Navigating the Perils: Unveiling the Risks of Online Bullying in Digital Education

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As the world transitions into an era dominated by digital education, the landscape of learning has undergone a profound transformation. One of the most pressing concerns brought by this transformation is the escalation of online bullying, which has permeated the educational sphere, posing significant risks to the well-being and academic progress of students. In this commentary, intricate web of risks associated with online bullying in digital education is unravelled.

1. The Pervasiveness of Cyberbullying

The pervasive nature of online bullying in digital education spaces cannot be overstated. Traditional forms of bullying, which were once confined to school hallways and playgrounds, have seamlessly infiltrated the digital realm. A review of 74 published articles showed that across all studies the average of 21.6% of respondents had been the victims of cyberbullying, whilst 15.2% reported that they had cyberbullied others.

2. Psychological Impact on Students

The psychological toll of online bullying on students is profound and multifaceted. Victims of cyberbullying often experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. The persistent nature of digital communication, as well as the anonymity of the cyberbullies, mean that escape from the torment is frequently perceived as elusive, perpetuating a sense of helplessness. Additionally, cyberbullying may lead to difficulties experienced on the social level. For example, cyberbullying victims are reported to experience difficulties in interacting with their peers, also known as social anxiety.

3. Academic Implications

Cyberbullying was found to have severe negative implications on students’ school attitudes, focus on the studies, and academic achievement. Whilst negative impact on educational attainment has been found in the cases of bullying, cyberbullying toll has reported to be more severe. Yet, online bullying is not confined to personal attacks; it often extends to academic spheres, hindering the learning process and stifling student participation. The fear of ridicule or harassment may deter students from actively engaging in online discussions, collaborative projects, or seeking help from educators.

4. Long-term Consequences

The consequences of online bullying extend beyond the immediate academic setting, influencing the long-term trajectories. Research has indicated that if individuals in high school have been cyberbullies or cyber-victims, they tend to fall into the same categories when they start to attend higher education or become employed. Apart from cyberbullying continuing after the school years, individuals who had past cyberbullying experiences also reported bigger number of anxieties and lower level of self-esteem and trust and, consequentially, bigger protectiveness over the information they share online, longer periods of time before they establish a new friendship or romantic relationship, and general commitment issues. Other studies also report bigger likelihood of medication use, as well as suicidal thoughts and commitment of suicide.

A Call to Action

The risks of online bullying in digital education are multifaceted and demand urgent attention. As digital learning environments become increasingly integral to education, the responsibility to create safe and nurturing spaces falls squarely on the shoulders of educators, administrators, and policymakers. The research outlined in this commentary underscores the gravity of the issue and the imperative to address online bullying comprehensively.

[1] Carol M. Walker, Beth Rajan Sockman and Steven Koehn, 2011. An exploratory study of cyberbullying with undergraduate university students.

[2] Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[3] Hutson, E., Kelly, S. and Militello, L.K., 2018. Systematic review of cyberbullying interventions for youth and parents with implications for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews on evidence‐based nursing, 15(1), pp.72-79.

[4] Arseneault, L., 2017. The long‐term impact of bullying
victimization on mental health. World psychiatry, 16(1), p.27.; Wang, J., Nansel, T.R. and Iannotti, R.J., 2011. Cyber and traditional bullying: Differential association with depression. Journal of adolescent health, 48(4), pp.415-417.

[5] Hutson, E., Kelly, S. and Militello, L.K., 2018. Systematic review of cyberbullying interventions for youth and parents with implications for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews on evidence‐based nursing, 15(1), pp.72-79.

[6] Pabian, S. and Vandebosch, H., 2016. An investigation of short-term longitudinal associations between social anxiety and victimization and perpetration of traditional bullying and cyberbullying. Journal of youth and adolescence, 45, pp.328-339.

[7] Alotaibi, N.B. (2019). ‘Cyber bullying and the expected consequences on the students’ academic achievement’, IEEE access, 7, pp.153417-153431.

[8] Aparisi, D., Delgado, B., Bo, R.M. and Martínez-Monteagudo, M.C. (2021). ‘Relationship between cyberbullying, motivation and learning strategies, academic performance, and the ability to adapt to university’, International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(20), p.10646.

[9] Hutson, E., Kelly, S. and Militello, L.K. (2018). ‘Systematic review of cyberbullying interventions for youth and parents with implications for evidence‐based practice’, Worldviews on evidence‐based nursing, 15(1), pp. 72-79.

[10] Pabian, S. and Vandebosch, H. (2016). ‘An investigation of short-term longitudinal associations between social anxiety and victimization and perpetration of traditional bullying and cyberbullying’, Journal of youth and adolescence, 45, pp. 328-339.

[11] Hutson, E., Kelly, S. and Militello, L.K., (2018). ‘Systematic review of cyberbullying interventions for youth and parents with implications for evidence‐based practice’, Worldviews on evidence‐based nursing, 15(1), pp.72-79.