At first thought, cyberbullying may seem very similar to traditional bullying. With so much research conducted on traditional bullying, one might wonder why there is a need to study cyberbullying. I know I wondered that. Six months later, I have now analyzed the factors associated with cyberbullying in middle-income nations. Naturally, the question might arise as to what changed my perspective, so here is my story.
I am a senior majoring in community health with a concentration in clinical sciences. My career goal is to become a pediatrician and I have realized that community health is incredibly important when trying to effectively and efficiently treat a patient. To further my studies in public health, I thought it would be best to conduct empirical research. I reached out to my Health Research Methods professor, Dr. Lila Fleming, last fall for advice on how to move forward. She recommended I apply for the OSCAR URSP program and choose a topic that I would be interested in studying. As I researched a topic to study, cyberbullying quickly emerged as a frontrunner. I soon realized that there were some major differences between the two forms of bullying and that, arguably, the effects of cyberbullying are more far-reaching than the effects of traditional bullying. Not only was I intrigued to further study these differences and the subsequent impacts, I realized cyberbullying was the best topic for me. It merged my interest of studying children’s health with my experiences as an individual that was marginalized for being “different.” With the guidance of my mentor, I decided the best way I could add to the current research on cyberbullying was to conduct a systematic review and to focus on middle-income nations. I chose middle-income nations as the target population because they face similar setbacks as low-income nations while still having access to some of the technological advancements of high-income countries. As such, I was interested to see how this dynamic would affect the factors associated with cyberbullying in these nations.
With the support of Dr. Fleming, I finalized the search string and the inclusion criteria for the systematic review. Then, I identified scholarly articles on PubMed that could be included in the review based on their titles and abstracts. Next, I analyzed the full-text of these articles to make sure they still aligned with the inclusion criteria. For the articles that were included in the review, I identified the specific definition the authors used to classify cyberbullying, the prevalence rates of cyberbullying perpetration and victimization in the middle-income nation and any factors associated with cyberbullying that showed a statistically significant relationship. Currently, I am working on finalizing the results of the review. After I complete this stage of the process, I plan on preparing a manuscript that can be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
Of the many things I have discovered through this journey, there is one main point that stands out. It is the importance of keeping an open mind. A year ago, I did not think I would be studying cyberbullying because I did not realize how it was different from traditional bullying. I was quick to dismiss the need for cyberbullying research and, in doing so, I was quick to dismiss its long-term, substantial effects on the most vulnerable population in our society. Coincidentally, I have now found a topic that I will be studying far past my time at George Mason.