Is Cyberbullying A Workplace Issue?

All too often we hear about schools and colleges starting up campaigns to prevent their students from being the victims of cyberbullying but is it time we considered implementing the same tactics in the workplace? According to Dr. Iain Coyne of Nottingham University it is!

Recent new research has shown that adults being bullied at work through the use of modern communications technology like web postings, emails and texts is as common as as “conventional” bullying.

Researchers at the Nottingham University surveyed employees in a number of UK universities and found that out of over 300 people who responded to the study, eight out of ten had had been a victim of at least one of the listed behaviours (being humiliated, ignored or gossiped about online) within the previous six months. The research found that the people who had experienced this “abuse” tended to suffer from higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction.

Dr Coyne quotes…

“In one of our surveys, this effect was shown to be worse for cyberbullying than for conventional bullying.”

It is hoped that the results of this survey will give employees a better understanding of how to cope with and prevent this sort of behaviour as we are constantly moving toward a more technologically connected world both at work and in our personal lives.

It has been said that, as adults, we should be able to cope with negative actions but whether that is true or not we can not ignore the effect it has on children (highlighted in the picture above). One particular high profile case in America involved a young college student, Tyler Clementi, who, after his room mate used a web-cam to spy on his homosexual encounters, committed suicide. Cases such as this and others have lead people to believe that this sort of behaviour is commonplace however, according to two recent American national studies of 5,000 youngsters only 15% said/admitted that they had been the victims of online bullying during the previous year.

Although cyber and any other form of bullying is totally unacceptable this new study suggests that it is not as much of an epidemic as people tend to believe. During a presentation to the American Psychological Association a research director from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research Michele Ybarra suggested that when current figures are compared to statistics gathered during previous studies it would seem that the number of cases of this type of abuse is falling.

Ybarra quotes…

“Because we`re seeing stories that are really serious it does give this sort of sense that it is happening all over the place. We assume it`s this overwhelming thing, that everybody`s being bullied and that it`s inescapable — that`s not totally accurate.”

Although these findings do indicate a fall in online bullying they are not accepted by all, cyberbullying expert Dr. Joel Haber believes that due to the fact that there is so much debate over what cyberbullying is, surveys such as the one Ybarra discussed don`t really encompass what hazards teens face online. He explains his views by saying  “Traditional bullying involves repeated abuse by one person in power over the victim but online, power is determined by how popular teens are in the digital world, measured by for example on Facebook, where having more friends means more status. Whether it`s kids being exclusionary online or being mean online, harassment happens more frequently than real cyberbullying, where somebody has more power over you and hurts you.”

The general consensus is that online abuse has to happen more than once to actually be considered bullying but the fact is it really only needs to happen once to potentially seriously effect a persons self esteem.

The advice that these studies have provoked suggests that “anyone” who finds themselves falling victim to online harassment, however trivial it may seem, should report it to the relevant authority because although most people are either too embarrassed to be open about these sorts of things or feel that the threats are not severe enough to worry about, over long periods of time any abuse, even subtle, can begin to have a negative effect.

It is suggested that when people find themselves targeted buy these online bullies, especially the younger generation, that when they do actually take a stand and report it to a teacher, parent, employer or the online site on which the abuse is occurring they “take away the power that the bully has over them.”

Have you been effected by online bullying or abuse? If so please report it, you may be doing yourself and other people a massive favour!!!

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