1. First large-scale doxing study reveals motivations and targets for cyber bullying

    November 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University Tandon School of Engineering press release:

    Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have published the first large-scale study of a low-tech, high-harm form of online harassment known as doxing.

    Coined as an abbreviation of the word “documents,” doxing involves collecting and publishing sensitive personal information online to exact revenge, seek justice, or intimidate victims.

    The researchers created a custom text classifier that allowed them to identify and analyze dox files, which often include highly identifying personal information, including links to social media accounts. The study revealed that doxing exacts a significant toll on victims, who are far likelier than others to close or increase the privacy settings of social media accounts following an attack. However, new abuse filters deployed on Facebook and Instagram appear to be effective in making victims feel safer. The primary motivations for doxing are revenge and justice, with competition and politics far behind, at just over 1 percent each of the reasons discerned by the study.

    “This study adds significantly to our understanding of this deeply damaging form of online abuse,” said Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at NYU Tandon. “The ability to detect doxing and identify the primary motivations for these attacks is key to helping Internet service providers, law enforcement, and social media networks better protect users from harassment.”

    The research team also includes Peter Snyder, a doctoral student in computer science and an Electronic Security and Privacy IGERT fellow, and Chris Kanich, an assistant professor of computer science, both from UIC,;and Periwinkle Doerfler, a doctoral candidate at NYU Tandon. The paper, “Fifteen Minutes of Unwanted Fame: Detecting and Characterizing Doxing,” was presented at the Internet Measurement Conference in London last week.

    The team focused on several websites well known for hosting doxed files and captured more than 1.7 million text files shared on those sites over two 6- to 7-week periods. Using their custom text classifier, the researchers identified and analyzed more than 5,500 files associated with doxing.

    According to the study, 32 percent of doxing victims closed or changed the privacy settings on their Instagram account, and 25 percent adjusted the settings on a Facebook account after an attack. But Facebook and Instagram serendipitously debuted new abuse filters to curb online harassment during the study’s data collection period, and they were apparently effective. Just 10 percent of doxing victims altered their Instagram account once anti-abuse measures were in place, and 3 percent changed their settings on Facebook.

    “This is an indicator that these filters can help mitigate some of the harmful impacts of doxing,” Snyder said. However, he noted that much of the doxing occurs on field-specific sites that cater to the hacker or gaming communities, where reputations can be damaged among valued peers.

    More than 90 percent of the doxed files included the victim’s address, 61 percent included a phone number, and 53 percent included an email address. Forty percent of victims’ online user names were made public, and the same percentage revealed a victim’s IP address. While less common, sensitive information such as credit card numbers (4.3 percent), Social Security numbers (2.6 percent), or other financial information (8.8 percent) was also revealed.

    “Most of what we know about doxing thus far has been anecdotal and based on a small number of high-profile cases,” said Snyder. “It’s our hope that by bringing a quantitative approach to this phenomenon, we can provide a fuller understanding of doxing and inform efforts to reduce the damage.”


  2. Study examines prevalence of ‘digital’ self-harm in youth

    November 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Florida Atlantic University press release:

    Adolescents harming themselves with cuts, scratches or burns has gained a lot of attention over the years not just because of the physical damage and internal turmoil, but also because it has been linked to suicide. More recently, a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern, warns a researcher and bullying expert from Florida Atlantic University.

    The behavior: “digital self-harm,” “self-trolling,” or “self-cyberbullying,” where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help.

    A new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem.

    “The idea that someone would cyberbully themselves first gained public attention with the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in 2013 after she anonymously sent herself hurtful messages on a social media platform just weeks before she took her own life,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We knew we had to study this empirically, and I was stunned to discover that about 1 in 20 middle- and high-school-age students have bullied themselves online. This finding was totally unexpected, even though I’ve been studying cyberbullying for almost 15 years.”

    Hinduja and his collaborator from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., recently published results of their study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

    They used a nationally representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in the United States to find out how many youth participated in digital self-harm, as well as their motivations for such behavior. They also examined if certain correlates of offline self-harm also applied to digital forms of self-harm.

    Results of the study show that nearly 6 percent of the teens reported that they had anonymously posted something mean about themselves online. Among these, about half (51.3 percent) said they did it just once, about one-third (35.5 percent) said they did it a few times, while 13.2 percent said they had done it many times.

