Written by: Sarah Ansari
Mesch, G. S. (2009). Parental Mediation, Online Activities and Cyberbullying. CyberPsychology & Behavior , 387-393.
The article by Gustavo S. Mesch “Parental Mediation, Online Activities and Cyberbullying” addresses an important concern in the world of adolescents and children. The reason for this study is to find out the online behaviors that are associated with greater risks of being bullied in the cyber world and what kind of parental mediation techniques are effective and can possibly decrease this risk.
The author defines cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of e-mail, cell phone, instant messaging and defamatory Web sites. It is an act of aggression that can take the form of purposeful harassment, such as making unwanted, derogative, nasty or threatening comments through electronic communications or spreading rumors, short clips, or altered photos that are offensive or embarrassing the victim by posting them on a Web site.” The author also mentions that the cyber world is a new space which makes information accessible; creates opportunities to meet new people; etc. Adolescents use the internet for information, social networking, surfing the web, posting pictures and video clips, playing online games and interacting with friends and strangers. According to the author, studies have shown that increased internet use among teens increases their risks of being a victim of cyberbullying. Author then discuss parental mediation techniques that have been used in “media research to understand the process of television influence on audience attitudes and behaviors.” For this study, the author discusses two techniques. Restrictive parental mediation which means that parents set strict rules regarding internet use, online time and the websites the teen can visit. The teen is not an active participant. Evaluative parental mediation refers to both parents and the children working together and having an open communication and/or discussions about internet use, online time and websites. Also, the location of the computer is important. Previous studies have shown that parents who set rules and keep a close watch on the online activities of their children decreases the risks of cyberbullying.
There were 935 participants (n=935) ages 12-17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States. A telephone sample was taken from previous Pew Internet and American Life projects conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Households with 18 yrs or younger child were called back, screened and the randomly selected child was interviewed. Survey method was used to ask teens if they had experienced any bullying online via text messages, instant messages or emails. Whether or not they had active profiles on social networking sites, if they posted videos/clips on sites, used chat rooms or played online games. Also to indicate how often they sent emails, instant messages and text messages. Their willingness to share personal information online (e.g., last name, school name, cell phone number, email address, etc.) Parental restrictive mediation was measured by three statements: if parents had a) installed a website filter to keep the teen from going to certain sites; b) installed some kind of software to monitor the teen’s activities online and c) checked the sites the teen visited. Parental evaluative mediation was measured by asking parents if they had any rules about which sites were allowed and the amount of time the teen could use the internet. The parents were also asked about the location of the computer in the house. Other variables were also included in the survey, for instance, race, gender, ages of parents and teens, and marital status of parents.
The results showed that 40% of youth reported having experienced at least one type of bullying behavior. 73% of parents reported that the computer is placed in a common area of the house. 86% reported that they had specific rules about which websites were allowed and which were not. 66% had rules about the amount of time a youth was allowed to use the internet. Same percentage regularly checked the websites their children visited. 56% had installed some kind of a filter and same percentage reported having rules about what their child could post online. Victims of cyberbullying were older than non-victims. Only 39% of the males were victims as compared to 61% of girls reported being bullied once. Those teens that had strict rules about which websites they could visit and online time is higher among non-victims that among victims. Also, parents who had installed filters were less likely to be victimized. Significant association was found b/w cyberbullying and having an active profile on networking websites, using public chat rooms, and posting videos. Victims also reported higher use of cell phones and internet to communicate w/ peers. Teens willing to disclose more personal information are more likely to become victims of cyberbullying. “…participation in online communication of any type increases the risk of victimization and that parental monitoring providing guidance and restrictions to websites are effective as a protective mechanism.” The author also states that youth willing to share more personal information online have a higher risk of being bullied online. “This private information is the raw material that might be used by potential offenders to call them by names, threaten them, and make fun of them.”
This article is provides information about the risks of cyberbullying as well as what parents can do to avoid their children becoming victims. Parental mediation is necessary and important when it comes to internet use and the amount of information shared and what kind of websites their children visit and search. Adolescents are more prone to psychological distress because of cyberbullying as the offender hides behind the computer screen and continue to harass the teen via emails, instant messages and text messages.