Anti-bullying or alleviating its effects has a history stretching back over more than thirty years. In recent years traditional forms of bullying: physical, verbal and relational aggression, have been joined by cyberbullying, a new phenomenon which reflects the increasingly widespread use of digital devices in peer interaction among adolescents and young adults. The use of information and communications technologies, henceforth referred to as ICTs, can be said to be altering many aspects of young people's social lives, with traditional bullying now being replaced by more specific forms of abuse, intimidation, and harassment perpetrated via the digital devices they use to contact and communicate with each other. Action programs therefore need to include scientifically proven strategies focusing not only on bullying but also on cyber-behavior, the prevention of cyber-aggression and support for victims of cyberbullying.
Many researchers consider cyberbullying as merely an extension of traditional bullying and therefore define it as a series of intentional, repeated acts of aggression based on the establishment of some kind of power imbalance and carried out using technological devices. The use of such devices partially alters the nature of the contact between victims and aggressors and introduces specific new factors and risks, such as the anonymity of the aggressor, the greater social dissemination of the abuse being perpetrated, and the practical difficulties involved in halting the aggression and, by extension, shortening the victims' suffering. Some authors believe that these factors aggravate cyberbullying's effect on its victims, while others argue that cyberbullying, which is less common than traditional bullying in schools, offers victims opportunities to respond and defend themselves that are not available in face-to-face bullying scenarios.
Scientific literature on bullying risk factors has established two basic categories: factors based on the personal characteristics of the people involved (basically aggressors and victims, although bystanders also play a significant role) and factors based on certain elements in the social context in which the bullying takes place. These contextual elements include empathy (or its absence among aggressors), social incompetence in victims, and school climate. School climate, which essentially encompasses interpersonal affection and relationships and commonly accepted rules for social interaction (both implicit and explicit), is the setting in which bullies and victims play out their roles. Because cyberbullying is an indirect form of bullying, it should be remembered that risk factors present in the traditional bullies' and victims' social system are also risk factors for cyberbullying, although cyberbullying also has its own more specific risk factors. In terms of school climate, perceived safety and the absence of problems at school impede the emergence and consolidation of cyberbullying in relationships between classmates. Of the personality-based factors, empathy is as a particularly important factor which is typically absent or deficient among bullies; it may also be lacking among cyber-aggressors. Card and Hodges found a lack of social skills/competence among the victims of violent bullying, and this may also be mirrored in cyberbullying.
Factors associated exclusively with cyberbullying include lack of control over personal information made available on the internet and the compulsive use of the internet, which may lead to addiction and personality disorders and increases the risk of exposure to abuse via the internet. High-risk actions such as sharing passwords, talking to strangers, and uploading intimate information on social networks make victims more vulnerable. The disordered, compulsive use of the internet or social networks also distances individuals from direct social relationships and productive work or leisure time, leading to personality disorders and increasing the possibilities of indulging in or becoming exposed to aggressive behavior.
Tackling Cyberbullying Thirty years of psycho-educational research into bullying have provided us with a wide range of preventive and palliative resources for dealing with the phenomenon, and much of this knowledge has been found also to be valid when addressing cyberbullying. However, programs are needed that are capable of combining bullying prevention procedures of proven efficiency with initiatives geared towards the prevention of cyberbullying and its associated contextual risks. And that is the aim of our parental spy software Power Spy.
Using a parental spy software is an evidence-based intervention. Implemented using the procedures described in successful anti-bullying programs, it focuses on the cyberbullying risk factors mentioned above. Our parental spy software is based on the following previously successful strategies:
a) Proactive policies, procedures, and practices: the implementation of clear policies with practical procedures for reducing bullying and organizational support. Parental spy software implements a specific action plan to combat the risks involved in using the internet and social networks, improving technical and procedural skills with digital devices, and teaching how to use ICTs safely and healthily.
b) School community key understandings and competencies: the implementation of mechanisms which help to develop skills for preventing, identifying, and reacting to the problem. Parental spy software's basic function is to instruct teachers and parents and improve their skills, to monitor kids and facilitate the safe, healthy use of the internet and social networks. The spy software focuses mainly on raising individuals' awareness and procedural skills in digital communication, the aim being to improve students' online social competence.