    Boys were more likely to participate in this behavior (7 percent) compared to girls (5 percent). Their reasons, however, varied dramatically. Boys described their behavior as a joke or a way to get attention while girls said they did it because they were depressed or psychologically hurt. This finding is especially worrisome for the researchers as there may be more of a possibility that this behavior among girls leads to attempted or completed suicide.

    To ascertain motivations behind the behavior, the researchers included an open-ended question asking respondents to tell them why they had engaged in digital self-harm. Most comments centered around certain themes: self-hate; attention seeking; depressive symptoms; feeling suicidal; to be funny; and to see if anyone would react. Qualitative data from the study showed that many who had participated in digital self-harm were looking for a response.

    Age and race of the respondents did not differentiate participation in digital self-harm, but other factors did. Teens who identified as non-heterosexual were three times more likely to bully themselves online. In addition, victims of cyberbullying were nearly 12 times as likely to have cyberbullied themselves compared to those who were not victims. Those who reported using drugs or participating in deviance, had depressive symptoms, or had previously engaged in self-harm behaviors offline were all significantly more likely to have engaged in digital self-harm.

    “Prior research has shown that self-harm and depression are linked to increased risk for suicide and so, like physical self-harm and depression, we need to closely look at the possibility that digital self-harm behaviors might precede suicide attempts,” said Hinduja. “We need to refrain from demonizing those who bully, and come to terms with the troubling fact that in certain cases the aggressor and target may be one and the same. What is more, their self-cyberbullying behavior may indicate a deep need for social and clinical support.”


  3. Study looks at role of resilience in protecting bullied children

    October 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Florida Atlantic University press release:

    It’s inevitable. Most children will experience some form of bullying at some point in their lifetimes. What’s not inevitable is that they will be adversely affected by the experience. So why is it that some children are devastated by bullying while others are not? Is there is a major personal characteristic or trait that buffers and protects them against internalizing the harm intended through bullying and cyberbullying?

    The answer is a resounding “yes.” That trait is “resilience” or the ability to “bounce back” and successfully adapt to stressful situations. A new study from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, validates how resilience differentiates children who just survive bullying from those who thrive when faced with adversity. Children do in fact play a significant role in allowing or disallowing the harm that takes place when bullied. Astonishingly, the ability to be resilient comes naturally, but it needs to be nurtured through social and environmental factors.

    The researchers hypothesized that resilient youth are less likely to be targets for bullying both at school and online, and that those who are targeted are less impacted by it at school. To test this concept, they used a validated biopsychosocial 10-item resilience scale to explore the relationship between resilience and experience with bullying and cyberbullying. The scale included statements like “I can deal with whatever comes my way,” “I am not easily discouraged by failure,” and “Having to cope with stress makes me stronger,” with items assessing both the protective capacity of resilience as well as its reparative ability to restore equilibrium in the lives of youth when they face adversity.

    Based on a nationally-representative sample of 1,204 American youth ages 12 to 17 and living in the United States, results from the study found that uniformly, students with higher levels of resilience were bullied at school or online less often, and among those who were bullied, resilience served as a buffer, insulating them from being affected in a negative manner at school. Their experience with various forms of interpersonal peer harm also varied inversely with the students’ self-reported level of resilience.

    Resilience is a potent protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and mitigating its effect,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. Hinduja co-authored the study with Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “Resilient kids are those, who for a variety of reasons, are better able to withstand external pressures and setbacks and are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less-equipped peers when facing this type of victimization.”

    Hinduja and Patchin hope that the latest data from their study will bring attention to an often-neglected and even forgotten component of the ways that schools, families, and communities address the role and responsibility of the child who is bullied.

    There is heavy interest to identify better solutions to bullying these days, and Hinduja recently shared their research on resilience in keynotes with the International Bullying Prevention Association, the World Anti Bullying Forum, and social media companies’ intent on helping targets help themselves.

    “We want children to learn and develop the skills they need to deal with problems, and yet we rarely help them engage with those problems so that they can grow in their ability to solve them,” said Hinduja. “Instead, we seek to constantly protect and insulate them — instead of bolstering their self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose — which are all innate strengths.”

    Hinduja points out that in many forms of verbal and online bullying, targets do have some agency to allow or disallow much of the harm that others try to inflict. As such, youth-serving adults have a responsibility to teach and model for them the proper strategies to deflect, dismiss, or otherwise rise above the insults and hate.

    “Cultivating Youth Resilience to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying Victimization,” is published in the current issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.


