More than half of the 5th graders surveyed had smartphones last year (the respondents were from all socio-economic brackets), and MARC found that “owning a smartphone was a significant risk factor for both being a cyberbully and being a cyberbullying victim” (12 percent of 5th grade non-owners vs. 18 percent of phone owners said they’d been a cyberbully) – something that parents who are considering buying their young children cellphones will want to be aware of, MARC suggests. But it adds that “traditional in-school bullying was far more common that cyberbullying.” I suggest that the focus of family discussion about this be more on how to be a friend whether or not technology’s involved.
Whether positive or negative (and certainly mostly positive), sociality, play, and media-producing and -sharing are not only one big mashup for kids, all the activity also moves fluidly from device to device and from offline to online – and changes fluidly as individual kids and peer groups change.
How ‘cyberbullying’ was defined for the kids
Because even adults, including risk prevention experts, haven’t entirely agreed on the definition of “cyberbullying,” I asked MARC’s director, Prof. Elizabeth Englander at Bridgewater State University, how they interviewed kids about it.
“You can’t use complex language with 8-year-olds,” she wrote me. “So we asked them if anyone online had said or done anything that was very mean and that really hurt or bothered them. Then we asked if this had happened only once or if the person had done this or similar things to them more than once. We included only the kids who told us that it really bothered them and that it happened more than once.”