“CyberBullying”, “Cyber-Stalking”, “Flaming” and other negative online behaviours are swiftly becoming the focus of many in the child development sector. Therapists, Counsellors and ‘Online advisers’ are making new careers from advising individuals and groups on positive on-line behaviours and anti-cyber bullying strategies.
I wonder whether social networking sites, such as Facebook, are actually the problem. I’m not diminishing the distressing and damaging experience of cyber-bullying, nor am I questioning whether cyber-bullying exists, it certainly does. Further, I am sure that it’s expression and effects are specific and unique. Further, I know that cyber-bullying can be absolutely terrifying and disastrous for the victims.However, I am questioning whether the causes of cyber-bullying are actually different to the causes of any other anti-social behaviour. If we want to successfully counter cyber-bullying, and reduce it’s prevalence, I think we need to place an understanding of human behaviour alongside the concerns with the technology.
What makes people carry out anti-social acts ?
Psychologists have long identified the key causes of anti-social behaviour, whilst there may be discussion over the relative strength of influence, most are agreed that anti social behaviour is caused by a combination of the following factors:
(i) In-group favouritism and out-group discrimination in a competitive environment.
(ii) Low self esteem / low self efficacy of the aggressor.
(iii) normalisation of anti-social behaviour through modelling.
(iv) Displacement behaviours / Frustration outlets.
(v) Role and Situation (as shown by Zimbardo)
(vi) Opportunity arising from anonymity and diffused responsibility.
(vii) Maladaptive cognitive frameworks developed from constraining and negative experiences.
If we hope to reduce cyber-bullying we should focus on the actual causes of anti-social behaviour. Facebook didn’t make people anti-social, rather it is people who choose to use this technology to carry out anti-social behaviour. If the technology were not available they would have found different means of transmission for their motivation.
Whilst there are obvious dangers associated with social networking sites, providing the opportunity for cyber bullying, there are also many positive outcomes of this technology. Such positive outcomes can include pro social behaviour, increased sociability, development of new social movement, and the creation of new cultural ideas.
A recent survey carried out by the Australian Psychological Society of 1,834 participants representative of the full range of demographics turned up some interesting findings.
the findings are:
* Online social networking is being used by people across the age range
* 70% of survey respondents report spending less than two hours a day on sites
* 28% have had a ‘bad experience’ using social networking sites
* 53% feel social networking has increased contact with friends and family
* 26% report increased participation in social activities as a result
* Patterns of ‘sociability’ that occur in real life appear to be replicated online
* 25% of 31–50 year old respondents have had a date with someone met online
* 21% of these have gone on to form an intimate relationship
The research clearly shows that there are both positive and negative outcomes from online behaviour. The crucial inference from the finding is that online social networking is resculpting the formation, maintenance and sustenance of real world relationships. To tackle online anti-social behaviour we should try to form a better understanding of the causes of online pro-social behaviour.
Read the details of the Australian Psychological Society here: