18 to 29 years of age are the most likely to utilize the Internet (100%), while adults 65 years of age and older are the least likely (73%) [6]. Among adolescents 13 to 17 years of age, 92% report using the Internet daily, including 24% who indicate they are online "almost constantly" [11]. There is no doubt that Internet technology has become a ubiquitous part of the American landscape. Although data published in the last several years is among the most current, the Internet landscape changes so rapidly that obtaining accurate data is nearly impossible.

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    2 . The term "digital divide" refers to
    A) the number of people with cell phone access.
    B) the time during which an individual is away from digital technology.
    C) the differences in Internet usage patterns among different countries.
    D) the social inclusion/exclusion and equality/ inequality of Internet access.


    Although the use of the Internet and digital technology is growing and changing rapidly, it is important to remember that there is also the digital divide. The term "digital divide" refers to the social inclusion/exclusion and equality/inequality of Internet access, which is influenced by socioeconomic differences among various groups, including racial/ethnic minorities [16]. Extent of access can be categorized based on three factors: access to the Internet, frequency of Internet use, and scope of Internet use [17]. Socioeconomic status plays a role in each of these factors, as it is necessary to have the economic resources to purchase a computer or digital device, to pay for service, and to allot time to use the Internet recreationally [17]. Although structural factors are key determinants to the digital divide, digital literacy, which is related to level of education, also plays a role [163]. According to 2015 U.S. Census data, the Internet access racial gap has decreased. The percentage of African Americans with Internet access at home increased from 56.9% in 2012 to 64.9% and the proportion of Hispanics who reported home access increased from 58.3% in 2012 to 70.9%; this is compared with 79.3% of whites with home access in 2015 [7]. Data from the Pew Research Center show that 79% of white households have Internet broadband while only 66% and 61% of African American and Hispanic households respectively have broadband Internet [6]. This divide does not expand to include Asian Americans, who have greater access to the Internet at home (88.5%) than whites [7]. The growing use of cell phones/smartphones and mobile devices to access the Internet may be responsible for closing this gap. In 2019, ethnic minorities are higher users of smartphones as their only access to the Internet, with 23% of African Americans and 25% of Latinos having only smartphone Internet access, compared with 12% of white users [8]. They also appear to take fuller advantage of their cell phone features compared to white cell phone users [7].

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    3 . In terms of cyberstalking, crossover refers to stalking that
    A) occurs purely online.
    B) occurs purely offline.
    C) takes place online initially, but transitions to offline.
    D) is initiated offline but evolves to include online contact.


    In general, stalking typically involves two or more unwanted contacts. The mechanisms of stalking may be classified into four different categories [19]:

    • Purely online: Stalking occurs completely online.

    • Crossover: Stalking takes place solely online for weeks, but it then transitions to offline (e.g., face-to-face contact or postal contact by the perpetrator), though online activities may continue.

    • Proximal with online: Stalking is initiated offline but evolves to include online contact.

    • Purely offline: Stalking occurs completely offline.

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    4 . Which of the following is NOT an example of cyberstalking?
    A) Impersonating someone online
    B) Sending computer viruses to the victim
    C) Posting personal information about oneself online
    D) Obtaining information on the Internet about the victim for the purpose of harassment


    Examples of cyberstalking include but are not limited to [19,133]:

    • Obtaining information on the Internet about the victim in order to harass or intimidate online or offline

    • Sending or posting false information or messages about the victim

    • Impersonating someone online

    • Posting personal information about the victim online

    • Sending computer viruses to the victim

    • Tracking the victim using hidden webcams or global positioning systems (GPS)

    • Monitoring the victim's Internet and computer use using spyware

    • Contacting the victim using fake online profiles

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    5 . Which of the following online mediums is commonly used to bully or harass someone?
    A) Email
    B) Text messaging
    C) Social media sites
    D) All of the above


    There are many different forms of online, digital, and electronic mediums that are used to bully or harass someone. The most common mediums include social media sites, e-mail, text, and instant messaging [24,25,136]. In a 2016 nationally representative sample of 4,500 students 12 to 17 years of age, 34% of students indicated that they were a victim of cyberbullying at some point, with 17% of the incidents occurring within the previous 30 days. It was reported that the incident was usually through social media and included mean, hurtful comments or spreading of rumors [18].

