default_cyberbullying

I have been thinking about the concept of “social exclusion” as it relates to cyberbullying, and really wanted to hear some thoughts from our readers. People are by nature social. The second worst punishment that we can dream up in this country is solitary confinement. We know it hurts, we know it drives people crazy, we know that children who don’t get social interaction at a young age struggle later in life.

 

Social exclusion is “a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live” (Silver, 2007:15). It refers to not being included within a given social network (but not necessarily ignored). But there are a few other interrelated concepts. Rejection is usually an explicit verbal or explicit action that declares that the individual is not wanted as a member within a relationship or group. Ostracism refers to being ignored and excluded (Williams, 1997;2001). Bullying usually involves others’ aversive focus on an individual, and often is accompanied by physical, verbal, and nonverbal abuse of an individual (Juvoven & Gross, 2005).

 

I was chatting this out with my colleague Nancy Willard of Embracing Digital Civility, and she mentioned that social exclusion is also present in the animal kingdom, where the stronger and more powerful animals socially exclude the weaker. Seemingly, much of this is based on mating desirability. Teens do this, of course – at least on some level. Perhaps this primitive, animalistic behavioral tendency is manifesting itself somehow again – even though we as humans (are supposed to) function at a higher level. Food for thought!

 

Anyway, is it conceivable that all forms of bullying and cyberbullying are forms of social exclusion? Can they be subsumed under the term “social exclusion”?

 

If so, when it comes to policy, here are my thoughts: We tend to only discipline a small proportion of the adolescent aggression that is going on – the most visible and egregious forms. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t identify and discipline all forms. I think we should (sometimes formally, sometimes informally). Of course, as we always preach, the response needs to be commensurate with the action. Here is how I would depict it:

 

 

Even though intervention/response generally occurs above the water line, we must continue to argue that parents, teachers, law enforcement, and others should seek to eliminate ALL forms of harassment/peer aggression. That said, we don’t think that kids who roll their eyes should be labeled felons any more than we think that kids who physically assault another should be ignored by adults. There is a certain level of response that is appropriate at every level.

 

Overall, if we effectively address the stuff that is “below the water line” (to use the iceberg analog) it will make it less likely that problems will escalate to the serious, severe, life changing stuff at the top. The visible, serious forms of aggression are just the tip of the iceberg. This also reinforces our belief in (and the need for) assessment – getting anonymous data from students to find out what is going on below the water line.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

References

 

Juvonen. J. & Gross, E. F. (2005). The rejected and the bullied: Lessons about social misfits from developmental psychology. In K. D. Williams, J.P. Forgas, & W. von Hippel (Eds.). The social outcast: Ostracism, social exclusion, rejection, and bullying (pp. 155-170). New York: Psychology Press.

 

Silver, H.  (2007).  Social Exclusion: Comparative Analysis of Europe and Middle East Youth, 2007, Middle East Youth Initiative Working paper.  Retrieved January 24, 2013 from http://www.shababinclusion.org/content/document/detail/558

 

Williams, K. D. (1997). Social ostracism: The causes and consequences of “the silent treatment.” In R. Kowalski (Ed.), Aversive interpersonal behaviors (pp. 133–170). New York: Plenum Publishing.

 

Williams, K. D. (2001). Ostracism: The power of silence. New York: Guilford Press.

24 Comments
  1. lynn

    I have been stalked, cyber-stalked, ignored, terrorized and sabotaged by a very wealthy man, who has played conquer and divide with my entire world. This is the greatest form of insanity and dysfunction you could imagine. This has been going on over ten years and I would guess many more. This man comes from the culture and religion of Islam. I have tried to get some help and this man always road blocks it. Because he has some radical story that everyone believes. I have not had a life in so long. Yes I know what it is like to be in solitary confinement in the middle of the world. People are more violent animals, than animals themselves. I am not sure I will ever get my life, and I am one step away from not trying.

    • Christina

      Abuse comes in so many forms. When it’s the underlying “invisible” kind, that’s the worst, especially when it proves on the surface how little people care.

  2. lynn

    I have been stalked, cyber-stalked, ignored, terrorized and sabotaged by a very wealthy man, who has played conquer and divide with my entire world. This is the greatest form of insanity and dysfunction you could imagine. This has been going on over ten years and I would guess many more. This man comes from the culture and religion of Islam. I have tried to get some help and this man always road blocks it. Because he has some radical story that everyone believes. I have not had a life in so long. Yes I know what it is like to be in solitary confinement in the middle of the world. People are more violent animals, than animals themselves. I am not sure I will ever get my life, and I am one step away from not trying.

    • Christina

      Abuse comes in so many forms. When it’s the underlying “invisible” kind, that’s the worst, especially when it proves on the surface how little people care.

  3. Holli Kenley

    This supports and blends in well with Bandura’s Theory of Moral Disengagement. As our youth and all individuals spend more time communicating electronically and with the factors of anonymity and power differential in play, there is a gradual erosion of empathy, and thus, an increasing ease by which to socially detach from one another. Understanding and addressing this is critical to meaningful assessment and effective intervention.

  4. Holli Kenley

    This supports and blends in well with Bandura’s Theory of Moral Disengagement. As our youth and all individuals spend more time communicating electronically and with the factors of anonymity and power differential in play, there is a gradual erosion of empathy, and thus, an increasing ease by which to socially detach from one another. Understanding and addressing this is critical to meaningful assessment and effective intervention.

  5. Hov

    Exclusion is NOT bullying.

    Actually I would dare say that exclusion is a very, very healthy thing.
    It helps to round us into who we are and gives us the desire to develop tools to navigate what may be unpleasant to us at the present time. We find our own way with friends & outcasts etc.
    A great will & desire to excel is forged by the fires of rejection.
    It also keeps us away from phonies who would smile in our faces & then look to tear us down behind our back.
    These people are far less damaging if at all if we never know them to begin with & so then there is no betrayal.
    Think about what would happen to us as adults if we did not have to navigate this issue as children?
    We would be completely lost in the world of reality.
    A reality where this runs rampant from work to our homes.

    Also a very important thing is left out here.

    SPACE.

    People are allowed to have privacy & space & not to want you in their privacy & space.
    If you never learn to read this as a child or teen then you are in a constant mode of rejection.
    A constant self-centered fear will pervade. One that is entirely delusional & inaccurate.

    I think of weak willed, delusional, complacent, deceived & confused people.
    I think instant target..
    These are the types that the sickest & most devious of REAL bullies look for to participate with them in evil.
    They follow meekly into participation of the most heinous of acts.
    All you need do is look back in history to see that it is people like this following evil that have
    perpetuated the worst crimes of humanity.
    We ask why & how every time.
    These people know better & they are learned & intelligent.

    Yes they are but they are WEAK.
    Don’t give humans more deception & crutches to have them hobbling & stunting their development.
    Allow them face adversity & blossom.
    Let them learn that exclusion means simply to move on & to find your own space to breathe & to grow.

  6. Hov

    Exclusion is NOT bullying.

    Actually I would dare say that exclusion is a very, very healthy thing.
    It helps to round us into who we are and gives us the desire to develop tools to navigate what may be unpleasant to us at the present time. We find our own way with friends & outcasts etc.
    A great will & desire to excel is forged by the fires of rejection.
    It also keeps us away from phonies who would smile in our faces & then look to tear us down behind our back.
    These people are far less damaging if at all if we never know them to begin with & so then there is no betrayal.
    Think about what would happen to us as adults if we did not have to navigate this issue as children?
    We would be completely lost in the world of reality.
    A reality where this runs rampant from work to our homes.

    Also a very important thing is left out here.

    SPACE.

    People are allowed to have privacy & space & not to want you in their privacy & space.
    If you never learn to read this as a child or teen then you are in a constant mode of rejection.
    A constant self-centered fear will pervade. One that is entirely delusional & inaccurate.

    I think of weak willed, delusional, complacent, deceived & confused people.
    I think instant target..
    These are the types that the sickest & most devious of REAL bullies look for to participate with them in evil.
    They follow meekly into participation of the most heinous of acts.
    All you need do is look back in history to see that it is people like this following evil that have
    perpetuated the worst crimes of humanity.
    We ask why & how every time.
    These people know better & they are learned & intelligent.

    Yes they are but they are WEAK.
    Don’t give humans more deception & crutches to have them hobbling & stunting their development.
    Allow them face adversity & blossom.
    Let them learn that exclusion means simply to move on & to find your own space to breathe & to grow.

  7. TAN

    I don’t think the types of invisible aggression are acknowledged enough in our schools. Teachers and parents look out for name calling, insults, assaults, and threats. And when they see that, they intervene. But I know the invisible aggression can hurt just as much, if not more. Someone I know who is in middle school has experienced physical exclusion during lunch. Her friends started to tell her she can’t sit at their lunch table anymore. The matter was taken to the guidance counselor and all she said was that they SHOULD sit at different tables. How does this help the child that is being excluded? How does this teach the students who are bullying her that what they are doing is wrong? I don’t think teachers/administrators/parents know how much this invisible bullying equally effects our children.

  8. TAN

    I don’t think the types of invisible aggression are acknowledged enough in our schools. Teachers and parents look out for name calling, insults, assaults, and threats. And when they see that, they intervene. But I know the invisible aggression can hurt just as much, if not more. Someone I know who is in middle school has experienced physical exclusion during lunch. Her friends started to tell her she can’t sit at their lunch table anymore. The matter was taken to the guidance counselor and all she said was that they SHOULD sit at different tables. How does this help the child that is being excluded? How does this teach the students who are bullying her that what they are doing is wrong? I don’t think teachers/administrators/parents know how much this invisible bullying equally effects our children.

  9. Christina P

    Exclusion is most definitely bullying. Making someone feel as if they are an outcast and making them feel bad about themselves may not be physical bullying, but it is mental bullying. Yes, most kids find their own way into a group or “clique”, but what about the ones who don’t? What about the ones who fall into a deep depression and commit suicide? All because someone was mean to them, someone rejected them causing others to do so… What about THAT child??

