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Bryan David Clarke is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

New communication technology, including Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, and instant messaging, has connected people in ways that were unknown. The benefits for people contacting each other at a moment's notice are profound; however, these benefits bring new risks, such as, "cyberbullying," which is a development from traditional bullying. Cyberbullying is the use of the internet to perpetrate deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm another person or others. Cyberbullying affects large numbers of children and adolescents, but its psychological impact is not clearly understood, apart from people hearing anecdotes on the suicides of cyberbullied youth. Furthermore, parental perceptions of cyberbullying, including its extent and impact, are largely unknown. The present study examined parents' perceptions and awareness of cyberbullying (PPAC) of children and adolescents. An online PPAC survey included a Likert-type questionnaire and several open ended questions interspersed within the instrument that addressed research hypotheses and questions on cyberbullying of school and undergraduate students. The PPAC showed high internal consistency reliability. Significant findings included the following: participants believed that cyberbullying is a problem that needs to be addressed; that traditional bullying is more harmful than cyberbullying; that participants were more likely to have learned about cyberbullying from television than any other media; that they were familiar with social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter; and that school and law involvement was believed to be more helpful prevention than parental involvement. Participants' comments richly expanded on their answers to the quantitative items. Using qualitative thematic analyses, many themes emerged, the most common being: fear is a major obstacle preventing youth from getting help; awareness needs to be raised about cyberbullying; and talking with other parents plays a major role in learning about cyberbullying. The discussion of the results and their implications provide an understanding of parental beliefs, attitudes, and needs with regards to cyberbullying and the preventative and intervention methods that could be used by them, schools, and the law. Importantly, parents indicated low self-efficacy beliefs, a helpless observer stance, or an attribution blame orientation toward other parents about the advent of cyberbullying. There is a discussion of educational programming for students and parents, policy-making actions, future directions in research, and limitations of the study.

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