  4. Study suggests anxiety and depression caused by childhood bullying decline over time

    October 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University College London press release:

    A new UCL-led study has provided the strongest evidence to date that exposure to bullying causes mental health issues such as anxiety years later.

    The study, published today in JAMA Psychiatry and funded by MQ: Transforming Mental Health and the Economic and Social Research Council, found that the detrimental effects of bullying decreased over time, which the authors say shows the potential for resilience in children exposed to bullying.

    “Previous studies have shown that bullied children are more likely to suffer mental health issues, but give little evidence of a causal link, as pre-existing vulnerabilities can make children both more likely to be bullied and experience worse mental health outcomes. We used a robust study design to identify causation,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

    The study involved 11,108 participants from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), which is based at King’s College London. By surveying twins, researchers were able to look at the associations between bullying and mental health outcomes, and then account for the confounding effects of their genes and shared environmental influences because they studied both monozygotic (“identical”) twins who have matching genes and home environments and dizygotic (“non-identical”) twins, who don’t share all of their genes, but have matching home environments. Both children and their parents filled out questionnaire: at age 11 and 14 they were asked about peer victimization, and at 11 and 16 they were asked about mental health difficulties.

    The effect sizes were stronger before controlling for shared environmental factors and genetics, confirming that bullying itself is only partly to blame for the poor mental health outcomes experienced by bullied children.

    The researchers found that, once confounding factors were removed, there remained a causal contribution of exposure to bullying to concurrent anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and impulsivity, inattention, and conduct problems. Two years later, the impact on anxiety persisted. Five years later, there was no longer an effect on any of those outcomes, but 16-year-olds who had been bullied at age 11 remained more likely to have paranoid thoughts or cognitive disorganisation (a tendency for thoughts to become derailed).

    “While our findings show that being bullied leads to detrimental mental health outcomes, they also offer a message of hope by highlighting the potential for resilience. Bullying certainly causes suffering, but the impact on mental health decreases over time, so children are able to recover in the medium term,” Dr Pingault said.

    “The detrimental effects of bullying show that more needs to be done to help children who are bullied. In addition to interventions aimed at stopping bullying from happening, we should also support children who have been bullied by supporting resilience processes on their path to recovery. Our findings highlight the importance of continuous support to mental health care for children and adolescents” he said.

    Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ: Transforming Mental Health said: “This important research is further strong evidence of the need to take the mental health impacts of bullying seriously. We hope this study provides fresh impetus to make sure young people at risk — and those currently being bullied — get effective help as soon as possible.”

    “More than one in five UK young people say they’ve recently been bullied. And now this unprecedented study gives the strongest evidence to date that bullying can directly cause many common mental health conditions — and have a serious effect on mental health in the long-term. But the good news is that it shows that people can and do get better — demonstrating the importance of resilience. Now we need to understand why this is and develop new ways, through research, to intervene and change lives,” she said.


  5. Study shows damaging affects of multiple forms of victimization on school climate

    October 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Vermont press release:

    School officials focused exclusively on bullying prevention efforts might want to consider the findings of a new study showing the highly damaging effects of multiple forms of victimization on school climate.

    The study, published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, measured the impact of polyvictimization — exposure to multiple forms of victimization — on school climate at the middle and high school levels. Results show that bullying, cyberbullying and harassment were significantly associated with decreases in perceptions of school safety, connection, and equity.

    Overall, 43.1 percent of students experienced at least one form of victimization during the 2015-2016 schoolyear. Just over 32 percent of students reported being bullied, 21 percent were victims of cyberbullying and 16.4 percent experienced harassment — defined as “experiencing negative actions from one or more persons because of his or her skin, religion, where they are from (what country), sex, sexual identity or disability.”

    Based on data from the 2015 Vermont Middle and High School Pilot Climate Survey, the findings highlight the need for comprehensive policies that address all forms of victimization to offset further erosion to safe and equitable school environments, which is tied to educational outcomes.

    “For each form of victimization, school climate measures go down precipitously, so if we only center the conversation about kids who are being bullied that limits it to ‘that’s not my kid,'” says study author Bernice Garnett, associate professor in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. “But if we change the conversation to bullying can actually damage the entire school climate, then that motivates and galvanizes the overall will of the school community to do something about it.”

    Polyvictimization highest among students who identify as female and transgender

    Prior research shows that students from vulnerable populations are most frequently victimized. Garnett’s study found that students experiencing polyvictimization were most likely to identify as female and transgender. Students who identified as “multiracial” or “other” also experienced higher levels of polyvictimization than their peers. Additionally, students experiencing polyvictimization were more likely to report doing “worse” academically.