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    6 . In the context of cyberbullying, "griefing" is defined as
    A) impersonating an individual in the virtual world.
    B) the negative psychological effects of cyberbullying.
    C) harassment of other game players in virtual game environments.
    D) the process of making life challenging for individuals in the online environment.


    Persons engaged in online gaming may harass other players regarding their performance, extending bullying to other aspects of their online persona or block them from participating in future games [166]. There are several online games (e.g., Fortnite, Minecraft, League of Legends) with an interactive component, allowing players to have discussions and interactions in game. When someone harasses an individual when playing games in the cyber world, this is called "griefing" [100]. In a 2015 study of 2,315 Taiwanese high school students, online game use predicted cyberbullying victimization and perpetration [137]. In a 2019 study, 6% to 21% of participants reported engaging in cyberbullying and 6% to 31% reported being victims of cyberbullying on online gaming platforms in the past six months [166].

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    7 . "Happy slapping" entails
    A) using software to send a victim thousands of e-mails.
    B) sending or posting untrue and cruel statements about a victim.
    C) perpetrators using cell phones to film victims being assaulted or forced to do something humiliating.
    D) tricking a victim into disclosing sensitive and personal information for the purpose of disseminating the information.


    There are many different forms of cyberbullying, but some of the most commonly encountered are [28,29,102,134,140,141,142,143,168,169]:

    • Flaming: Sending messages that are rude or vulgar in nature about a person via an online group, e-mail, or instant/text message

    • Outing: Posting or sending content about a person that is sensitive and/or private (also referred to as "doxxing")

    • Swatting: A form of doxxing whereby the public release of information and reporting false emergencies instigates a law enforcement response (usually to the victim's home)

    • Exclusion: Deliberately and cruelly excluding someone from an online group

    • Cyberstalking: Harassment via the Internet involving threats and intimidation

    • Online harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive messages online

    • Impersonating: Pretending to be the victim and posting messages or personal photos in a false profile

    • Denigrating: Sending or posting untrue and cruel statements about a particular person. This can include e-mail or text insults about another peer's physical characteristics, such as looks or weight. Girls are the more frequent target of insults than boys, and the insults often focused on weight (e.g., calling someone a "whale" or "ugly pig") and promiscuity or sexuality (e.g., calling someone a "whore" or "slut").

    • Masquerading: Posing as someone else for the purpose of sending information via the Internet that makes that individual look bad. Some perpetrators manage to steal victims' passwords in order to access computers or cell phones and pretend to be that person. Adolescents report that it is not difficult to obtain a password, and exchanging password information is often a sign of friendship.

    • Online grooming: An individual targets a minor and gradually gains his/her trust to ultimately prepare him/her for abuse.

    • Internet polling: Creating and disseminating an online survey with embarrassing or denigrating questions and publishing the results.

    • Happy slapping: Publishing a video that displays someone being physically hurt or humiliated.

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    8 . In a 2018 study, what percentage of adolescents reported having experienced at least one type of cyberbullying?
    A) 3.9%
    B) 19%
    C) 59%
    D) 71.9%

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    9 . At what age does the peak frequency of cyberbullying perpetration tend to occur?
    A) 10 to 12 years of age
    B) 13 to 15 years of age
    C) 16 to 19 years of age
    D) 20 to 24 years of age


    In studies of children and adolescents 10 to 17 years of age, boys have been found more likely to be perpetrators of cyberbullying [46,51]. Female teen perpetrators tend to spread rumors online, while male adolescent cyberbullies tend to post photos or videos that are hurtful to the victim [116]. Age also seems to be correlated with cyberbullying, as it increases with age to a certain point [52]. The peak frequency in cyberbullying tends to occur between 13 and 15 years of age—spiking in the 8th grade and declining in the 11th grade [30,53]. It appears that younger children are more likely to be bullies in the traditional sense (offline), but older youths are more likely to be bullies online; however, it is not clear what dynamics explain this difference [46,52]. In part, it may be correlated with increased access to the Internet and cell phones with less parental supervision as children age. In addition, having been a victim of cyberbullying is a strong predictor for becoming a perpetrator [181,182,183].

