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Using Research to Understand Cyberbullying

Dr. Megan Moreno
Dr. Megan Moreno, Center for Child Health, Behavioral and Human Development at Seattle Children’s, discusses how important it is to have a common definition of cyberbullying in order to develop effective prevention and intervention programs. She leads a NIJ-supported research project to help us understand cyberbullying among children and teens.

Speaking in this video: Dr. Megan Moreno – Center for Child Health, Behavioral and Human Development – Seattle Children’s

I am an Adolescent Medicine Physician and so a lot of the research ideas that we develop come from experiences in clinic. As you can imagine over the last five years or so we have seen a lot of patients in clinic who are very concerned about cyberbullying either they have had experiences or they have seen peers that have had experiences and it has also been a time, over the last five years, where we have seen an explosion in news coverage related to cyberbullying as well as a growing area of research.

One of the things that has really interested me in trying to understand cyberbullying is the idea that so many different research teams are using different definitions when they study it and so that really affects the types of answers they get and it also affects our understanding of how common a problem cyberbullying is.

If one researcher uses a question such as “have you ever experienced cyberbullying” which we define as “mean things on line” well most every kid has seen something that they would define as “mean things on line.”  So, in that type of study you might see a prevalence rate of 72% but in another study where they define cyberbullying very narrowly saying things such as “harassing messages on chat rooms” well, not many kids have had that experience and so in that study the prevalence might be very low. So, it is very difficult to get a sense of how common this problem is.

One thing we hear from our educator colleagues is that they have school policies that explain what should happen if someone is cyberbullied but there is a wide variation even within a single school on what they think cyberbullying is. So, a lot of times the responsibility falls to the youth to say “did I get cyberbullied” or “didn’t I?”  And a youth who is embarrassed or who does not want to report that might not be able to trigger the things that are supposed to happen for someone who has been cyberbullied.

So, our hope is that using a consistent definition that is built of out of data that comes from youth and educators will help schools be able to apply it into practice. The study design that we choose is called “concept mapping” and it is a method that has been used in the public health literature, particularly in the nursing literature a lot of good scholarship comes out of the nursing literature, and it allows you to bring in stakeholder views and a real cornerstone of the process is that you involve these stakeholders in each phase of the data collection so that allowed us to involve each of those stakeholder types, healthcare providers, educators, youth, their families, as well as the legal system.

Date Created: October 19, 2016