    The finding related to students who identify as female and transgender would not have been possible without the addition of a question by the Vermont Agency of Education to the Vermont School Climate Survey that gives students the opportunity to identify as transgender. The finding is unique, according to Garnett, due to the fact that most states, as well as the National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, asks about sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

    “We asked both to align with how Vermont policy is written and because Vermont schools protect both gender identity and sexual orientation,” says Garnett, who is a member of the committee that designed the Vermont survey. “I wasn’t surprised by the results, because transgender youth experience worse things across the board, but it was surprising to find that this is a reality in Vermont, particularly given all the work that’s been done here.”

    Crafting an effective policy response

    The National Center for Educational Statistics tracks a number of ways students are victimized ranging from serious physcial attacks to verbal-based assaults. Garnett points out that bullying is motivated by another students real or claimed identity, and if that’s a protected identity, its actually discrimination.

    “That’s an important distinction, because current bullying prevention programs focused on teaching students to be nicer or more empathetic would look very different,” seh says. “If a student is targeting someone either implicitly or explicitly because of an identity they were culturally taught not to like, then it changes the conversation to ‘wait, why I am I thinking these thoughts? Why do I hold them? What am I learning from home and the media, and how can I check-in with my assumptions?”

    Such prevention efforts would be difficult, if not impossible, to develop without data showing which students are being targeted. A recent study from Columbia University, for example, showed that queer youth living in states where schools enumerate homophobic bullying, experience less victimization. Data differs regionally, however, making it difficult to protect students in places where “people are using identities to target for power,” says Garnett.

    “Policies can actually shape the experiences of students in schools,” says Garnett. “This study is trying to show that we need to be thinking about the structural forces that make bullying prevalent among certain groups of kids, which is not a coincidence. The reason why queer youth, English Language Learners, kids with disabilities and overweight kids are targeted is because those are socially acceptable identities to target depending on where you live.”


  6. Study suggests cellphone ownership may increase incidence of cyberbullying in grade school

    October 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Pediatrics press release:

    Most research on cyberbullying has focused on adolescents. But a new study that examined cell phone ownership among children in third to fifth grades finds they may be particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying.

    The study abstract, “Cell Phone Ownership and Cyberbullying in 8-11 Year Olds: New Research,” will be presented Monday, Sept. 18 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

    Researchers collected survey data on 4,584 students in grades 3, 4 and 5 between 2014 and 2016. Overall, 9.5 percent of children reported being a victim of cyberbullying. Children who owned cell phones were significantly more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying, especially in grades 3 and 4.

    “Parents often cite the benefits of giving their child a cell phone, but our research suggests that giving young children these devices may have unforeseen risks as well,” said Elizabeth K. Englander, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass.

    Across all three grades, 49.6 of students reported owning a cell phone. The older the student, the more likely to report cell phone ownership: 59.8 percent of fifth graders, 50.6 percent of fourth graders, and 39.5 percent of third graders reported owning their own cell phone. Cell phone owners in grades three and four were more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying. Across all three grades, more cell phone owners admitted they have been a cyberbully themselves.

    According to the researchers, the increased risk of cyberbullying related to phone ownership could be tied to increased opportunity and vulnerability. Continuous access to social media and texting increases online interactions, provides more opportunities to engage both positively and negatively with peers, and increases the chance of an impulsive response to peers’ postings and messages.

    Englander suggests that this research is a reminder for parents to consider the risks as well as the benefits when deciding whether to provide their elementary school-aged child with a cell phone.

    “At the very least, parents can engage in discussions and education with their child about the responsibilities inherent in owning a mobile device, and the general rules for communicating in the social sphere,” Englander said.


  7. Being bullied may dramatically affect sleep

    August 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the McLean Hospital press release:

    New research from McLean Hospital neuroscientists shows in an animal model that being bullied can have long-term, dramatic effects on sleep and other circadian rhythm-related functions, symptoms that are characteristic of clinical depression and other stress-induced mental illnesses. The researchers, however, also found that it may be possible to mitigate these effects with the use of an experimental class of drugs that can block stress.

    “While our study found that some stress-related effects on circadian rhythms are short-lived, others are long-lasting,” said William Carlezon, PhD, chief of the Division of Basic Neuroscience and director of the Behavioral Genetics Laboratory at McLean Hospital and senior author of the study. “Identifying these changes and understanding their meaning is an important step in developing methods to counter the long-lasting effects of traumatic experiences on mental health.”

