– Parents can play a major role in the work to prevent cyberbullying

A new international research project will determine whether parents can have a more important role to play than previously assumed when it comes to preventing cyberbullying.

Published Updated on
En ungdom får trøst av en voksen.
What role do parents play when it comes to preventing bullying? Photo: Getty Images.

Bullying is one of the greatest challenges faced by Norwegian schools. Recent estimates from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) show that 58,000 children are currently bullied at school. Children and young people who are bullied and children who bully others may experience serious social, health and behavioural challenges during and after the bullying. 

“The fact that so many children and young people are still being bullied in Norwegian schools is worrying and something all of Norwegian society needs to take seriously. We need to reverse this trend and work together to lower bullying rates, which are currently much too high,” says Professor Hildegunn Fandrem from the Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research.

Reaching a much greater audience

The professor is particularly concerned with the fact that the Norwegian Pupil Survey shows that an increasing number of pupils are being subjected to cyberbullying. As an example, the proportion of pupils in Year 7 who have been cyberbullied has almost doubled since 2017. 

“On social media, you can reach a much greater audience than what is the case in the schoolyard. Cyberbullying can also be much harder for adults to detect than traditional forms of bullying,” Fandrem explains. 

There are many people on the “pupil’s team” who have a responsibility to act when bullying occurs. It is not, as many may have previously assumed, the case that it is the responsibility of the individual teacher or school only. Parents can also have a very important role to play when it comes to bullying, perhaps especially when it comes to preventing bullying from happening in the first place,” the professor explains.

Cyberbullying - a global challenge

Norway is not the only country to experience an increase in the number of children and young people who are subjected to bullying. Bullying, cyberbullying in particular, is a major issue all over the world. This is why researchers from various European countries have now joined forces to collaborate on the international research project “PARTICIPATE”. In the project, the researchers will examine the role parents can play in the efforts to prevent cyberbullying, an area that has been the subject of limited research so far. 

Read more:
Here is the main website of the international PARTICIPATE project 

“It is important to find an answer to whether parents can play a more important role than previously assumed when it comes to preventing cyberbullying. We hope that this research project, which will also have a special focus on diversity, such as different ethnicities or gender orientation, will provide the answer,” Fandrem, who is the Research Project Manager for the Norwegian part of the project, explains.

Training a new generation

The PARTICIPATE project is now under way and will last for a period of four years. One of the milestones in the project is to train a new generation of innovative researchers in an interdisciplinary research field, so that they can contribute to the development of policy and practice in relation to prevention and intervention in this crucial research field. A total of ten PhD candidates have been appointed across the six countries that are taking part in the project: Norway, Ireland, Finland, Greece and the Netherlands. Three of the candidates, Luisa Morello, Ebru Özbek and Shan Hu, have been appointed for the Norwegian part of the project at the University of Stavanger’s Centre for Learning Environment and started their PhD projects this autumn. 

The three PhD candidates at the Centre for Learning Environment will, among other things, examine cyberbullying involving pupils from an ethnic minority background and the role parents play in prevention and intervention, as well as developing knowledge relating to the impact of cyberbullying and the action taken by schools, including collaboration with parents. They will also compare large transnational surveys on cyberbullying, involving pupils and parents.

Increased parental awareness

Professor Simona Caravita, also have an important role in the PARTICIPATE project. Moreover, together with Fandrem and Clara Cavallini, she recently published an article on a digital intervention that can support parents in being present in their children and young people’s everyday digital lives and preventing exposure to “online risks”. The study was conducted using Italian data and the researchers found that the use of similar digital interventions led to increased awareness on the part of the parents that were involved when it came to their children’s presence in the digital domain and that it increased parents’ awareness of various digital media and how to support their children in their everyday digital lives. 

“Overall, the intervention has shown some promising results when it comes to supporting parents in how to play an important role in their children’s everyday lives online. This has given us the insight that it may be a good idea to increasingly adopt such intervention or prevention programmes. Such programmes can consist of digital courses based on psychological therapeutic approaches and group discussions among parents, which may provide the parents with new knowledge relating to e.g. cyberbullying. Parents have an important role to play in the everyday lives of their children, including their everyday digital lives,” Caravita says. 

The professor explains that interventions such as the one they tested in the study can also be useful when it comes to increasing the involvement of parents in joint activities with schools to prevent digital bullying, as earlier research indicates that collaborations between schools and parents on bullying and cyberbullying can be challenging.

– Ask your children about their digital everyday lives

The researchers in the PARTICIPATE project note that cyberbullying is not solely the responsibility of parents but that prevention is essential and, in order to achieve this, there has to be an effective collaboration in place between the school and home, as well as others on the “pupil’s team”. The researchers explain that it is important for parents to get more involved in their children’s digital everyday lives in general. It is about keeping an eye on how your children behave online, the social media they use and how they speak to and about other children online. 

“I think parents should ask more their children about their online experiences. Whether they have seen something in particular that they reacted to or whether they have discovered other children and young people being subjected to things that are not OK. It’s important that we make children and young people aware that a lot of what happens online could be classified as cyberbullying, which they might not always realise,” Fandrem says. 

Text: Maria Gilje Strand
Photo: Getty Images

Centre employees mentioned in the article:

Professor i spesialpedagogikk
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education
Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education
Professor i psykisk helse
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education
Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education
Stipendiat i utdanningsvitenskap
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education
Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education
Stipendiat i utdanningsvitenskap
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education
Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education