Massachusetts Aggression Center study: Cyberbullying and elementary school children

30 Jul

Moi wrote about bullying in Ohio State University study: Characteristics of kids who are bullies:
A Rotary Club in London has a statement about the Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect – Sending Waves of Goodness into the World
Like a drop of water falling into a pond, our every action ripples outward, affecting other lives in ways both obvious and unseen.
We touch the lives of those with whom we come into contact and, by extension, those with whom they come into contact.
When our actions spring from a spirit of kindness or compassion or generosity, we set into motion a “virtuous cycle” that radiates far beyond our ability to see, or perhaps even fully comprehend.
Just as a smile is infectious, so are more overt forms of service. Our objective — whether in something as formal as a highly-structured website development project or as casual as the spontaneous small kindnesses we share with strangers in hopes of brightening their day — is to send waves of positive change in the world, one act of service at a time.

Unfortunately, some children due to a variety of behaviors in their lives miss the message of the “Ripple Effect.”
Ohio State University reported in the press release, SCHOOL BULLIES MORE LIKELY TO BE SUBSTANCE USERS, STUDY FINDS:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Middle- and high-school students who bully their classmates are more likely than others to use substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, a new study found.
Researchers found that bullies and bully-victims – youth who are both perpetrators and victims – were more likely to use substances than were victims and non-involved youth.
“Our findings suggest that one deviant behavior may be related to another,” said Kisha Radliff, lead author of the study and assistant professor of school psychology at Ohio State University.
“For example, youth who bully others might be more likely to also try substance use.  The reverse could also be true in that youth who use substances might be more likely to bully others.”
The researchers didn’t find as strong a link between victims of bullying and substance use.
Radliff conducted the study with Joe Wheaton, associate professor in Special Education, and Kelly Robinson and Julie Morris, both former graduate students, all at Ohio State.
Their study appears in the April 2012 issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.
Data for the study came from a survey of 74,247 students enrolled in all public, private and Catholic middle and high schools in Franklin County, Ohio (which includes Columbus).
Among the 152 questions on the survey were eight that involved bullying, either as a victim or perpetrator.  Students were asked about how often they told lies or spread false rumors about others, pushed people around to make them afraid, or left someone out of a group to hurt them.  They were also asked how often they were the victims of such actions.
In addition, the questionnaire asked how often they used cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.  For this study, users were defined as those who reported use at least once a month.
Results showed that bullying was more common among middle-school students than those in high school, while substance use was more prevalent among high-school students.
About 30 percent of middle-school students were bullies, victims or bully-victims, compared to 23 percent of those in high school.
Fewer than 5 percent of middle-school youth used cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana.  But among high-school students, about 32 percent reported alcohol use, 14 percent used cigarettes and 16 percent used marijuana.
But substance use varied depending on involvement in bullying, the researchers found.
For example, among middle-school students, only 1.6 percent of those not involved in bullying reported marijuana use.  But 11.4 percent of bullies and 6.1 percent of bully-victims used the drug.  Findings showed that 2.4 percent of victims were marijuana users.
Among high school students, 13.3 percent of those not involved in bullying were marijuana users – compared to 31.7 percent of bullies, 29.2 percent of bully-victims, and 16.6 percent of victims.
Similar results were found for alcohol and cigarette use.
But the percentages tell only part of the story, Radliff said.  The researchers also used a statistical analysis that showed that bullies and bully-victims had much higher than expected levels of substance use.
“That suggests there is a relationship between experimenting with substances and engaging in bullying behavior,” she said.
Statistically, however, there was no connection between being a victim and substance use among middle-school students, according to Radliff.  The use of cigarettes and alcohol was statistically greater for victims in high school, but there was no statistically significant effect on marijuana use.
Nevertheless, it was the bullies and bully-victims who were the most likely to be substance users.
Radliff said these results may lead to ways anti-bullying initiatives can be improved.
“Many schools are mandating anti-bullying programs and policies, and we think they need to take this opportunity to address other forms of deviant behavior, such as substance use,” she said.
This might be especially important in middle school, where bullying is more prevalent, but substance use is still relatively rare.
“If we can intervene with bullies while they’re in middle school, we may be able to help them before they start experimenting with substance use,” she said.
Contact: Kisha Radliff, (614) 292-6485;
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457;
See, Kids Who Bully May Be More Likely to Smoke, Drink
Anne Collier wrote in the Christian Science Monitor article, Cyberbullying study one of the first to research elementary school-aged youth:

