Traditional Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: The Protective Role of Peer Relations

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Jerry Brown
Submitted: May 2013

Cyber-bullying has become recognised as a recent form of traditional bullying that uses electronic means. In traditional bullying the quantity and quality of someone’s social network has been shown to play a somewhat protective role in warding off victimisation, but the corresponding research in cyber-bullying is limited and more equivocal. Indications are that any protective factor is much reduced and may be absent. The reasons for this are unclear and may include the potential anonymity of the bully and the lack of face-to-face communication. There are also fundamental differences in the way that those involved conceptualise cyber-bullying from traditional bullying and these may manifest themselves in a belief that peer support can play little or no protective role. An alternative interpretation is provided of the lack of protection provided by peer support in the online environment that owes less to how the online environment may dilute any protective effect and more to the merging of online and offline friendships and the heightened vulnerability to cyber-bullying that this brings. Implications for EPs are tentative given the lack of research on peer relations in cyber-bullying, but they should guard against simply transferring solutions for traditional bullying into the cyber-context and seek more robust theoretically-based interventions that acknowledge how different traditional and cyber-bullying are.

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