    Stress is known to trigger psychiatric illnesses, including depression and PTSD, and sleep is frequently affected in these conditions. Some people with stress disorders sleep less than normal, while others sleep more than normal or have more frequent bouts of sleep and wakefulness.

    To demonstrate the effects of bullying, the researchers used an animal model simulating the physical and emotional stressors involved in human bullying — chronic social defeat stress.

    For this procedure, a smaller, younger mouse is paired with a larger, older, and more aggressive mouse. When the smaller mouse is placed into the home cage of the larger mouse, the larger mouse instinctively acts to protect its territory.

    In a typical interaction lasting several minutes, the larger mouse chases the smaller mouse, displaying aggressive behavior and emitting warning calls. The interaction ends when the larger mouse pins the smaller mouse to the floor or against a cage wall, establishing dominance by the larger mouse and submission by the smaller mouse.

    The mice are then separated and a barrier is placed between them, dividing the home cage in half. A clear and perforated barrier is used, enabling the mice to see, smell, and hear each other, but preventing physical interactions. The mice remain in this arrangement, with the smaller mouse living under threat from the larger mouse, for the rest of the day. This process is repeated for 10 consecutive days, with a new aggressor mouse introduced each day.

    To collect data continuously and accurately, researchers outfitted the smaller mice with micro-transmitters that are akin to activity trackers used by people to monitor their exercise, heart rate, and sleep. These mice micro-transmitters collected sleep, muscle activity, and body temperature data, which revealed that the smaller mice experienced progressive changes in sleep patterns, with all phases of the sleep-wake cycle being affected. The largest effect was on the number of times the mice went in and out of a sleep phase called paradoxical sleep, which resembles REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in humans, when dreams occur and memories are strengthened. Bullied mice showed many more bouts of paradoxical sleep, resembling the type of sleep disruptions often seen in people with depression. Bullied mice also showed a flattening of body temperature fluctuations, which is also an effect seen in people with depression.

    “Both the sleep and body temperature changes persisted in the smaller mice after they were removed from the physically and emotionally threatening environment, suggesting that they had developed symptoms that look very much like those seen in people with long-term depression,” said Carlezon. “These effects were reduced, however, in terms of both intensity and duration, if the mice had been treated with a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, a drug that blocks the activity of one of the brain’s own opioid systems.”

    Carlezon explained that these findings not only reveal what traumatic experiences can do to individuals who experience them, but also that we may someday be able to do something to reduce the severity of their effects.

    “This study exemplifies how measuring the same types of endpoints in laboratory animals and humans might hasten the pace of advances in psychiatry research. If we can knock out stress with new treatments, we might be able to prevent some forms of mental illness.”

    The detailed findings of this study are available in the August 9, 2017 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

    McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Partners HealthCare. For more information about McLean, visit mcleanhospital.org or follow the hospital on Facebook or Twitter.


  8. Study looks at effect of bad advice about workplace bullying

    May 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Iowa State University press release:

    Targets of workplace bullying get plenty of advice from coworkers and family on how to respond to the situation and make it stop. While well intentioned, much of the advice victims receive is impractical or only makes their situation worse, said Stacy Tye-Williams, an assistant professor of communication studies and English at Iowa State University.

    “If you haven’t experienced bullying, you don’t understand it and it is hard to imagine what you actually would do in the situation,” Tye-Williams said.

    Still, that doesn’t stop people from offering advice. Friends and family do so because they want to be helpful, Tye-Williams said. In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research, Tye-Williams and Kathleen Krone, a co-author and professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, interviewed nearly 50 employees who were being bullied at the time or had been bullied in the past. The most common advice the employees received — quit your job.

    Tye-Williams says not only is quitting an unreasonable option financially, but several targets of bullying felt they had done nothing wrong and should not have to leave a job they enjoy. They expressed a “sense of moral justification” and were willing to take the abuse, not to let the bully win. Choosing to suffer silently rarely improved the situation for the target, Tye-Williams said.

    In the paper, researchers shared the following response from a woman who had invested 20 years in her job and was the target of bullying.

    “I’ve worked really, really hard, and why should I have to give up a job that I was good in because of…the unprofessional way that somebody else was behaving? I just didn’t feel it was fair,” the woman told researchers.