Rare is the opportunity to get insights into cyberbullying in elementary school because most US research has focused on youth aged 12 and up. The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) really delivered by surveying a huge sample – more than 11,700 – 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders three times over a year and a half, and I believe the results clearly demonstrate the need for social-emotional learning and media literacy education starting in even lower grades.
For example, 90 percent of 3rd graders play interactive games (and they didn’t just start in 3rd grade!), and most cyberbullying among them occurs in online games, MARC found. But before you jump to any conclusions about games, note this finding:
“Children at
 the highest risk for repeatedly cyberbullying others were the most likely to report problems 
on Facebook, email, or through text messaging.” What this suggested to MARC is that – though safety and social-literacy education should fold in online game play – it shouldn’t stop there but embrace Facebook, e-mail, and texting too, even for under-13 Facebook users. The 19 percent of girls in grades 3 to 5 who were using Facebook in 2010 increased to 49 percent by 2012. Remember that Facebook and social games are on phones too, and there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that plenty of 4th and 5th graders are in Instagram (see this) and game apps like Clash of Clans….
Teaching children how to “recognize, report and refuse bullying,” as the bullying prevention and social literacy experts at Committee for Children in Seattle put it, is essential to reducing bullying in school and media environments. But what experts worldwide are seeing and voicing more and more is that social-emotional learning (SEL) – teaching our children how to detect and manage their own emotions and make good social decisions is the bedrock. Educators in Illinois certainly understand this, since in 2004, their state was the first to adopt SEL into its academic standards. Teacher Tontaneshia Jones of Chicago’s Ella Flagg Young School calls SEL “problem-solving with dignity,” as I wrote here, but its positive impact goes well beyond even social problem-solving to improving academic performance and a number of other factors for students and schools (see this).
See, Study Calls for Cyberbullying Education in Elementary Schools

Here is the press release from The Massachusetts Aggression Center:

Cyberbullying among 11,700 Elementary School
Students, 2010-2012
Dr. Elizabeth Englander
Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center
Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, MA

Presented on November 6, 2012, at the International Bullying Prevention Association Annual Conference, Kansas City, MO.
11,700+ Third-, Fourth- and Fifth-Graders, sampled in New England from a variety of schools (representing a variety of socioeconomic classes), between January 2010 and September, 2012.
Major Findings:

