Cyberbullying in Middle Schools in Southwestern Virginia
Allen, Roger Scott
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Cyberbullying is an alarming phenomenon affecting the lives of adolescents across the country. Traditional bullying has moved from the playground to cyberspace. This online environment allows perpetrators to attack their victims beyond the walls of school, twenty-four hours a day. Advancements in and access to technology have made electronic communication the preferred method for adolescents to socialize. Although email, texts, social media sites, and websites were created to ease communication, some adolescents are using these tools to harass and harm their peers. The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the existence and prevalence of Cyberbullying in middle schools across Region VII in southwest Virginia. Cyberbullying policies and strategies used to address Cyberbullying were examined. The experiences of middle school principals with Cyberbullying incidents were explored. The aim of this study was to address the following three research questions: 1. What is the status of Cyberbullying in Region VII of southwest Virginia? 2. What are middle school principals' perspectives regarding their schools' effectiveness in responding to Cyberbullying? 3. What are middle school principals' recommendations to strengthen Cyberbullying policies and procedures? A quantitative method was chosen and a survey was conducted with the goal of adding to the literature that existed on Cyberbullying in public schools. Through the development and administration of a survey, quantitative data was collected. A quantitative analysis was conducted using descriptive statistics. The study adds to the current empirical research base on Cyberbullying in middle schools, especially in the rural area of a state. The perceptions of principals working in middle schools are valuable. This study tapped into this knowledge base and added to the literature on Cyberbullying by providing insights into the feelings and perceptions of administrators. Analyzing the experiences of the participants provided valuable information for those interested in learning more about Cyberbullying in middle schools in southwest Virginia. Findings of the study include information for Region VII of southwest Virginia on the status of Cyberbullying, middle-level schools' effectiveness in responding to Cyberbullying, and principals' recommendations to strengthen Cyberbullying policies and procedures. Based on the survey results, it is clear that Cyberbullying existed within the school systems in the region. Cyberbullying incidents occurred both at school and away from school. The largest percentage of these incidents occurred in the seventh and eighth-grades. Survey data indicated gender played a role in Cyberbullying with female students having the most reported incidents. Bullying prevention programs were being implemented in most school systems and schools in this region, and, in some cases, Cyberbullying was specifically addressed. In school systems and schools where no bullying or Cyberbullying prevention programs were implemented, overwhelmingly, principals felt they should be. Data revealed most principals found it difficult to identify Cyberbullying instances but believed they did report Cyberbullying incidents consistently. Most principals felt their school system's Cyberbullying policies were effective in dealing with Cyberbullying incidents, that the policies did not need revision, and that no additional policies were needed. Most principals felt Cyberbullying consequences implemented at their school effectively deterred Cyberbullying. Three strategies were identified by more than fifty percent of principals that would help in deterring Cyberbullying incidents. These strategies were increased parental involvement, encouraging students to report Cyberbullying, and anti-bullying education.
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