  10. Laura Buitrago

    I had never thought of invisible aggression, seeing as bullying is mostly linked to physical scenarios. It is interesting to see the division between the two and to try and fix this problem from the core in order to end external aggression.

    After reading some of the comments referring to this article, it was interesting to see both sides of the argument in regards to exclusion and bullying. I do not believe exclusion is “definitely bullying” and neither do I believe that it is “very, very healthy”. In my opinion, everything needs a balance. Nobody wants to be completely rejected and not wanted everywhere they turn. But in certain cases, exclusion is necessary in order to make us stronger and prepare us for the real world. A balance of exclusion and acceptance forms part of a healthy lifestyle. It is okay to be excluded from a certain group- you are not the only one being excluded! There is another group out there for you, waiting to help shape you into the person you will become.

  11. Bo Suh

    I definitely agree that we tend to ignore the ones that are hard to detect. We pay more attention to the words we hear and the actions we see, but not on how and why the words spread. It is important to we realize how the rumors spread around, and the social exclusion could occus as a result of this rumors. I really like the image you have used for this post.

  12. Alissa Warren

    I would say that passive aggressive behaviors in school (i.e. purposely not including a certain student) is sometimes worse than visible aggression. At least when students are picked on as we classically think of it something can be done. If a teacher or administrator sees a bully throw a student into a locker, that bully can be reprimanded. You can’t very well penalize a student for refusing to let someone sit at their lunch table, although those psychological aggressions can be just as damaging.

  13. Alissa Warren

    I would say that passive aggressive behaviors in school (i.e. purposely not including a certain student) is sometimes worse than visible aggression. At least when students are picked on as we classically think of it something can be done. If a teacher or administrator sees a bully throw a student into a locker, that bully can be reprimanded. You can’t very well penalize a student for refusing to let someone sit at their lunch table, although those psychological aggressions can be just as damaging.

  14. tyler

    I would tend to agree with the above article and the comments below that most of the time spent in school trying to curb bully only pertain to what can be seen and heard. Not many people look at students and wonder if they are being social excluded. I would say that there is no harder thing for a student to go through then to be excluded, throw in willful exclusion and the affects only double. Most bullying programs I have seen only
    address those things that can be seen on the surface, it would be good to see a newer version of this programs that include “social exclusion” to
    bring to light what some student may not even know they are doing.

  15. Linda romero

    I have thought about this before, I remember being in middle school and seeing now how people spread rumors without questions, and how certain people were being excluded and ignored because of things they heard other people talk about or say about them. After reading a few of the comments as well, I think I liked how someone said that its important to have a balance of both because it prepares us for the real world but I feel like if a students is being excluded it shouldn’t be cause by bullying but by ones own decision.

  16. MEK_93

    My son has been subjected to all forms of bullying, including those
    below the water line. He is African-American in a small, northern
    Wisconsin town and he is readily rejected by his peers. Its been that
    way since he was in 4th grade. In grade school, shoving matches would
    break out among other kids because they didn’t want to stand next to him
    in the lunch line. On the school bus, kids would relocate so they
    didn’t have to sit next to him. In middle school, he was never included
    in pick-up basketball games and if he did try to participate anyway, he was never passed the ball.
    Even a middle school coach berated him in front of the rest of the
    team! Now in high school, he has been physically assaulted, had garbage
    thrown at him, and frequently receives racial slurs. So now, he is depressed and has anger issues. He is in trouble with the police. His attitude in school is
    extremely disruptive. He gets defensive at the slightest provocation.
    He cannot walk around in town without getting into a conflict. The
    school takes action when the physical abuse occurs, they are not proactive against the verbal assaults, and the middle and grade schools were entirely ambivalent toward the exclusion.

    • Guest

      I am so sorry to hear all the things your son has endured!! Bless his heart. Praying for him and your family!

    • momto3scouts

      I am so sorry to hear of everything your son has endured! We are praying for him and your family.

  17. MEK_93

    In reply to Hov’s comments below, Exclusion can have character-building effects if the child is resilient and has a solid support system. Research from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction indicates a greater amount of resiliency in teens from two-parent households and who engage in regular family activities (such as eating dinner together at a table). For children from single parent families (such as mine), and particularly who are “different” to begin with, exclusion is a profoundly agonizing thing that leads to depression, low self-worth, and social dysfunction.

    • momto3scouts

      This is what I would like to do. Help our daughter develop confidence despite being excluded.

  18. momto3scouts

    Social exclusion bullying is very real. We have an 8 year old child who deals with this very thing. The back turning, ignoring, targeted exclusion. Even when a friend is beside her this bully will come up and call them away from her just to leave her standing alone. It is very intentional. Not sure how to handle this situation yet, praying a lot!!!

  19. Julie Chagnon

    Adults do it every single day. An anti-exclusion policy isn’t going to work. As adults, that can go both ways … Most of us don’t want to hang out where we are excluded. Children, they still want to be included… And the more they try .. The more excluded they are!

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