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    10 . Of the following, who are at an increased risk of becoming victims of cyberbullying or harassment?
    A) Girls and women
    B) Adolescents with close supervision
    C) Individuals who are more committed to school
    D) Individuals who do not use social networking sites


    In general, girls and women tend to be the victims of cyberbullying, especially specific types of bullying. For example, girls are more likely to have had a rumor spread online about them than boys [37].

    Cyberbully victims also tend to be victims in other areas of their lives, such as traditional bullying. Not surprisingly, victims of cyberbullying tend to use the Internet more and in riskier ways than non-victims [52,184]. A study of 935 adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age found that those with active profiles on social networking sites were more likely to experience online bullying than those without profiles [56]. Similarly, adolescents who are daily users of the Internet and who use social networking sites such Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are more likely to report having been harassed online [37,41]. Individuals who used webcams at least once or twice a week or who used message boards most days of the week were 1.75 times and 1.67 times more likely, respectively, to report having been cyberbullied repeatedly in the past year [57].Those who have created online content, such as developing their own blogs, building websites for themselves or for others, uploading photos, or posting to community boards, are more likely to experience online harassment compared to those who do not create their own content [37]. This is not surprising, as motivated perpetrators will seek out contact and other personal information online to be used to harass their victims [56].

    A meta-analysis found that victims of cyberbullying tended to be female and to experience high levels of depression, stress, and/or loneliness [160]. They also tend to have low self-esteem, lower levels of empathy, and more anxiety [171]. In addition, they tended to experience other forms of victimization offline, were frequent Internet users, had problem behaviors, lived in a negative family environment, and were less committed to school. A 2020 Chinese study found that cyberbully victims are more often male and younger [185]. They are more likely to experience parental conflict and have higher deviant peer affiliations.

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    11 . Which of the following is a sign that a child or adolescent may be the victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying?
    A) Euphoria when removed from Internet access
    B) Excitement when receiving e-mail or text messages
    C) Strict adherence to established rules and expected behaviors
    D) Sacrificing normally enjoyed offline activities to participate in Internet activities


    Signs that youths may be victims or perpetrators of bullying on the Internet have been identified. Parents, counselors, and other health professionals should be aware of [78,79,144,188]:

    • Signs of depression or anxiety, particularly when the Internet is not available or is inaccessible for periods of time

    • Signs of depression or anxiety when e-mails or instant/text messages arrive

    • Hopelessness or talk of suicide

    • Avoiding use of the Internet and/or devices, when it was an activity that was previously enjoyed

    • Academic difficulties or behavioral problems offline (e.g., not being on time at school, dropping grades, relationships suffering)

    • Withdrawal from friends and family

    • General aggressive behaviors

    • Viewing pornographic material on the computer

    • Sacrificing normally enjoyed offline activities to participate in Internet activities

    • Attempting to maintain level of secrecy about online activities (e.g., quickly turning computer off when parent is walking by, deleting browsing history, turning monitor screen off when someone walks by)

    • Is online or uses devices at all hours, including night

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    12 . According to strain theory, which of the following is NOT considered a possible source of strain?
    A) Loss of positively valued stimuli
    B) Presentation of negative stimuli
    C) Negatively valued goals that are achieved
    D) Positively valued goals that are not achieved


    Strain theory was introduced by Robert Merton in the early 1930s in his study of wealth. He asserted that whenever a gap or discrepancy between individuals' aspirations and reality exists, frustration will ensue, and individuals will be more likely use illegitimate means to accomplish their goals [58]. In the 1990s, Agnew expanded this theory to apply more broadly to economic aspirations. Agnew argued that people who experience strain are more likely to experience frustration or anger and are then more vulnerable to engaging in criminal or deviant behavior [59]. Sources of strain could stem from three sources: positively valued goals that are not achieved; loss of positively valued stimuli (e.g., loss of a job, loss of a romantic relationship); and presentation of negative stimuli (e.g., history of family violence) [59]. Although social institutions or persons (e.g., parents) can prevent deviant behavior, it is argued that repeated strains could weaken the bonds of these social control mechanisms [119]. It is important to note that strain and deviance are not causal; deviant behavior is a coping mechanism when strain develops [59].

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    13 . Which of the following characteristics of the Internet may facilitate online disinhibition?
    A) Invisibility
    B) Asynchronicity
    C) Solipsistic introjections
    D) All of the above


    The following characteristics of the Internet may facilitate online disinhibition [60]:

    • Dissociative anonymity: A person can remain relatively anonymous online, with no name or a false name.