    Researchers found some common themes among the advice victims received. These were the top five recommendations:

    • Quit or get out of the situation — 27 percent
    • Ignore it or blow it off — 23 percent
    • Fight or stand up to the bully — 17 percent
    • Stay calm — 10 percent
    • Report the bullying — 10 percent

    A small percentage of victims were also told to “punch the bully” or to “quit making things up.”

    Victims would offer same bad advice

    Many victims feared retaliation or further humiliation if they directly confronted the bully, and lacking a better option, they did nothing about the abuse. Despite the bad advice, most victims said they would tell others in their situation to do the same thing. This was initially puzzling to researchers, but Tye-Williams says it soon became clear that victims lacked insight into strategies that were helpful for dealing with workplace bullies.

    “Targets really felt stuck and didn’t know what to do about the bullying. They repeated the same advice even though they felt it would not have worked for them, or if they did follow the advice it made the situation worse,” Tye-Williams said. “It became clear how important it is to help targets understand alternative approaches to addressing bullying.”

    Developing a method or model for responding to workplace bullying must start with an open dialogue, in which people can share what has worked for them and brainstorm creative or different solutions, Tye-Williams said. An important start is to develop advice that is more useful, and disseminate stories in which targets successfully managed their situation. The best thing family members, friends, and colleagues can do is to simply listen without judgment to help targets work through available options, she said.

    Dismissing emotion causes more harm

    Employees shared very emotional accounts of the bullying they suffered, and strongly reacted when coworkers or friends told them not to cry or get upset. Telling a victim to calm down or conceal their emotion minimizes the experience and is not helpful, Tye-Williams said. She describes it as “really strange advice” given how some of these people were treated.

    “To me it would be abnormal for someone to be treated in this way and have no emotional reaction,” Tye-Williams said. “Telling victims to calm down does a lot of damage. When we’re talking about traumatic work experiences, it’s important to allow people to have a space to express their very normal emotions.”

    Researchers found that some victims, when told to calm down, tended to shut down and stop talking about the abuse and suffer silently. That’s why it’s necessary to provide victims with a safe space to openly talk about the situation and feel that their voice is being heard, Tye-Williams said. Through this research, she found going to a supervisor or human resources manager did not guarantee victims were taken seriously and the problem would be corrected.

    Tye-Williams says the lack of managerial response or resolution is another example of the complexity in handling workplace bullying. Part of the complexity is trying to develop a rational, logical response to what is often an irrational situation. In many cases, managers expected employees to resolve the situation on their own, which was not a reasonable expectation, she said.

    “Management is not always good about helping people navigate a conflict to reach a resolution. They don’t want to get involved, they expect employees to figure it out or that it’ll blow over,” Tye-Williams said. “It’s not that managers don’t want to be helpful, they often just don’t know how to be helpful.”

    Understanding that common pieces of advice to combat workplace bullying often don’t work may help managers, coworkers, family members and friends move beyond “canned advice” and develop more appropriate alternatives to addressing bullying, she added.


  9. Bullying’s lasting impact

    May 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Delaware press release:

    A new study led by the University of Delaware found that kids who are bullied in fifth grade often suffer from depression and begin using alcohol and other substances a few years after the incidents.

    “Students who experienced more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade were more likely to have greater symptoms of depression in seventh grade, and a greater likelihood of using alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in tenth grade,” said the study’s leader, Valerie Earnshaw, a social psychologist and assistant professor in UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

    The study involved researchers from universities and hospitals in six states, who analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 4,297 students on their journey from fifth through tenth grade. The findings were published online in the medical journal Pediatrics.

    The students were from Birmingham, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles County, California. Forty-four percent were Latino, 29 percent were African American and 22 percent were white.

    Although peer victimization is common during late childhood and early adolescence and appears to be associated with increased substance use, few studies have examined these associations longitudinally — meaning that data is gathered from the same subjects repeatedly over several years — or point to the psychological processes whereby peer victimization leads to substance use.

    “We show that peer victimization in fifth grade has lasting effects on substance use five years later. We also show that depressive symptoms help to explain why peer victimization is associated with substance use, suggesting that youth may be self-medicating by using substances to relieve these negative emotions,” Earnshaw said.

    Impacts and interventions

    Peer victimization leads to substance use, and substance use can harm adolescent development with implications for health throughout the lifespan, Earnshaw said. Alcohol and marijuana use may interfere with brain development and can lead to injuries. Tobacco use may lead to respiratory illness, cancer and early death.