1. Elementary school children are already immersed in cyber-technology. Over 90% of third graders reported playing interactive games online. 35% of subjects reported owning a cellphone; most owned smartphones (see #8 below). This suggests : cyber-education needs to begin well before middle school.
2. Most elementary cyberbullying occurred in online games. However, children at the highest risk for repeatedly cyberbullying others were the most likely to report problems on Facebook, email, or through Text Messaging. This suggests: elementary cyberbullying education should probably include lessons relevant to online game-playing dynamics. Also, when a child aged 8 to 11 reports a problem on Facebook, email, or messaging, that should be regarded as a possible warning sign of higher-risk online involvement.
3. Use of Facebook increased among third, fourth, and fifth graders between 2010-2012, especially among girls. 19% of girls were using Facebook in 2010; that number rose to 49% in 2012. This suggests:
parents and children may not understand the existence or rationale of federal age guidelines (13 years or older) for Facebook and similar websites.
4. Cell phone ownership increased in every grade. For example, among fourth graders, 26% owned cell phones in 2012, and this increased to 35% in 2012. 52% of fifth graders and 22% of third graders reported owning cell phones by 2012.
5. In every grade, smartphone ownership increased and non-smartphone ownership decreased between 2010 and 2012. Owning a smartphone was a significant risk factor for both being a cyberbully and being a cyberbullying victim.
12% of fifth grade non-owners, and 18% of smartphone owners, admitted being a cyberbully. Similarly, 12% of fifth grade non-owners, and 34% of smartphone owners, reported being a cyberbullying victim. Similar numbers were found for third and fourth graders. This suggests : parents who are considering buying their elementary-aged child a smartphone should be offered both the benefits, and the risks,
associated with children’s usage.
6. When comparing Grades 3, 4 and 5, traditional in-school bullying was far more common that cyberbullying. However, both types of bullying increased across the three years. Just being a victim actually decreased from third to fifth grade; however, the percentage of children who both bully and are victims (“bully/victims”) increased from 15% in third grade to 21% in grade five.
7. In third grade, 72% of cyberbullying victims said that the bully online was anonymous. However, that percentage dropped to 64% by grade 5. (That trend continues through high school.) This suggests
: as children grow, cyberbullying increasingly reflects a dynamic between a target and a bully who know each other, usually from school.
8. Experiencing one episode of bullying is more common than experiencing bullying repeatedly. This was true for both victims and bullies. This suggests: efforts to control bullying may often be successful. It is also possible that many children learn, from one episode, how to avoid future episodes.
9. Cyberbullying education appears to be having an impact in Massachusetts. The proportion of children who could not define cyberbullying declined from 24% in 2010 to 10% in 2012. Non-bullies were more likely than bullies to report that their class had been offered education about bullying and cyberbullying (especially among fifth graders). Children who were repeatedly mean online reported the lowest level of education. This suggests: elementary education and awareness about cyberbullying can be can be successful.
10. Between 2010 and 2012, children were increasingly likely to claim that they had reported cyberbullying.
Furthermore, reporting to both adults and peers increased similarly. This suggests : cyberbullying programs appear to be successfully increasing the rate at which children report cyberbullying.

Dr. Elizabeth Englander
Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center
Professor of Psychology
Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater, MA
Phone: 508-531-1784
Text Messaging: 508-955-0270

Two articles describe the effects of social networking on teen relationships. In the first article, Antisocial Networking?, Hillary Stout writes in the New York Times about toxic social networking sites and their effect on teens.
Hans Villarica has an excellent article in Time, Dealing With Cyberbullying: 5 Essential Parenting Tips

Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don’t understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally “doesn’t count” and that digital abuse doesn’t hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids’ behavior in person…. (More on Lessons on Cyberbullying: Is Rebecca Black a Victim? Experts Weigh In)
Take an interest in your kids’ online behavior. Kids tend to think their parents don’t know or care about their online lives. They fear that their parents, in not understanding, will simply take away their cell phone or computer if anything goes wrong….. (More on The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)
Check school policies on cyberbullying. Contact your child’s teacher or a school social worker or administrator and find out whether there is an official policy on cyberbullying. If there is one, read it and discuss it with your kids.
If there isn’t a written policy in place, ask about how cyberbullying is handled and whether there are any plans to create an official policy. Better yet, step up and join — or push to create — a committee to set the standards…. (More on Cyberbullying? Homophobia? Tyler Clementi’s Death Highlights Online Lawlessness)
Set guidelines about cell-phone use. Many parents give their kids cell phones, so they can stay in closer contact with them. But that’s typically not the reason kids want cell phones. Rather, kids use them to surf the Web, send text messages to friends, update their social-networking status, and share pictures and videos.
Review with your children the laws that could affect their cell phone use, including limitations on where and when they can legally take photos or videos, and how you expect them to handle text messaging or Internet use. If you choose to monitor what’s on your kids’ phones, be aware that more than 70% of kids delete messages or photos before giving their parents their phones for checks, according to research from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. (More on A Glimmer of Hope in a Bad-News Survey About Bullying)
Help your children respond appropriately if they are cyberbullied. First, talk with your children about what happened and how they feel about it. Be supportive. Remember that your kids feel that they are under attack. Second, report the abuse to the website on which it occurred. This can often be done via an “abuse” or “report” button or link on the site. Lastly, report the bullying to school administrators and ask them to look after your children.

Parents must monitor their children’s use of technology.
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