    • Invisibility: For the most part, the Internet, and particularly websites, blogs, and other text-based platforms, lends itself to the person's invisibility. In online communication, there is no concern about nonverbal cues and messages sent.

    • Asynchronicity: People can interact and communicate with each other in non-real time; there is no feedback loop that discourages negative behavior.

    • Solipsistic introjections: Because there are no immediate social and nonverbal cues online, one assigns a "voice" and "image" to another person. This process may be conscious or unconscious.

    • Dissociative imagination: It is easier for a person to dissociate online fiction and offline fact.

    • Minimization of authority: There is often minimal or no sense of who the authority figure is online. If there is an authority figure, his/her presence is minimized by social cues present in face-to-face interaction, such as attire, height, and body language.

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    14 . In a 2017 report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, what proportion of abusers used social media and other programs to stalk, harass, and control their victims?
    A) 3%
    B) 26%
    C) 56%
    D) 97%


    In a 2009 study conducted by the Technology Safety Project of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a program designed to educate the community, domestic violence victims, and domestic violence advocates about the role of technology in domestic violence and promoting technology safety, one-quarter of the women had the browser history on their computer monitored, and 23.6% stated that they had received threatening e-mails repeatedly [71]. An additional 18% indicated that someone monitored their e-mails. However, a 2017 report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence notes that abusers often use electronic means to spy or eavesdrop on their victims. These researchers found that 97% of abusers used social media and other programs to stalk, harass, and control their victims, showing the growing use of technology in domestic violence and abuse [70].

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    15 . The most significant psychologic effects of cyberbullying appear to be
    A) depression and anxiety.
    B) anger and impaired self-esteem.
    C) oppositional conduct disorder and anxiety.
    D) drug/alcohol abuse and dissociative disorders.


    Many psychosocial effects of cyberbullying have been noted in victims. Youths who experience bullying of any kind often face academic problems, perhaps in part because they are distressed and preoccupied. Teachers will often report that victims' grades drop precipitously, and some will have other academic problems, such as cutting classes, increased detentions, and carrying weapons to school [54,73]. This may be the result of no longer viewing school as a safe place. Poor academic performance and behavioral problems have been found to continue for years after experiences of cyberbullying [150]. Adult victims have reported sleep problems, job dissatisfaction, and health and mental health issues [165]. The most significant psychologic effects appear to be depression and anxiety. Depression is also associated with cyberbullying victimization, with victims reporting increased sadness, anger, and anxiety [74]. These negative ramifications appear to apply in many countries and cultures [125]. Situational characteristics (e.g., level of social support, emotional intelligence, coping skills, empathy) can moderate psychosocial consequences [165]. Those with higher levels of interpersonal emotional competence are better able to ameliorate the psychologic distress of cyberbullying better than those with lower levels [195].

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    16 . Which of the following online behaviors is considered risky?
    A) Entering a video game chatroom
    B) Posting contact information online
    C) Creating a gender-neutral e-mail address
    D) Returning an e-mail from an acquaintance


    Parents, adolescents, and children should also be educated about the types of Internet behaviors that are considered risky, including [45,95]:

    • Posting a full name on publicly accessible Internet profiles, such as discussion forums, message boards, social media platforms, blogs, and/or chat rooms

    • Posting contact information (e.g., phone numbers, e-mail addresses, city and state) on the Internet

    • Posting photos of oneself on the Internet

    • Posting what is considered a provocative or sexy picture of oneself on the Internet

    • Sharing passwords, even with close friends

    • Creating what might be considered a provocative user name or e-mail address

    • Making one's profile visible to all Internet users

    • Creating a gender-specific e-mail address

    • Inviting strangers to one's social networking site

    • Accepting strangers to one's social networking site

    • Entering a sex chatroom

    • Agreeing to meet someone offline after minimal Internet exchanges

    • Downloading pornographic images from pornographic websites

    • Talking with a stranger about sensitive topics (e.g., sex, relationships)

    • Returning an e-mail from a stranger

    • Posting one's plans on the Internet (e.g., plans for the day or a specific time)

    • Using a webcam to talk to a stranger on the Internet

    • Accepting file transfers or links from a stranger

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    17 . Which of the following steps may parents implement in order to minimize the chance of their child/ren becoming online victims?
    A) Implement a schedule for Internet use.
    B) Place the computer in an area where there is a lot of traffic.
    C) Encourage Internet use when a responsible adult is present.
    D) All of the above


    With this in mind, there are safety tips parents may implement in order to minimize the chances of online victimization of their child or children [78]:

    • Place the computer in an area where there is a lot of traffic to prevent youths from being completely isolated, minimizing their ability to freely explore on the Internet.