    “Youth who develop substance use disorders are at risk of many mental and physical illnesses throughout life,” Earnshaw said. “So, the substance use that results from peer victimization can affect young people throughout their lives.”

    Among the study’s findings, boys, sexual minority youth and youth living with chronic illness reported more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade. Age, obesity, race/ethnicity, household educational achievement and family income were not related to more frequent peer victimization.

    Twenty-four percent of tenth graders in the study reported recent alcohol use, 15.2 percent reported marijuana use, and 11.7 percent reported tobacco use. Sexual minority status was more strongly related to alcohol use among girls than boys; it was also related to marijuana and tobacco use among girls but not boys.

    Earnshaw used structural equation modeling — a form of statistical analysis — to examine the multiple variables across time and to test if there were relationships among them. She started working with the data in summer 2015 and finalized the model in fall 2016 in her office in UD’s Alison Hall.

    An expert in stigma research, Earnshaw wants to understand why people treat other people poorly and how this poor treatment leads to poor health, including through substance use behaviors. She hopes this latest study will enlighten pediatricians, teachers, parents — anyone in a position to help students facing peer aggression.

    “We urge pediatricians to screen youth for peer victimization, symptoms of depression and substance use,” says Earnshaw. “These doctors can offer counsel to youth and recommendations to parents and youth for approaching teachers and school staff for support. Moreover, youth experiencing depressive symptoms and substance use should be offered treatment when needed.”

    The research team’s messages also extend to teachers.

    Peer victimization really matters, and we need to take it seriously — this echoes the messages educators already have been receiving,” Earnshaw says. “This study gives some additional evidence as to why it’s important to intervene. It also may give teachers insight into why students are depressed or using substances in middle and high school.”


  10. Study suggests bullies and their victims more likely to want plastic surgery

    May 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    School bullies and their victims are more likely to want cosmetic surgery, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

    Professor Dieter Wolke — and colleagues in the Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School — have discovered that teenagers who are affected by bullying in any way have a greater desire than others to change their bodies by going under the knife.

    Almost 2800 adolescents — aged 11 to 16 — in UK secondary schools were screened for their involvement in bullying, through self and peer assessment.

    A sample group of around 800 adolescents — including bullies, victims, those who both bully and are bullied, and those who are unaffected by bullying — was analysed for emotional problems, levels of self-esteem and body-esteem, and the extent of their desire to have plastic surgery.

    They were asked to complete established questionnaires — such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Acceptance of Cosmetic Surgery Scale.

    The results showed that adolescents involved in bullying in any role were more interested in cosmetic surgery, compared to those uninvolved in bullying. Desire for cosmetic surgery was highest in victims of bullying, but was also increased in bullying perpetrators.

    11.5% of bullying victims have an extreme desire to have cosmetic surgery, as well as 3.4% of bullies, and 8.8% of teenagers who both bully and are bullied — this is compared with less than 1% of those who are unaffected by bullying.

    Girls want to go under the knife more than boys. Of the sample group, 7.3% of girls had an extreme wish to have plastic surgery, compared with 2% of boys.

    The researchers state that perpetrators of bullying want to have plastic surgery to improve their appearance and increase their social status.

    Victims of bullying, on the other hand, want to go under the knife because their psychological functioning is affected by being picked on — giving them lower self-esteem, more emotional problems and a desire to change their appearance.

    Between 2014 and 2015, 15.9 million surgical and minimally invasive procedures were performed in the United States. Almost 230,000 of those procedures were performed on 13-19 year olds.

    Rates of cosmetic surgery are similarly increasing in the United Kingdom and across the world.

    Young people could have less of a desire for plastic surgery if mental health issues arising from bullying are addressed, according to the authors.

    The researchers suggest that cosmetic surgeons screen potential patients for a history of bullying, and any related psychological issues.

    Professor Wolke and his co-authors comment:

    “Being victimized by peers resulted in poor psychological functioning, which increased desire for cosmetic surgery. For bullies, cosmetic surgery may simply be another tactic to increase social status […] to look good and achieve dominance.

    “The desire for cosmetic surgery in bullied adolescents is immediate and long-lasting.

    “Our results suggest that cosmetic surgeons should screen candidates for psychological vulnerability and history of bullying.”

    The research, ‘Adolescent Desire for Cosmetic Surgery: Associations with Bullying and Psychological Functioning’, is published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.