    • Specify where laptops, smart phones, and tablets may be used.

    • Implement a schedule for Internet use.

    • Encourage computer and Internet use when a responsible adult is present.

    • Use screensavers of important people to prevent the person using the computer from falling into a trance-like state.

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    18 . Social self-efficacy, a key skill in avoiding and preventing cyberbullying, is defined as
    A) empathy for victims of bullying.
    B) an increased ability to identify bullying situations.
    C) the lack of reliance on physical means (e.g., violence) to resolve problems.
    D) perception of oneself and one's competence in navigating social situations.


    Imparting social skills, such as fostering empathy and self-efficacy, is also an important theme in cyberbullying prevention [200]. Educators, parents, and practitioners often assume that adolescents and young adults understand and know how to extend empathy and fairness, but this is not always the case. These individuals may benefit from education on how to respond to cyberbullying in a non-aggressive, empathetic, and thoughtful manner [200]. Adolescents who intervened or who were merely bystanders in cyberbullying situations score high on empathic levels, but adolescents who score high on social self-efficacy are more likely to intervene compared to those who scored low on social self-efficacy, who were more likely to engage in passive bystanding behaviors [87]. Social self-efficacy is defined as one's perception of oneself and perceived competence in navigating social situations and being assertive and proactive in interpersonal relationships. In other words, regardless of adolescents' ability to empathize with victims, perceived ability to do something effective predicts whether they will intervene. Adolescents who score low on self-efficacy may not necessarily know what they can do to help, may be afraid of retaliation, or may be afraid of doing the wrong thing and exacerbating the situation [87]. Therefore, adolescents should be taught assertiveness skills for a variety of situations in order to minimize the pressure to conform to group norms. For example, prevention programs that emphasize peer support, peer mediation, and peer mentoring might be beneficial [87]. For example, researchers who conducted a recent study with Turkish adolescents found that those adolescents who were less empathic were more at risk for engaging in cyberbullying. Their study results demonstrated that the combined effect of affective (i.e., experiencing someone else's feelings) and cognitive (i.e., taking another's perspective) empathy played a vital role in influencing adolescents' participation in cyberbullying. Consequently, some experts recommend empathy training in an attempt to reduce participation in cyberbullying [125]. Teaching both affective empathy ("My friend's negative feelings as a result of experiencing cyberbullying do affect me.") as well as cognitive empathy ("I can understand why my friend who experienced cyberbullying is upset.)" is vital [125].

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    19 . In cases of identified cyberbullying, victims may benefit from crisis intervention and counseling. The first stage of crisis intervention involves
    A) establishing rapport.
    B) identifying the perpetrator.
    C) assessing the client's level of danger.
    D) identifying the major problems to address.


    The first stage involves assessing the client's level of danger. Depending upon the type of cyberbullying the victim experienced, the victim's level of distress may vary. Determine the severity of the distress and if the victim is at risk of hurting himself/herself. Equally important is assessing the victim's risk of being hurt by the perpetrator.

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    20 . When the immediate stress from the cyberbullying crisis has stabilized, it is important to
    A) create a supportive and safe environment.
    B) stop exploring feelings related to the event.
    C) develop a concrete, solutions-focused action plan.
    D) reinforce proactive techniques used to promote adaptation and coping.


    Finally, it is essential to follow-up with the victim. When the immediate stress from the crisis has stabilized, reinforce proactive techniques used by the victim to promote adaptation and coping [91]. It is important to reassure victims that fear is a normal response and the fear and anxiety experienced might last for a while, which is normal. Fear can be used in a positive manner to serve as a protective mechanism, ultimately empowering victims to be more proactive in taking online safety precautions [90]. When instances of cyberbullying occur, it is recommended that it is documented fully [129].

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